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SOLAR POWER PANELS FOR HOME
Do you know what is hot right now?
Home solar panels!
Solar energy is the hottest renewable energy resource in America.
For the first time ever, solar energy is beating out natural gas for new electricity generating capacity in the US.
So, why solar power panels for home are so hot right now?
And why is it beneficial for you to know this?
Grab your sunglasses, because we’re now going to talk about that.
POPULARITY OF HOME SOLAR PANELS
Home solar panels are becoming one of the most popular renewable energy resources on the market.
So, why solar energy winning the popularity contest?
For starters, it’s a clean and renewable energy resource, meaning it replenishes itself over and over again.
Your home right now likely uses oil, which is not a renewable resource.
So, solar energy creates no pollution at all, specifically no carbon dioxide or other heat-trapping gases.
It also uses little to no water.
Now, when it comes to solar panels, they’re quiet, because they have no moving parts.
They’re also fairly easy to install, and require very little maintenance.
DOWNSIDE TO SOLAR ENERGY
Of course, there must be a downside to solar energy, right?
Well, fortunately there are very few disadvantages.
First of all, the initial system costs can be expensive, although lease options are available.
Solar power can’t be harnessed for later use, so you still need to use power from your existing utility on rainy or heavily cloudy days.
Also, you need to live in your home long enough to reap the full financial benefits if you make the initial purchase rather than a lease option.
So, as you can see, the benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages of solar energy.
Now seeing how advantageous solar energy is, let’s look at exactly what it’s all about.
HOW HOME SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS WORK
Have you ever seen a cat or a dog curled up perfectly in a beam of sunlight shining through a window?
That animal has perfective finding what’s called “passive solar energy”.
This heat is exactly what solar power uses in its technology.
Solar power harnesses the sun’s heat and intensity into usable energy.
Photovoltaic cells (solar cells) located on those flat solar panels that you’ve likely seen on rooftops, convert sunlight into electricity.
Pretty cool, right?
Let’s now take a look at how those panels work on a basic level.
- First, sunlight hits the surface of the photovoltaic cell on the solar panel.
- Next, an inverter converts the direct current DC electricity into alternating current AC electricity.
- AC electricity is what is used by household appliances.
- Then, a meter monitors production in the solar panels and the inverter, and sends the information to the utility through a wireless signal.
So, the solar electricity from the inverter flows through the surface panel first to your home, and then to the grid, if there is excess production.
The electricity meter reads the power that you use from the grid, as well as the excess solar electricity that flows to the grid from your solar system.
And that’s how a solar panel makes solar energy.
COST OF THE HOME SOLAR PANELS SYSTEM
As a consumer you may wonder then about the cost of the system.
Like I mentioned before, you can buy a system outright, or choose a leasing option.
On average, 4 to 8 kilowatt solar electric system on a home can cost you between approximately $15,000 and $29,000 including materials, installation, and labor, according to a recent report.
Cost can vary based on a number of factors, including house locations, quality of solar source, roof quality and shading, as well as incentives for solar.
SO, WHAT ABOUT LEASE OPTIONS?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Called “leases” or “Power Purchase Agreements (PPAS)” are contracts that allow you to essentially rent the panels.
With the lease you pay a fixed monthly rent in return for using the system.
With a PPA you pay a fixed price per kilowatt for power that’s actually generated from the solar power facility.
Both typically require no money down.
You still get credit for any excess energy that their system creates, and the Power Purchase Agreement can often be transferred as part of the sale of your home.
Now, that you know how solar energy works you just need to decide what option suits your family.
Whether you choose to purchase the solar energy system outright, or make monthly payments, the benefits of using solar power panels for home are amazing.
Home solar panels are definitely a hot trend, but they are here to stay.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SOLAR POWER
Our Sun is amazing when you think about it.
Light from the Sun travels millions of miles across space through our atmosphere, and to us providing warmth, visual light, and vital energy for plants on this earth.
Imagine if we could utilize this energy from the Sun in a meaningful significant way.
This is what solar power aims to do.
We’ve been previously taken for a ride by bogus concepts like solar roadways but what is the truth about solar.
So, can solar power really change the world?
In this post we’ll take a look at the current state of solar power.
It actually seems like a solar movement is beginning.
Let’s get straight into it.
WHAT IS THE RAW INPUT ENERGY FROM THE SUN ABSORBED BY THE EARTH?
