by Sarah Grice
Across the globe, it is becoming a priority for all nations to focus more and more on the use of renewable resources, and using less electricity. Solar home power systems are actively encouraged and there is now a wide range of financial incentives to businesses large and small to provide energy efficient appliances and home power generation systems. For example, one of the leading market areas that’s getting stimulus funds is solar power residential systems, which take a solar array, a DC to AC converter and a battery set up to generate power.
Solar power residential systems aren’t the only way to benefit from the sun; there are also solar thermal systems and even landscaping and painting schemes to benefit from solar home power. Which one is right for you is largely a matter of cost versus return on your electric bill.
When it comes to cost, look for local tax credits on solar improvements to homes – these vary from state to state, and from county to county, and a number of them that were due to expire got extended instead. Depending on where you live, the type of credit available, and how much effort you’re willing to exert, these can help to offset the cost of a solar home power installation.
The next thing to look at is your electrical bill and your utility company. The reality of solar power residential use is that it will cut back on your utility usage and it is possible to achieve the dream of never having to pay the utility company again but this very much depends on your own particular circumstances. Some utility companies have policies where they buy back power that’s generated by residential solar power and wind turbines, and that’s definitely the goal to shoot for.
While you’re talking to your utility company, ask them if they have an hour by hour breakdown of your last bill, to see what your peak usage times are, what your baseline load is, and use that as a guideline to what sort of solar system you’re going to use.
When talking solar power residential usage, the two top candidates are solar thermal (where you use a heat pipe arrangement to heat up hot water) and solar home electricity. Of the two, solar thermal is more efficient at storing energy for future use, largely due to the laws of physics and the properties of hot water. It’s also the one that’s hardest to retro-fit onto an existing installation. One of the reasons why it makes the most sense for home owners when it’s an option is that the largest draw on power use that most families have, after running the refrigerator, is hot water for showers and cleaning. So solar heating water should definitely be one of the options you look at if you are considering solar home power.
Solar home electricity requires a bit more study on what your actual electrical usage is, and on how your house is situated. Solar home power of the electric sort requires a south facing solar panel cell system, where you can catch sunlight and convert it to electricity. Depending on how your house was constructed, this may or may not be feasible, but it usually is to some degree. The more unobstructed sunlight that your solar cells can get during the day, the more independent you can be. What a lot of homeowners don’t realize is that there’s more to a home solar power system than the photovoltaic arrays – you also need a power inverter, to convert the power from DC to AC, and you need batteries to store that power for later use.
You don’t need to get locked on to one solution. For example, there’s nothing that says your rooftop solar collector can’t sit on a rooftop heat exchanger that heats up water in your home; combination systems are often cheaper than having one full solar power residential set up of one type or another.
While this article has focused on installing a solar home power system, don’t forget that you can also make a difference to your electricity bill and the planet by reviewing your current power usage.
Do what you can to change your current usage habits – for example, switch to compact fluorescent bulbs where they make sense, look at opening breezeways through your house in the summer and winter to facilitate airflow, turn off appliances when not in use, check out your home insulation. Make other changes that will help cut your use of power – for example, get reversible curtains for your south wall, with white on one side (for the summer) and black or a dark pattern on the other side for the winter. These allow passive solar heating and cooling to work to your benefit, and they’re even apartment friendly. And there are many other things you can do to cut back on your energy usage and so reduce your power bills
Finally, to plan appropriately, look at how much energy you use, during what times of the day. Also, don’t rule out the possibility of building your own solar hot water or home solar electricity system. This will obviously work out a lot cheaper and you will recoup your initial return on investment very quickly by the reduction in your power bills. Many people are finding this to be a very practical and economic solution for them. There are step-by-step guides available to help the average family build these systems for themselves quickly and cheaply and this is definitely an option worth considering.
If you’re interested in finding out more about solar home electricity and other aspects of home power generation, you’ll find lots more information on our website at http://homepowergeneration.net