Solar energy is currently used for two primary reasons: heating and electricity. There are a number of system variations for homes and businesses that capture the solar radiation and turn it into usable energy. The use of the sun's energy as an alternative energy source is rapidly increasing. Currently, solar power is a widely available resource for homeowners. Many homeowners now employ the use of solar power through solar panels installed on their homes.
Warmth of the Sun
Capturing the sun's energy has been done for many years, but as people become more concerned with the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels, the use of the sun’s energy is becoming more popular. Many new homes are built in a way that capitalizes on passive solar gain. Just positioning your home to maximize sunlight offers you savings from the beginning.
Whether you live in a cold climate or a warm climate, positioning your home to maximize sunlight or provide shade will help in your energy usage. Positioning my new home in a way that maximizes sunlight was an important consideration and seemed wasteful not to incorporate in the plan. This is often an overlooked benefit when building or remodeling a home, the benefits of passive solar gain are considerable.
Common types of solar power systems:
- Photovoltaic Systems (PV) – solar electric cells are used to convert radiation from the sun into electricity. This can be used for homes and businesses.
- Solar Thermal Systems for Heating Purposes – solar panels collect radiation that is then used to heat water or air. This can be used for homes and businesses and may be a good first step in using solar power.
- Solar Thermal-Electric Plants for Power Generation – solar collectors direct the sun’s heat so that fluid is heated to a point where it can generate enough steam to turn an electricity-producing turbine
This describes the types of solar power systems available for use today in their most basic terms. But in all categories, the sun’s radiation is captured with collectors of some form and then used to do the same things fossil fuels are used for currently.
Having A Back-up Plan
Most people (those who live “on the grid”) who are relying on solar power normally have a backup energy system and net metering is an option. The electric company either buys your surplus energy or gives you a credit. Obviously, on cloudy, rainy days or at night there will not be enough radiation to produce energy. You can still remain connected to your energy supplier while using solar power. For those who really want or need to be “off the grid” you could store your surplus energy in batteries for use when you are not producing enough energy.
Solar energy is produced by a variety of technologies and its use is expected to expand the number of solar energy options. Much research and development is underway to improve efficiency of photovoltaic systems and combining technologies. Dual solar, a system that combines electricity producing capability with heating capabilities provides both electricity for your home as well as hot water with the additional benefit of cooling the solar panel and increasing the efficiency. As efficiencies of photovoltaic systems improve and new technologies are created the initial purchase costs for homeowners decreases.
Sunshine to Energy
There are a number of benefits to using solar energy.
- Reduces the need for fossil fuels
- Reduces residential and commercial energy expenses
- Is a renewable energy source
- Does not release contaminants into the air or water
- Can be used in a number of configurations on your home
- Can be applied for tax credits
Currently most solar power is used to produce heat, but that is going to change. The cost of installing solar power systems is an investment initially, but with federal and state tax credits it may be worth exploring. No doubt the cost of solar energy will drop quickly as technology advances. When considering solar energy, its important to think about the long term affects it will have on your bills – and even the value of your house.
Solar energy is considered to be one of the most promising alternative energy sources for homeowners in the future. For your community, there will be more solar farms appearing to capture the sunshine and turn it into electricity in an environmentally safe manner.
Interested in learning more, click on the links below:
Explore active and passive solar
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Government incentives and unexpected benefits
Location, time of year and return on investment
Current uses and technological advances
Who is leading the way?
Questions and considerations before meeting with vendors
Technologies available and improvements on the horizon
Discover how nanotechnology improves efficiency
Variety of options for homeowners
Fun and simple activities for kids to learn about this technology