Glossary of Solar Energy Terminology

Glossary of Solar Energy Terminology


SRCC – Solar Rating & Certification Corporation. An ISO-17065-accredited, third-party, non-profit certification body that evaluates and rates the performance of solar thermal products, offering OG-100 certifications for solar thermal collectors and OG-300 for solar thermal systems.

Solar power – Power obtained through collecting the radiant light and/or heat from the sun

Solar thermal – Energy or the technology used to harness heat energy from the sun and use it for residential or commercial heating purposes

PV – Photovoltaic . Producing an electric current or voltage using electromagnetic radiation from the sun. Using sun light to trigger a reaction that creates electricity.

Collector – the device used to absorb solar radiation for the purpose of generating electric or thermal energy. Collectors are most typically the roof-top component of a larger solar energy system. Typically “panel” is used with PV technology and “collector” is used with solar thermal technology. (At the collector is also a roofing panel so either term may be used.)

BTUs – British thermal units. The amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water at maximum density through one degree Fahrenheit (equivalent to 1.055 × 103 joules). It is used as a common measure to compare the energy content in fuels which have different physical measurements like electricity which is measured in kilowatts/hour and oil measured in gallons. 100,000 BTUs is called a therm.

Efficiency – As related to solar thermal is thermal efficiency. Thermal efficiency is the ratio of collected energy to available energy falling upon the collector.

Heat load – the amount of heat needed to keep a space at an acceptable, heated temperature.

Pitch – a roof’s slope or angle calculated by dividing the vertical height in inches (known as rise) per foot of horizontal distance (known as run). It can be stated as a fraction of rise/run, an angle in degrees or a percentage with all values being equal.


Commercial Industries  Commercial Building Types As Defined By The Energy Information Administration –

Lodging buildings used to offer multiple accommodations for short-term or long-term residents, including skilled nursing and other residential care buildings.   

  • Motel or inn
  • Hotel
  • Dormitory, fraternity, or sorority
  • Retirement home
  • Nursing home, assisted living, or other residential care
  • Convent or monastery
  • Shelter, orphanage, or children’s home
  • Halfway house

Healthcare Buildings used as diagnostic and treatment facilities for inpatient or outpatient care. Medical offices are included here if they use any type of diagnostic medical equipment (if they do not, they are categorized as an office building).

  • Hospital
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Medical office (see equipment requirement)
  • Clinic or other outpatient health care
  • Outpatient rehabilitation
  • Veterinarian

Public Assembly buildings in which people gather for social or recreational activities, whether in private or non-private meeting halls.   

  • Social or meeting (e.g. community center, lodge, meeting hall, convention center, senior center)
  • Recreation (e.g. gymnasium, health club, bowling alley, ice rink, field house, indoor racquet sports)
  • Entertainment or culture (e.g. museum, theater, cinema, sports arena, casino, night club)
  • Library
  • Funeral home
  • Student activities center
  • Armory
  • Exhibition hall
  • Broadcasting studio
  • Transportation terminal

Public Order and Safety Buildings used for the preservation of law and order or public safety.   

  • Police station
  • Fire station
  • Jail, reformatory, or penitentiary
  • Courthouse or probation office

Religious Worship Buildings in which people gather for religious activities.

  • Chapels
  • Churches
  • Mosques
  • Synagogues
  • Temples

Education Buildings used for academic or technical classroom instruction, such as elementary, middle, or high schools, and classroom buildings on college or university campuses. Buildings on education campuses for which the main use is not classroom are included in the category relating to their use. For example, administration buildings are part of “Office,” dormitories are “Lodging,” and libraries are “Public Assembly.”   

  • Elementary or middle school
  • High school
  • College or university
  • Preschool or daycare
  • Adult education
  • Career or vocational training
  • Religious education

Health Care (Inpatient) Buildings used as diagnostic and treatment facilities for inpatient care.   

  • Hospital
  • Inpatient rehabilitation

Service Buildings in which some type of service is provided, other than food service or retail sales of goods   

  • Vehicle service or vehicle repair shop
  • Vehicle storage/ maintenance (car barn)
  • Repair shop
  • Dry cleaner or laundromat
  • Post office or postal center
  • Car wash
  • Gas station
  • Photo processing shop
  • Beauty parlor or barber shop
  • Tanning salon
  • Copy center or printing shop
  • Kennel




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