What are Thin Film Solar Panels?

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What are Thin Film Solar Panels?

When shoppers think of solar panels, the image of large bulky sheets of silicon plastered on rooftops or in front of businesses tends to come to mind. However, thin film solar panels are a newer technology in the renewable energy department. Rather than having expensive and large, bulky panels in the front yard, thin film solar panels offer shoppers the ability to 'go green' by using a flexible and thinly-layered panel to convert sunlight into energy. While there are many differences between traditional solar panels and thin film solar panels, the main difference besides efficiency is its user-friendly and lightweight design.

Thin film solar panels can be purchased in brick and mortar stores as well as online through websites like eBay. Shopping on eBay often helps individuals find the best technology at competitively low prices, thanks to the large database of users. When shopping for solar panels, it is important to compare the thin film panels with the other various types of solar panels.

About Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels are flexible, thin versions of the standard solar panels. While standard solar panels tend to be about 350 microns thick from the silicon wafers, thin film solar panels are only one micron thick and are made by using layers of light-absorbing semiconductor material. The design of thin film solar panels keeps the energy efficiency of the traditional panels while improving on the design and aesthetics to make renewable energy more appealing to everyday consumers. When it comes to powering buildings, thin film solar panels seem to work best on buildings and homes with larger rooftops.

How Thin Film Solar Panels Work

There are three types of thin film solar cells that go into thin film solar panels: amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium diselenide. These three thin film solar cells can be referred to as a-Si, CdTe, and CIGS for short. They vary based on the materials used as the semiconductor inside the panels. The most common type of thin film solar panel is the a-Si or amorphous silicon, which is a thinner version of the silicon wafer-powered solar panel. However, the a-Si thin film solar panel is not the most efficient, nor is it the easiest to find since it is so commonly chosen. Amorphous silicon is ideal for small electronics, such as powering calculators, but not for powering whole buildings. A fairly recent innovation by Stanford University and Hanyang University related to 'peel and stick' thin film solar cells makes the installation of the flexible solar system simple, fast, and adaptive to almost any situation.

The CdTe or CIGS thin film solar panels, on the other hand, act as semiconductors sandwiched between a layer of zinc oxide and foil. These two alternatives to silicon are competitive in efficiency with the traditional silicon solar panels, achieving 15 to 20 per cent energy efficiency. The disadvantage to using CdTe is that cadmium is highly toxic and can be as life-endangering as mercury if handled frequently. However, while manufacturing silicon-based thin film solar panels is expensive and complex, the production of CdTe and CIGS thin film solar panels is cheap, efficient, and it encourages the adoption of solar power in households because of its cheap price tag.

Other Types of Solar Panels

Besides thin film solar panels, there are two other types of solar technology that are common choices for households wanting to go green: photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal panels.

Photovoltaic Solar Panels

This type of solar power is what most people think of when they hear the words 'solar panel'. Photovoltaic solar panels are the silicon-powered cells that are installed on rooftops. The technology is rigid, solid, and is intended for long-term use. Photovoltaic solar panels can power an entire building or home for up to 20 years. While photovoltaic solar panels are most commonly installed on rooftops, they can also be mounted using ground-mounted systems in case the roof is not exposed to enough sunlight or its material is not suitable for a solar panel installation. Photovoltaic solar panels are more efficient than thin film solar panels, but they are also more expensive.

Solar Thermal Panels

Rather than converting sunlight into electricity, solar thermal systems simply transfer the sun's heat to heat water or cool down a house. Solar thermal panels are complementary to either thin film or photovoltaic solar panels, helping homeowners and businesses stay green when it comes to energy use. Rather than challenging the electric bill, solar thermal systems offset gas utilities. Solar thermal systems are generally designed to use water pipes with the panels, heating the water in the pipes as the panels heat up from the sun.

There are two types of solar thermal systems, passive and active. Passive solar thermal systems do not regulate hot water. This system is ideal for homes that do not have to worry about extreme temperatures bursting pipes. Active solar thermal systems, on the other hand, use pumps and controls to regulate the heat transfer, which is beneficial to homes that experience extreme cold or hot temperatures. Solar thermal systems do not necessarily substitute thin film or photovoltaic solar panels since they target one's dependence on gas to heat water and heat and cool the house.

Buying Thin Film Solar Panels on eBay

Whether it is to power a house or to power a calculator, thin film solar panels can be found at the most affordable prices when using eBay's search features. The website's large database of solar panels and other home items, which is used by individuals around the world, looks for the most relevant search results with sellers from every country. By inserting keywords such as 'thin film solar panels' into the search box that is found on every page on eBay, shoppers can view every listing that pertains to thin film solar panels. The search results can also be further narrowed to fit within a price range, a type of thin film solar cell, a preferred brand, a shipping location, or one of several other filters.

When shopping for thin film solar panels on eBay, every user should review the feedback left for sellers by previous customers. The feedback gives shoppers insight into the buying experience with sellers by including information about the quality of the product, the timeliness of the shipping, and the reputation of the seller. By reviewing feedback, shoppers can guarantee themselves a satisfactory shopping experience through eBay.

Conclusion

Becoming a green household can seem expensive or confusing, and few people realise how many options for solar panels there are, including the thin film solar panels versus the traditional photovoltaic solar panels. Thin film solar panels are more flexible, competitive alternatives to the rigid, roof-installed products that dominate the market in solar technology. The thin film solar panels are most commonly found as power cells for small electronics such as calculators, while the more traditional solar technology is typically used to power large corporate buildings and homes. There are different types of semiconductors that can be used in thin film solar panels, and each type directly affects the efficiency and the production cost of the energy alternative. Besides thin film and photovoltaic solar panels, homeowners can also invest in solar thermal panels, which are typically used to replace gas utilities for heating water and regulating a house's temperature.

Various options are available to harvest the sun's energy. Becoming an environmentally-friendly home or business owner is much more feasible these days, and more and more people are turning to these alternatives.

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