Solar Power: Sustainable Energy for Your Home

March 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Energy

Have you ever gone outside when it was so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk? The sun is a potent source of heat energy. If we could harness and store that energy to heat and even run our homes, we could save money on utility bills while reducing our carbon footprint and doing our part to contribute to a clean environment.

Use of solar power is nothing new. Even ancient cultures have been aware of the power of solar energy. Today in the U.S., as many as 10,000 homes rely on the sun as their main source of power. Use of solar power technology is becoming more and more pervasive. You may even own electronics equipped with solar power and didn’t even realize it.

As the costs of traditional fossil fuels rise along with the demand for alternative renewable energy sources, the expense of solar panel systems will continue to decrease. Though they were once only affordable for the very rich, these systems are quickly becoming available to the middle class. In fact, in the past two decades, the price of solar energy systems has decreased by about 80%.

If you’ve considered a solar energy system for your home, but had no idea where to begin, it really isn’t complicated. You start with a set of panels that are exposed to sunlight, either on the roof, the ground or a pole-mounted system. Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells which collect sunlight and convert it into energy. The converted energy can be used to meet your home’s energy needs or stored in batteries. The most important thing is to have a location for your panels that have maximum, unobstructed southern exposure to sunlight. There are even rotating mount systems that help to ensure your panels have maximum exposure to the sun all day long.

There are two different kinds of systems to consider, off-grid or grid-tied. If you want to make your home completely energy independent and sever your ties with the local utility company, you can go off grid. Of course, there are significant challenges involved, including needing ample room for battery storage. You also have to be willing to conserve and sacrifice when there are long periods of inclement weather and energy supplies run low.

A more middle-of-the road approach is to have a grid-tied system. With this system, you can use solar power for some of your home’s needs and have the balance covered by your local electric utility. One great advantage of this is that your electric company might offer net metering, or the ability to sell back any excess solar power for credit towards your energy bill. It also eliminates the need to store large batteries.

Whether you run all of some of your home on solar power, you will be living a greener lifestyle that helps to reduce pollution and conserve resources. Though the initial expense of installation may be a big investment, you will save significantly on energy bills for as long as your system lasts. Also remember that as solar energy systems become more popular and technology makes them easier to use and more accessible, demand will increase and they may soon become the new standard in home construction and remodeling.