With rising costs for fuels and heating methods, many people are looking into solar energy. Solar power can significantly help offset rising heating costs. One question that many people may have is How Is Solar Energy Used? Solar energy can have many uses around a household.
Solar energy has many potential uses. It can power a home, heat water, be used for natural lighting or heat your pool, among other things. Current solar energy can be active or passive. A couple examples of active solar are thermal collectors and photovoltaic (PV) panels. A thermal collector is a panel with pipes underneath it that could be placed on a pool for example. When the panel heats up the pipes heat up and warm the water. The heated water can then be used for whatever is desired. There is no cost for the hot water using this natural method.
Passive methods are ones that have a less direct impact. Some examples might be choosing optimal designs for air circulation or building your house to make the best use of the sun. Making a house more compact (for a better surface area to volume ratio) will help as will using certain shading (overhangs) and using materials with a good thermal mass. Thermal mass is a measure of the capacity to store heat. These things can produce well-lit spaces and provide comfortable temperature ranges when used properly.
Solar power can also be used in agriculture. The most well known example of this would be a greenhouse. A greenhouse uses the sun for constant heat for plants. It does this by turning solar light into heat. Solar power in agriculture is mostly to maximize plants productivity. Some lesser known examples of how to use solar energy in agriculture are timing planting cycles to maximize growth and orienting the rows of plants to get the most sunlight possible.
Now back to the PV panels. These are used mostly for converting solar power into electricity. It can be as small as the single cell in a calculator or a large array to power a small home. That is what is commonly referred to as living off the grid. Using this method to power a home requires storage of excess for those times when there is no sunlight. Batteries are the most common method for storing the excess solar electric.
So, how is solar energy used? These are but a few examples of the many uses of solar energy.
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