Firstly let’s see what we’re working with.
The total energy absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, land and sea is around 3.85 yotta joules (x1024) per year.
That sounds like gibberish, right?!
So, how much energy is that, really?
Well, just one hour of this energy exposure is more energy than the entire world consumes in one year.
Or, to put it another way, one years of this exposure from the Sun contains twice as much energy than we’ll ever be gained from all the Earth’s non-renewable resources like coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined.
So, that’s a lot of energy, but obviously we can only use a fraction of it.
Taking into account insulation, cloud cover and land that’s usable by humans, etc., we can use about 0.4 to 13% of this raw energy from the Sun.
All right, so how fast is the solar revolution happening?
The growth of solar power adaptation has actually been happening pretty fast, about 40% per year since the year 2000.
For some perspective, we’re currently generating over 97 times more energy from solar than in 2004.
Although this sounds like a lot, right now total solar energy is still just over 1% of global production, but the rate of increase is encouraging.
In fact a 2014 study by the International Energy Agency projected that solar power could supply a 27% of global electricity generation by 2050.
Alright, so I know what some of you are thinking: “that’s all a load of rubbish, solar is too expensive, and only works when it’s sunny, so it’s useless in half the world…”.
While this used to be true in the past couple of years, some of the common arguments against solar are starting to fall.
PRICE OF SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS
So, is it too expensive?
Let’s take a look at the current state of cost.
Adjusting for inflation, the cost of a solar module per watt was 96 dollars in the mid-1970s.
Now thanks to technological advancements and economies of scale, the cost is now 36 cents per watt today.
On the same train of thought, let’s take a look at some interesting breaking stories in relation to the falling cost of solar from around the world.
In the country of Chile, their northern grid solar panels generated more electricity than was consumed locally, causing the price of electricity to go down to zero.
While this is great for consumers, solar investors are losing money, making it a disaster for them.
The problem was caused by too many solar developers being in the same place with no means of transmitting excess electricity to another grid.
A similar thing happened in Germany, and their energy prices went negative due to an overabundance of energy from solar, in addition to traditional nuclear and coal power.
On a similar thread, Apple’s new solar farms are generating more energy than the company can use, so it’s starting to sell the excess energy under a new company called Apple energy.
Still on the topic of falling costs, Bloomberg has issued a report stating that the prices of solar could soon rival traditional coal.
China is leading the way in solar cell production, and could be looking at costs as low as 8 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Xiande Li, the chairman of “Jinko Solar”, one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer.
And, one last interesting fact in relation to solar panel costs.
Since 2012, solar cells have been given a Moore’s Law equivalent called a Swanson’s law.
It states that solar cell cost will have every 10 years as global shipments increase.
All right, this all sounds great but the party for solar is over as soon as the clouds come out.
Well, this may not be entirely true according to Elon Musk, Tesla CEO:
“…Mark my words. Solar will be the single largest producer of energy in the UK long term… and even though it’s cloudy you still get probably 80 to 90 percent of the energy coming through the clouds. It’s just that you don’t have that bright point source of a Sun. And a way to appreciate this perhaps is to look at the fact that plants are essentially a solar-powered chemical reaction, and UK is a very green country.”
But, that’s not all.
This year scientists have made solar panels that produce energy from both sunlight and rain, which is a step in the direction of all year-round solar energy generation.
While we’re on the topic of breakthroughs, let’s move on a little bit and take a look at some new solar breakthroughs from this year alone.
MIT CREATING 3D SOLAR CELLS
First, we have The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) building 3D solar cells to offer a more stable output for different angles of the Sun.
They achieved anywhere from 2 to 20 times the power output of a standard flat cell.
This particular 3D setup works so well, because its design was optimized by a computer algorithm.
MIT has also created solar cells as thin as a soap bubble.
PEROVSKITE FROM SAULE TECHNOLOGIES
This next breakthrough is probably my favorite, because it involves a start-up just finding a better way to do things.
This is what Dr Olga Malinkiewicz, Saule Technologies Chief Technology Officer was what she said” “Perovskite has absorption coefficient that is much higher than silicon cell it can absorb all the incoming sunlight in a layer that is thinner than the human hair…”.
The cells are super light, flexible, down crack like the traditional ones, and can work in artificial light.
As they can be easily manufactured from readily accessible materials, production is surprisingly cheap.
