See the differences between passive solar energy systems and active ones.
There are a couple of differences between passive solar energy systems and active solar energy systems. Passive solar energy systems use the architectural design, the natural materials or absorptive structures of the building, as an energy saving system. The building itself serves as a solar collector and storage device.
An example would be thick-walled stone and adobe dwellings that slowly collect heat during the day and gradually release it at night. Passive systems require little or no investment of external equipment.
Active solar energy systems require a separate collector, a storage device and controls linked to pumps or fans that draw heat from storage when it's available. Active solar systems generally pump a heat-absorbing fluid medium (air, water or an antifreeze solution) through a collector.
Collectors, such as insulated water tanks, vary in size depending on the number of sunless days in a locale. Another heat storage system uses eutectic (phase-changing) chemicals to store a large amount of energy in a small volume.