Step 9: Conclusions
Overall I am quite pleased with the results, but I did spend a lot more $$ than I had anticipated!!! Whether this can be a cost-effective solution for people's homes remains to be seen. I like the idea of using as much solar power as possible, and it makes for a most complete utilization of the surface area (e.g., a home's roof). One extra advantage: the water keeps the temperature of the PV cells lower, increasing their efficiency (or so I hope).
If you find this instructable interesting please comment. If you have suggestions please comment. What other types of heat exchangers could be used? I still have enough PV cells to make a second panel, but I would like a cheaper and simpler way to harness the thermal energy. Any suggestions are welcome.
Please enjoy and if you decide to make a panel like this let me know. THANK YOU.
Note (added May/13/2010): a google search reveals that there is apparently some commercial systems that use the same concepts (using both the electricity and the heat in a single package). Please see, for example: http://solarwall.com/en/products/solarwall-pvt.php, where they use air convection on the backside of the panels (instead of water).