Solar panels and solar water heaters are the same things – says who? These are two different technologies.

We will shed light on their differences, but first things first – solar panels are just one component. It takes multiple components to generate electricity from solar energy. The entire arrangement of many components makes a solar system which works like an engine to generate electricity. 

A solar system uses light from the sun to generate electricity, and solar water heaters use the sun’s heat to increase the water temperature. 

The only reason there’s this misconception about the two being the same is that they both use solar energy. 

Now that you know these are two entirely different technologies, installing one of these will be challenging. 

But fret not – we’ve designed this guide to walk you through both these technologies: how they work and what’s their purpose. 

By the end of this guide, you’ll have the mystery decoded – which of these is better, and why!

Rooftop solar systems – how do they work, and why the hype?

Installing solar systems at home is considered the best investment in modern days when electricity rates are increasing alarmingly. 

It’s a fantastic technology in which different components work as engines and produce electricity to run the household. 

  • It starts with solar panels. They are made up of many solar cells. When sunlight falls on solar cells, it is converted into direct current. 
  • Next comes the solar inverter. DC wires connect the panels with the inverter and transfer the DC electricity to the inverter to be transformed into alternating current electricity. This conversation is pivotal since home appliances function just on AC power. 
  • Once the AC power is generated, AC cables transfer this electricity into a bidirectional net meter. 
  • The net meter supplies electricity to the home appliances and runs them efficiently. Whatever energy is left during the day is transferred to the grid. 
  • When the night comes (or when the need arises), electricity from the grid is imported and used to power the house. 
  • The net meter keeps a record of the unit exchange. It is used for bill generation. 

Another very crucial component of a solar system is the solar mounting structure. Solar panels are mounted on top of these structures to collect maximum sunlight. 

The bottom line is rooftop solar systems generate electricity for the entire house. There’s so much hype about them because the electricity they produce is very reliable. It can reduce your electricity bills by up to 90%. 

In a nutshell, on-grid solar systems can run all home appliances efficiently; hence, the hype. 

Solar water heaters – how do they work?

Although they use solar energy too, they use the sun’s heat to warm the water. They cannot produce electricity; their purpose is limited to heating water. 

Here’s how they work:

  • There’s a collector plate. Inside that plate is an absorber. 
  • The absorber absorbs the sun’s heat and uses it to raise the water’s temperature.
  • This hot water is stored in an insulated tank so that it can be used later on.

Although the concept is very practical, solar water heaters cannot generate electricity or run a house like solar systems can. 

On the other hand, rooftop solar can produce electricity that will run water heaters, ACs, lights and ovens: basically, everything that grid electricity does can be powered by solar electricity. All you have to do is ensure that the solar system you purchase can meet your energy requirements.

Here’s a small table citing the differences between these two technologies. 

Solar PV systemSolar water heater
Uses sun’s light to generate electricityUses sun’s heat to raise the temperature of the water
Generates electricity to run the entire householdDoes not produce electricity and can’t power any household appliance 
The savings are enormous since the electricity bills can drop by 90%Savings aren’t very high
Lasts for at least 25 years. Works at 70-80% efficiency even after 25 years.Is not as long-lasting as solar systems are

So, which of the two is better? Hands down, a rooftop solar system is the better investment

A rooftop solar system can fulfil all your energy needs, unlike a solar water heater, which is limited to heating water. 

Our verdict:

Installing rooftop solar will make you energy independent. The sun’s energy will run your house. It will reduce your electricity bills by at least 90%. 

So, investing in rooftop solar rather than installing solar water heaters at homes is a lot more advantageous. Branded rooftop solar systems last a minimum of 25 years – imagine the savings you’ll get.