Solar energy has long worn two stigmas: one, that it’s expensive; two, that it’s for true-blue, granola-loving environmentalists, not the average Joe.
Wrong and wrong. Solar is going mainstream. And with dropping prices, tax credits, and the possibility of some major long-term savings, it’s a reasonable option for an increasing number of people. Here are the most common home options:
Photovoltaic (PV) solar roofs. Rather than installing a standard roof, you might opt for PV roof panels. These installations are sold in kilowatt increments at a cost of about $8 to $10 per watt; you’ll likely need eight to 10 kilowatts to cover an average home’s energy requirements.
Solar shingles. Like PV systems, solar shingles collect light. But instead of shouting “Look, we’ve gone solar!” like PV panels do, the shingles are designed to blend in a bit better with the other roofs in your neighborhood.
Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll also have to decide whether you’ll rely on solar power alone, go “off the grid,” or a combination of the two. If you go all-solar, you’ll likely have to supplement it with wind, hydro, or geothermal power so you have energy consistently. On the other hand, should you choose to connect the grid, when you hit a cloudy spell you’ll just rely on normal power. And, best of all, if you don’t use all the energy your solar panels or shingles generate, you may be able to sell what’s leftover to the power company so others can use it. Sounds good to me.
Another solar option for the home, solar water heaters use—you guessed it—the sun to generate hot water for your house. Learn more about the benefits of solar water heaters from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Then again, there’s also this DIY option for harnessing the sun’s power. Clever, isn’t it?
If you’re looking for more reasons to think solar, consider this: it can make you happier. And, on the more practical side, according to Ideal Bite, one hour’s worth of the sunlight that hits the earth provides more energy than all the people on the earth use in a whole year. Wow. Plus, they say that by every $1,000 you reduce your yearly energy bills, you’ll increase your home’s value by $20,000. Sign me up.
To get the scoop on whether solar will work for you, visit Findsolar.com, which has worksheets to help you determine what you can do with solar energy in your area, what size of system you might need, cost, and all that important stuff. Or learn more about solar from the Solar Living Institute.
On a smaller scale, rather than plugging in your cell phone, MP3 player, or camera to an electrical outlet, why not recharge them with the Solio solar-powered charger? It’s a start!
Now, whether you intend to harness its power or just soak it up, get out and enjoy the sun this weekend!
The Home Know-It-All