A Guide to Solar Power for Homes

Solar power for homes has recently become a hot topic.  (And yes, pun intended!)  With energy costs soaring ever higher and higher, homeowners owe it to themselves to learn everything they can about solar power not only in order to save money for themselves, but to help reduce their fossil fuel energy usage as much as possible.

Residential solar power harnesses the energy of the sun to heat – and surprisingly enough, cool our homes.  The energy from the sun that eventually reaches the earth is equivalent to about 10000 times the current energy usage of the entire planet!  That’s a lot of energy that is going to waste every day.  Just a small fraction of all of that energy is all we would need to replace all of the energy produced by fossil fuels like gasoline, coal, and natural gas, as well as all of the nuclear power currently being produced.

How Does Home Solar Power Work?

Here is a very basic explanation of what happens to create energy in a solar cell:

The solar cells that are placed on the roof of a home equipped with solar power systems are collections of photovoltaic cells that contain a semiconductor, most likely silicon.  The energy from the sun is absorbed by the silicon and in that process, electrons are freed that in turn start flowing in one direction, creating an electric current.  The PV cells can be combined into solar panels, and those in turn are combined into solar arrays that can be used for powering large buildings.

Solar panels need to be placed on a home on the roof in order to collect the maximum amount of solar energy, and placing them on the south-facing side of a home is very advantageous, as more energy can be collected that way.  The panels will be tilted to equal the latitude of the home’s location so that the panel is perpendicular to the angle of the sun’s rays hitting the panel.  Some solar power systems are actually tracking systems, and will tilt themselves to follow the exact angle needed to collect the maximum amount of energy.

What Happens to Home Solar Power When It Is Cloudy?

The amount of solar power panels a home needs should be calculated to take into account the least sunny month of the year.  If enough panels are installed to take care of the home’s power needs during that month, then the rest of the year will be a piece of cake.  Of course, some days during those non-sunny months may not produce enough power for your home, so you can choose to have back-ups in place, like batteries which power a generator.  Some homeowners opt to be connected to the local power supply, and only use it when needed as a supplement to their solar power.

What Can I Power With Residential Solar Power and How Much Will Solar Power Cost?

You can pick and choose what you would like to power with the sun.  Many people only power certain things with solar power systems, such as heated swimming pools, hot water systems, and sometimes they install solar power kits that will allow them to run the electrical appliances in their home.  Solar power cost will vary widely between homes, depending on what you want to power, and where your home is.  More southern, sunny areas require fewer panels, and the opposite is true for less sunny areas.  You can figure that for every watt of power you need to produce for your home, you will pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 to $10 to install the solar panels.  You can figure the current wattage you use by consulting your local electric company.  Remember, you will still probably require some extra power besides your solar power, especially if your goal is to have your entire home running on a solar power system.  You may qualify for some tax breaks/incentives if you install solar power in your home, so check into your area’s requirements for that to see if you can save on the cost of your solar power system.

As solar power technology progresses, and solar power for homes becomes even more efficient, the cost of the systems will go down, that is for sure.  In the meantime, if you are interested in solar energy for homes, have a local company give you an estimate on the cost of installing a system in your home.  You will not only save yourself money in the long run, but you will be helping out our beautiful planet by reducing your use of fossil fuels.

Tip of the Day:

One very good thing you can do to save money now on energy costs in your home is to install window tinting.  It will protect your home’s interior, and keep fabrics like your window treatments for sliding glass doors and furniture upholstery from fading, and it can reduce the amount of heat/cold entering your home drastically!

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