Active solar energy technologies convert sunlight into space heating, hot water or electricity by utilizing an energy transfer fluid such as water or air.
Active solar technologies are employed to convert solar energy into usable light, heat, cause air-movement for ventilation or cooling, or store heat for future use. Active solar uses electrical or mechanical equipment, such as pumps and fans, to increase the usable heat in a system. Solar energy collection and utilization systems that do not use external energy, like a solar chimney, are classified as passive solar technologies. Solar hot water systems, except those based on the thermosiphon, use pumps or fans to circulate water, an anti-freeze mixture, or air through solar collectors, and are therefore classified under active solar technology. The solar collectors can be nonconcentrating or 'flat-plate', or of various concentrating designs. Most solar-thermal collectors have fixed mounting, but can have a higher performance if they track the path of the sun through the sky. Solar trackers, used to orient photovoltaic arrays or daylighting, may be driven by either passive or active technology.