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As the alternative energy industry has expanded, many people relate the term “solar energy” to typical rooftop solar systems. However, solar energy is just sunlight. We harness sunlight in many ways, whether it be included in complex building designs or simply using the heat from sunlight. We use different terms for the different ways that solar energy is used. 

Active and passive solar are just two ways to categorize the purpose of a solar system. Both of these kinds of systems can be used in residential homes and commercial buildings. One system is an installment that can convert the absorbed sunlight while the other system is more of a structural design that takes advantage of a natural process. Take a look at some of the positives and negatives of each method. 

Passive Solar Systems

Passive solar uses sunlight to heat the interior of a building. This process is heavily dependent on the design, construction, and building of your home. Passive solar is a design including south-facing windows that allow for solar energy to pass into the building, and relies on thermal mass materials to absorb and retain the heat energy. This system is an effective and non-disruptive method of heating, but it does not contribute to electric energy needs. 

Positives of Passive Solar Systems

  • Temperature-related energy costs decrease significantly
  • The setup is generally inexpensive since there’s no external equipment involved
  • Since the system is based in your building construction, there’s very minimal concern for maintenance or repairs

Negatives of Passive Solar Systems

  • This system is a heating solution, but doesn’t have the ability to cool your building
  • The efficiency directly depends on the weather and local climate, so cool areas may not heat sufficiently and hot areas may cause overheating 
  • The maximum success on this system is dependent on the window and building materials

Active Solar Systems

As the name implies, active solar systems actively collect and convert the Sun’s energy. Typical solar panel systems fall under this category, along with any other solar technology that directly turns solar energy into electricity. Because these systems generate electricity, they can be used to power any electric appliances including heating and cooling systems within a home or building. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels fall into this category. 


Positives of Active Solar Systems

  • Solar panels are efficient and cost-effective, allowing these systems to pay for themselves in energy savings
  • Any unused energy can be stored in batteries for later use, or redirected to the local power grid for reimbursement
  • These systems have flexible designs and can be installed in many settings whether it be mounted on buildings, on the ground, on water, or incorporated into other structures


Negatives of Active Solar Systems

  • The system requires external equipment materials and installation
  • While general maintenance is minimal, the outside placement of the parts makes them more vulnerable to damage 
  • Efficiency can fluctuate depending on seasonal/regional weather patterns

Choosing the Right System

The system you choose should be based on your energy needs. Passive solar is a great heating option for owners of small buildings in mildly warm climates, but it can’t meet electricity needs. Active solar can power an entire home or commercial building including electric heating and cooling, but the installation is a big commitment. Ultimately, either the energy system is an excellent way to take advantage of natural sources. 


At YellowLite, we install active solar systems to help you make the most of solar energy. Take a look at our project portfolio including residential and commercial solar panels. Whether you need a rooftop system, ground-mounted, or another system design, our team of experts can help you determine the best system for your needs. 

Speak with a YellowLite solar consultant today!

Call us at 216-333-1364

Email us on https://www.yellowlite.com/contact-us/

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