The printing method chosen by Dr. Olga Malinkiewicz is stable and reproducible.
This offers the possibility of scaling the manufacturing process.
The foil will prolong the life of batteries used in popular electronic devices.
A mobile, tablet or laptop will charge even when exposed to artificial sources of light.
Traditional solar cells will be replaced with technologically advanced foils, tightly attached to the roof.
They may come in a wide range of colors to match the building’s design, providing the household with electric power.
Guys in Saule Technologies are still getting venture capital, but it could really push the state of the art of solar forward if they succeed.
FUTURE SOLAR TRANSPORT
Let’s take a quick look at solar transport.
There’s an autonomous boat called “Scout”, that will be the first solar vehicle to cross the Atlantic.
There’s also an experimental aircraft called “Solar Impulse”, which is currently flying around the world only by using solar power.
And lastly, Toyota released an updated version of the “Prius”, with a solar panel roof that actually helps power the car this time.
Ok, so this is all great, but we can’t end all this without talking about some of the downsides.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF SOLAR?
The main problems for solar power are as follows.
Naturally, on any particular day, energy demand fluctuates.
One of the problems of solar is that it’s not easy to adjust the output to match these fluctuations.
For example, peak demand happens at night in a household, and this is the opposite time to win there’s peak energy input from the Sun.
Home battery systems like “Tesla Powerwall” that stored the energy and released it at a later time can help, and in fact, what few people notice is that batteries like this are now much safer, better for the environment, and cheaper thanks to the rise of electric vehicles.
Despite this more time is still needed to production is large enough to make this kind of energy storage technology ubiquitous.
The second problem with solar is that the best panels are currently about 30 to 35 percent efficient.
Even though traditional coal is less than 50 percent efficient, there is still a way to go in solar efficiency, but this should surely improve as the technology comes along in coming years.
And lastly, a problem with solar is that older electrical grids, like those in the United States and other countries, would require a great deal of capital investment in infrastructure upgrades to make them compatible with large-scale solar energy.
Okay, so what’s the conclusion that we can make here?
While there are some kinks still left in solar and it’s not perfect, there’s plenty of smart people working on the problem.
With a global growth rate of about 40 percent year-on-year, progress is being made.
In addition to this, governments have a renewed sense of urgency for solar.
- Germany wants to be 35% solar powered by 2020,
- China wants to be 20% by 2030 and,
- the City of Sydney in Australia wants to be 100% solar powered by 2030, and
- Dubai plans to build the biggest and cheapest solar tower in the world.
The point of this post isn’t so much a matter of every breakthrough that you’ve seen here today reaching full-scale production, but the thing you should take away and what I’m trying to show you in this post is that these breakthrough events are happening in a lot of places, with increasing frequency.
This only means that the forces of industry progress in solar cells are likely to be strong going forward.
And this is exciting!
And just to finish off, I think there’s something intrinsically charming about solar.
That idea of gaining usable energy from the Sun for free.
So, I hope you learned a thing or two.
AVOID THESE 7 NEWBIES MISTAKES FOR EFFECTIVE POWER HARVESTING FROM THE SUN
Now, let’s talk about the top 7 mistakes that people make when they go solar.
These are in no particular order, and they apply to on grid tied or off grid.
CONFUSING DAYLIGHT HOURS WITH SUN HOURS
A “sun hour” is a specific unit of measurement that we use in solar to define the period of time in the day when we’re going to get the most out of our solar panels.
So, when it’s summertime, we all think “oh the day is super long, we’ve got 12 hours of daylight, everything’s going to be great, our solar panels are going to be working awesome…”.
However, even in the middle of summer in July, the Sun may rise at 6 AM and set at 9PM, but you’re only getting 7 “sun hours” in the middle of that day, where your solar panel is working anywhere close to its maximum capacity.
So, the rest of the day the Sun will still shine, the solar panel will still work, but it will function at a much reduced rate.
UNDER ESTIMATING YOUR POWER CONSUMPTION
We all have a bunch of different devices in our homes, but not very many of us know how much they’re consuming.
So, how are we supposed to know what this stuff consumes?
Well there’s a couple different ways.
- first, you can get a device that will measure the electricity consumed over time, and you can do some math, or
- secondly, most appliances and electronic devices in your home will come with information from the manufacturer, that gives you an estimate of how much device is going to consume.
