Why Aren't You Using Residential Solar Energy?

Residential solar energy is something to take a serious look at these days with a growing recognition of the need to adopt renewable sources of energy.

The world badly needs to adapt from its traditional addiction to electricity generated from fossil fuels. There are three major reasons why that needs to happen:

  • The supply of fossil fuel base materials is declining and will eventually be exhausted.
  • Global warming and pollution is a threat to the future of our planet
  • The enormous social costs associated with the pollution from the use of fossil fuels. Health issues are widespread because of this factor.
Fortunately, the movement to use renewable energy is gathering pace and it's time to be a part of it. It's time to make use of residential solar energy at your house!

The sun is the fundamental renewable energy source from which many other renewable sources flow.

What Does Residential Solar Energy Have To Offer?

The basic benefit is that you can heat and cool and power your house with solar energy, thereby reducing your power bill and contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment.

The above statement, although short and to the point, is of critical importance not only for your personal benefit but for the benefit of the general community.

The more people that commit themselves to residential solar energy the better off we will all be.

So, where do you start?

Firstly, you need to understand that you can make use of solar energy in two different ways – the use of Active Solar Energy and Passive Solar Energy

With active solar energy you harness the solar energy and convert it to electricity via solar panels or through a solar collector and heat exchanger to heat your hot water or other home appliances and features, for example, your swimming pool.

With passive solar energy you can heat and cool your home with appropriate use of home design and the efficient use of radiation, convection and conduction. Visit our pages on solar home heating and solar cooling for further information.

OK – so back to getting started...

On this page we will look at turning solar heat energy into electrical energy to power your home.

Solar electricity to reduce your power bill

You start by calculating your overall power usage per year. Simply look up past power bills and total the number of Kilowatt hours (Kw-hr) used. If you live in North America this figure averages out at about 12,000 Kw-hrs per year. If you line in Europe it's about half that, on average.

You will now also have a total for your annual power cost, depending on the rate per Kw-hr you are charged by your utility company.

You now need to make a decision about how much you want to reduce that annual cost. Your decision will obviously be influenced by your budget for your planned project. See our solar energy cost page for useful information in this regard.

Once your objective is clear you can start planning your resisential solar energy project.

  • Are you going to do it yourself? If so, see our page on diy solar energy
  • If you are going to buy your system you need to find a dealer. Skip to the section on this page on choosing a reliable dealer.
  • Choose your location for your solar panels. This will probably be your roof and it will need to be north or south facing depending on which hemisphere you live in. This gives you maximum sun exposure. For more detailed information on location visit our solar panel page.
  • Solar panels are sold in units that are rated in terms of the power they are designed to produce. The rating is on the basis of the power produced in watts in one hour of peak sun. The number of Kw-hrs you are aiming for plus your budget for the project will determine your decision.
  • You need a contractor for installation. Your dealer may provide this service or recommend a good one. Do your own checking. Look for feedback from others who have used their services.

What you need to buy

A residential solar energy system to generate electricity will consist of the following components:

Layout of components of residential solar energy system

Source: sunwindproducts.com

A solar array made up of a number of solar panels – the number of panels being determined by the panel rating and efficiency and hours per day of peak sun in your area. Your choice of solar array needs you to ask a couple of important questions of your prospective dealer.

  • What is the minimum guaranteed power output of the panels making up the array? Although a panel is sold as say, a 200 watt panel, it may be that the guaranteed power to be obtained is 180 watts. This factor is sometimes referred to as the negative tolerance rating, in this case 10%.
  • What is the efficiency rating of the panels? This is important because it influences the total number of panels you need to bu to produce your desired output.
A charge controller which serves to protect the batteries in your system by preventing the batteries from overcharging and also from feeding back into the solar panel.

An which converts the direct current to the alternating current used by your national grid. It is best to buy an inverter that produces pure sine-wave current as distinct from one that uses a modified sine wave. Some household appliances may suffer damage or work less efficiently using a modified sine wave inverter.

Deep cycle batteries are designed to be recharged hundreds or thousands of times and to discharge very slowly over a long period. These batteries are rated in Ampere-Hours. For example a battery may be rated at 120 Amperes over 100 hours (120/100).

it is also important that the bank of batteries is not discharged beyond 70% capacity as this helps prolong battery life.

This area is one where you need to get expert advice either from your dealer or a battery expert. The battery bank forms a significant part of your investment, so it's important to get it right.

One final piece of advice when it comes to buying your system. Check out the credentials or do your due diligence on any prospective dealers. How long have they been in business? Do they concentrate on solar energy solely or is part of a wider portfolio of activities? Do they operate from commercial premises? Can you access testimonials from other customers? Residential solar energy is a major investment (but very worthwhile) so it's better to be sure than sorry!

Heating your home or home facilities

Apart from using solar energy to provide electricity to power your home, you can heat your home, provide domestic hot water, warm your swimming pool and even warm your driveway to melt the snow.

This is a fairly straight forward process involving a collector to absorb the solar energy and then a heat exchanger to transfer it to the desired point.

To get further information on using solar energy for home heating please visit solar home heating.

Interested in heating your swimming pool? Then check out our page on Solar Pool Heater.

Residential solar energy is definitely more than just an option for your consideration. It's a major investment opportunity that brings you substantial benefits and contributes to the growth in renewable energy usage throughout the world.

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