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Solar Power for Homes – What You Need to Know

Some suprising new developments in solar power for homes may make using solar energy in your daily life more possible than you may think!

When choosing solar power for homes, many homeowners have little idea that the systems can be tailored to the specific needs of the home. The most common type of solar energy is produced in solar panels attached to the roof of a house. These panels collect solar energy and convert that energy into useable, electrical power.

In many cases, an inverter will need to be used to convert the power from a one way feed or direct current (DC) to the alternating current (AC) that is used in most homes. The number of solar panels and the amount of wattage produced will determine the size of inverter needed and the number of inverters to be placed on the home. If the power will be stored in batteries for later use, there is no need to include an inverter on the solar panel system.

Moving Away From the Solar Panel

The solar panel is not the only type of solar power generator that can be used in the home. Technological advances have brought solar energy a long way. Today, solar backpacks, appliances, cell phone chargers, hot water heaters and heating and cooling systems have integrated solar panels that work for a specified purpose.

The solar backpack, for instance, can be used to charge a laptop or other mobile device while a student is studying outside or walking from class to class. If the student can find a window seat in class, theoretically the backpack could eliminate the need for electrical charging.

Appliances and cell phone chargers work in much the same way. The solar power that these units use is directed at powering or charging the attached unit and not production of energy for the entire home.

One of the most functional uses for solar energy can be affordably installed in the attic or roof crawl space of a home. Solar fans, powered by the sun, can be used to cool these spaces and reduce the loss of heated and cooled air from the roof of the home.

The units are installed in the roof like skylights and collect energy from the sun to power the fan. An even smaller alternative are walkway and driveway lights. These small solar energy units, collect sun power throughout the day and that energy is used to light the bulbs at night.

Will Solar Power for Homes Work for Everyone?

While solar power for homes may be ideal in many locations, using full scale home solar power systems may not be not practical for every home. The average number of sunny days per year will greatly influence the potential energy output of any solar unit.

In locations where frequent rain and snow are common, the units will not have the direct contact with the sun’s rays needed to collect solar energy and convert that energy into solar power. In these cases, the cost of installing solar panels will not be returned via savings in the home for many years.

On the flip side, places like Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States and some parts of Florida where sunny days far outweigh cloudy days, solar energy can be easily collected in amounts large enough to take a home completely off the electrical grid. Extra power can then be sold back to the electric company for credits or cash.


M.S. Rochell is a lifelong, passionate lover of nature and the environment, and the editor of www.Go-Green-Solar-Energy.com, whose purpose is to inspire and educate ordinary people about the benefits of affordable solar energy. Please visit to learn more about affordable solar power for homes and to access our extensive list of free solar resources.

Solar Energy Pros and Cons

Below you`ll find a list over the various pros and cons of solar energy. By clicking on one of the blue links, you will be taken further down on the page for more in-depth information. Everything you are about to read is properly referenced at the bottom.

 Advantages of Solar Energy

1. Renewable

Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy, as opposed to non-renewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, coal and nuclear).

We will have access to solar energy for as long as the sun is alive – another 6.5 billion years according to NASA[1]. We have worse things to worry about; in fact, scientists have estimated that the sun itself will swallow Earth 5 billion years from now.

2. Abundant

The potential of solar energy is beyond imagination. The surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) – 20,000 times more power than what is needed to supply the entire world.[2]

3. Sustainable

An abundant and renewable energy source is also sustainable. Sustainable energy sources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because there is no way we can over-consume.

4. Environmentally Friendly

Harnessing solar energy does generally not cause pollution. However, there are emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems – almost nothing compared to most conventional energy sources. It is clear that solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

5-energy is available all over the world. Not only the countries that are closest to the Equator can put solar energy to use – Germany, for example, has by far the highest capacity of solar power in the world.

6. Reduces Electricity Costs

With the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, homeowners can now “sell” excess electricity, or receive bill credits, during times when they produce more electricity than what they actually consume.

This means that homeowners can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. Data from One Block Off the Grid reveals that adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 after 20 years!

Nowadays, most homeowners choose leasing or power purchase agreements to finance their solar panels. This drastically reduces, or in some cases completely eliminates, the upfront costs of a solar panel system, and allows homeowners to start saving money from the first day.

If you want to learn more about the advantages specifically related to residential solar photovoltaic panels (generating electricity with solar energy at home), then check out Benefits of Solar Panels.

7. Many Applications

Solar energy can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to generate electricity in places that lack a grid connection, for distilling water in Africa, or even to power satellites in space.

Solar power is also known as “The People`s Power”, which refers to how easily deployable solar panels are at the consumer level (both photovoltaic and solar thermal).

With the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can even be seemingly integrated into the material of buildings (building integrated photovoltaics) – Sharp, a solar panel manufacturer with headquarters in Japan, recently introduced transparent solar power windows.

8. Shared Solar

Because of shading, insufficient space and ownership issues, 1/5 American homes are simply unfit for solar panels.[3] With the introduction of shared solar, homeowners can subscribe to “community solar gardens”, and generate solar electricity without actually having solar panels on their own rooftops.

9. Silent

There are no moving parts involved in most applications of solar power. There is no noise associated with photovoltaics. This compares favorable to certain other green-techs such as wind turbines.

10. Financial Support from Government/State

Government and state rebates have become available both on utility-scale and for the majority of homeowners. This means that the effective costs of solar panels are much less than what they used to be. In some cases, the price of a residential photovoltaic system can be cut more than 50%.

11. Low Maintenance

The majority of today`s solar power systems do not required a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.

Technological advancements are constantly being made in the solar power industry. Innovation in nanotechnology and quantum physics has the potential to triple the electrical output of solar panels.

 

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

1. Expensive

Is solar power really expensive? This is probably the most debatable aspect on the entire solar energy pros and cons list. The driving forces behind the development of solar energy are rooted in politics. Solar power is incentivized to compete against other energy sources on the market. On the other hand, the U.S. government, similarly to the rest of the world, provides incentives to every major energy production market – not just solar.

In 2010, coal received $1,189 billion in federal subsidies and support for electricity production while solar is not far behind at $968 billion.[4]

Nowadays, the best solar panels can in many situations be cheaper than buying electricity from the utility. This wouldn`t have been possible without incentives.

2. Intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.

3. Energy Storage is Expensive

Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smoothen out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive.

Luckily, there`s a good correspondence between our access to solar energy and human energy demand. Our electricity demand peaks in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the same time there`s a lot of sunlight!

4. Associated with Pollution

While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution.

The bottom line is this: There’s nothing that’s completely risk-free in the energy world, but solar power compares very favorably with all other technologies.

5. Exotic Materials

Certain solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare in nature. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

6. Requires Space

Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonably prices.

The global mean power density for solar radiation is 170 W/m².[5] This is more than any other renewable energy source, but not comparable to oil, gas and nuclear power.