Pay special attention to air conditioners, heaters, blow dryers, microwaves, stoves, refrigerators and so forth.
At least get a grasp on those big devices, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to consume.
NOT DECREASING YOUR USAGE FIRST
This one is a no-brainer if you do a little math, and I know – we’re all scared of a little math.
So, let’s do an easy math problem first.
The average solar panel costs about $1 per watt.
To replace an incandescent 60 watt light bulb with a 10 watt LED light bulb is going to cost you five dollars.
That’s going to net a savings of 50 watts.
That’s going to result in a 50 dollar savings in solar panels you don’t have to buy now, because you made that energy-saving step.
There are lots of other ways that you can save on your usage before installing solar, and it’s a big deal.
You’re talking thousands of dollars on a whole home system just by making some careful upgrades first, before you do so.
HAVING UNREASONABLE OR UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
However you got interested in solar, whether you’re wanting to go green or you want to save money, you need to know the limitations of what you’re getting into.
So, it’s very tempting to go out to Harbor Freight, or to Amazon, and to find a solar panel kit which is affordable, and for example it’s only 100 bucks, or 300 bucks, and you think you have “great visions” of doing lots of stuff with this system.
I get questions all the time like “I want to power my refrigerator with this solar panel…”.
Well, let’s think about this for a second.
You’ve got 100 watt kit that you bought, but you have a 600 watt refrigerator.
How is that going to work?
Your solar panel would have to work six times longer than your refrigerator, and your refrigerator runs 24 hours a day.
It’s just not a realistic expectation, and that’s just one simple example.
I’d recommend that you start small, something like a light, and then you can scale up later once you figure out what the realistic the limitations and the production of your system is going to be in the real world.
BAD SOLAR PANEL INSTALLATION
This is not giving enough thought to how you’re going to mount the solar panel and all of the considerations that go into that.
There are lots of things to consider when mounting your solar panel.
I’ll just talk about a couple real quickly:
- if you live in northern hemisphere, it needs to face south,
- the angle that you mount the solar panel needs to be equal to the latitude of where you live
Another one tip, and this is not very well-known, is that solar panels are designed to run cool, and they don’t like heat.
So, that’s counterintuitive, because they operate in the Sun, but enough solar panels optimal range is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, if you don’t leave enough air gap behind the solar panel, or you put it in an area that’s going to see excessive heat, it will never reach its rated efficiencies.
TAKING A DEAL THAT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
Usually, this is going to be with the grid-tied system, the least systems, that people are selling door-to-door now, but it can also apply to off-grid as well.
We’ve all heard the phrases “if it’s too good to be true it probably is” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.
So, when someone comes to your door, and is selling you a solar panel system completely free to you that’s going to completely eliminate your electric bill or decrease it to almost nothing, there’s going to be some drawbacks to that you need to look into.
You need to look into the “fine print” and the drawbacks of what you’re getting into.
Another scenario is that you do a lot of research you do some shopping and you find a pallet of solar panels for 30 cents a watt.
Well, chances are that’s probably going to be B grade cells and typically those are just cosmetic, but they can very much affect the performance of your solar panels.
So, know what you’re buying, get some pictures beforehand, and get some guarantees or whatever before you buy something like that.
BUYING BEFORE DEFINING YOUR LOAD
And this is one that I made myself, so I know what I’m talking about.
This is buying a solar panel system before having any clue what you want to do with it.
It’s a little like buying a house without knowing who’s going to live there and what your needs are.
You may get a “smoking deal” on that one bedroom townhome, but then you promised your brothers family that they can come live with you, and he’s got four kids.
How’s that going to work!?
A lot of this stuff just comes down to patience.
Know what you’re doing, do the research, cover all the angles, ask people who have done this before, and then decide what your wants are out of the system before you go out and buy something.
Don’t be like me.
I did that.
Luckily, it all worked out in the end and, I was able to recover from that, but some people may not.
So, that concludes our list.
Hopefully, you learn a few things.
Maybe I warned a few people before they make a mistake, and it’ll all be worth it if that is the case.
HOME WIND TURBINES – PROS AND CONS
Wind-powered homes are an option, along with solar power, for those who want an environmentally safe source of electricity that’s independent from local utility companies.
The technology used in wind powered homes has advanced enough that people in some parts of the United States can now use wind power to meet most or even all of their electricity needs.
This, of course, not only supports a healthy environment, but can also reduce monthly utility bills, or even eliminate them.
But, wind power is not a perfect answer for everyone.
Here are some important considerations to evaluate if you’re thinking about using wind to power your home.
WIND IN YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL AREA
You have to know if there’s enough wind in your location to make a wind powered home work.
This means doing some homework about how often and how strongly the wind blows in your geographical area.
You also have to consider wind speed and strength at the height of your wind turbine.
Keep in mind that wind speeds on the ground are not necessarily the same as they might be at the height of your turbine tower.
Often, there are obstructions at ground level like trees, buildings and even other homes.
You’ll have to do some research to get this right.
TYPES OF WINDMILLS
You’ll also have to consider what type of device you want to use to capture the wind.
There are various types of windmills, and one may be better suited to your situation than another.
Basically, windmills are divided into two groups:
- vertical axis windmills, and
- horizontal axis windmills.
Vertical axis windmills resemble the type you often see on farms and ranches, and the blades of the windmill are straight up and down.
This type can catch the wind from any direction, something that’s not necessarily true of many horizontal axis windmills.
Of course, this is an important factor to keep in mind when you’re making your decision about which type of windmill to install.
There are several financial matters to investigate, too.
Wind-powered homes are often eligible for a variety of state and federal tax credits and these can help you recover the cost of installation.
But it will still take several years to save as much in electricity bills as building a wind turbine will cost you.
And finally, remember to check zoning regulations in your local area, because some municipalities restrict the height of structures on your property.
Wind power for the home offers many potential benefits to be sure, but deciding whether wind is right for you and choosing the proper wind power system means making some serious choices.
Do your research carefully.
Run financial studies on your own, and with the help of a tax professional.
If you decide to go ahead, make sure to get a licensed experienced and reputable installer to do the work for you.
THE CASE FOR HOME WIND POWER
And now, let’s talk about why wind power can be viable for home applications.
Electricity produced by wind turbines has been gaining popularity just as fast as solar has.
Most of us by now have probably seen these giant turbines dotting the landscape in the distance.
But can they be used for private individuals at their homes?
The answer to that is yes, with a few conditions, of course.
First would be making sure that your homeowners association or your neighbors nearby would allow it, and that it isn’t against local ordinances or laws.
Most wind turbines do make noise in high wind conditions, and some people are just scared of them.
Next, you would need to have enough land and space to put a tower, and the general rule of thumb is that the tower needs to be about twice as high as the nearest obstruction, which is probably going to be your house or a tall tree.
The turbine itself has to be above any disturbances that consider caused by houses, trees and other objects in the way.
While you can install a wind turbine on your roof, there’s a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to:
- you’re not going to be above the disturbed airflow, and
- you’re going to introduce vibrations into your home.
Next, you would need to make sure with your utility company that you can connect to the grid, otherwise you’d have to go with an off-grid system which is fine, but you need to know that ahead of time.
So, let’s say your house checks out and meets the criteria why would you want to do it.
Well, wind turbines are much like solar panels – they produce electricity.
So, for an investment of between $500 and say $10.000, you could be providing at least some of your electric bill each month with wind power.
But unlike solar panels, wind turbines actually produce power around the clock.
Obviously, the wind has to be blowing for that to happen, but if you install a tower high enough and you size your turbine properly, it will be producing power most of the time, whereas the solar panel is going to produce most of its power between six or seven hours a day.
Maybe you want to go green or you want to live energy independent, but you don’t live in an area that gets a lot of Sun for solar power, than wind turbines are a good option.
Or, maybe you live somewhere like Seattle that gets a lot of rain and has a lot of overcast days, when turbines don’t take the day off.
As long as the winds blowing they’re still working.
Like I mentioned before, it doesn’t require huge investment.
For as little as $500, you can get a 2 to 4 hundred watt wind turbine, put it up on a pole, and you can be making power with wind.
And just like solar, there’s a lot of technological innovations that are happening pretty rapidly.
Today, you can see a vertical axis type of wind turbine, which spins around a vertical axis, instead of a horizontal axis like a traditional wind turbine does.
Also, there are some types of turbines that are almost whisper-quiet.
By the year 2030, wind power is expected to be 20% of the Earth’s electricity.
So, wind power is here to stay.
If it meets your needs, wind power is worth taking a look at for home power use.