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Residential Solar Power Past and Present

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I think it’s interesting to look at how far we’ve come when it comes to solar– and yet how much things have stayed the same.

In 1979, the developer of a condominium village in New Hampshire decided to bring an environmentally responsive alternative to the market. He designed the building to used solar energy. The solar panels are made of glass, offering a beautify view of the scenery. Buyers responded very well, leading the developer to design several more similar buildings.

Construction began in 2006 in Boulder Colorado on a project called Solar Row. The project consists of nine homes using only solar power. This was the first solar home development project in the Boulder area. The design of each home has been carefully set up to allow the home to use and creates its own energy. Around the country, communities like this continue to grow.

Some states are pushing for solar powered housing. Several years ago California officials proposed half of all new homes built run on solar energy within ten years. In 2004, they created the California Solar Initiative, which encourages builders and homeowners to embrace solar. A recent report showed the annual rate for new installed capacity in California nearly doubled in 2008 over 2007, and early numbers indicate that 2009 will have at least as many installations.

Currently, the federal government has many initiatives and incentives either in play or in the works. Recently, legislators extended the 30 percent solar investment tax credit, which was set to expire. Parts of the recent Recovery Act include funding for solar projects.

In spite of this, solar remains out of reach for many. Obstacles, from financial impediments to homeowners associations, still stand in the way of people who long to embrace solar power as a part of their lives. But if we continue to work, then hopefully in the future solar will be a more common part of people’s lives.

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Affordable Solar

Posted by admin in catbullet Affordable Solar, Solar Power




I’ll get back to my series on solar powered water heaters soon, but before I do, I really felt that I needed to post this. I think a lot more of us would get on the solar power bandwagon if it were cheaper. If your utility company made it easier and cheaper to make the change, how many of you would jump at the chance? I know I would.

The government (local and otherwise) is involved in a lot of things they probably shouldn’t be, but this is an area where they could actually be helpful. So, what is your city or state doing to encourage the use of solar energy? What is your power company doing?

Think it’s impossible for your area to have affordable solar? And certainly impossible for the power company to help? Companies like Austin Energy prove it is possible. They offer rebates that pay 40-60% of the cost of installation. I’m not sure whether you can combine that with federal tax credits, but even if you can’t that’s a significant savings. They also offer affordable loans.

Cities and states can get involved in making solar cheaper, as well. When cities start using more solar, the savings will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. Las Vegas has plans to add millions of dollars in solar panels to save the city money on electricity. Ten cities have been recognized for using the highest percentage of solar power.

1. Oakland, CA 17%
2. Sacramento/San Francisco/San Jose, CA 12%
3. Portland, OR 10%
4. Boston, MA 8.6%
5. San Diego, CA 8%
6. Austin, TX 6%
7. Los Angeles, CA 5%
8. Minneapolis, MN 4.5%
9. Seattle, WA 3.5%
10. Chicago, IL 2.5%

So, if you want to find out more about solar supply or solar energy sources in your area, you should talk to a representative from your city council or state representatives to see what their plans are. This will give you the details you need about urban planning in your city or state, and will let you know how much money is being spent on electrical energy and new construction.

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Solar Powered Water Heater

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Energysavers.gov tells me that these are also called solar domestic hot water systems. Really? I’ve never heard them called that. Solar water heater, solar powered water heater, passive solar water heater, yes. But solar domestic hot water systems? No.

But I digress. Whatever you call them, solar powered water heaters are one of the growing ways that residential consumers are using solar power in their homes. They can be either passive or active, depending on whether the water just sits there passively or circulates via a pump actively.

In some cases, the solar water heater preheats the water, which still circulates through a secondary water heater. There are several different kinds of collectors and a few types of systems (both active and passive) available for residential use.

In some cases, a solar powered water heater will save you money. In others, the savings are so long-term that you’re better off choosing an alternative, if economics is your primary motivation for choosing solar. Of course, if you’re planning a home that is completely off the grid, money isn’t the biggest concern.

This article is just an introduction, and I’ll cover more of the details about solar water heaters, including things to consider in choosing a solar powered water heater, how much should you plan to spend and non-solar alternatives.

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How to Connect Solar Cells Together to Create Solar Panels

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I know I said my next article would be on solar hot water heating, but then I found this cool video on You Tube about a diy project connecting polycrystalline solar cells together to make your own solar panels. While this particular method may not be the best way to create home solar panels, it is really interesting to watch.

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Solar Lighting– part 3

Posted by admin in catbullet Solar Power, Solar lighting




This is the final post in my 3 part series on residential solar lighting. I’ve already addressed outdoor uses for solar lighting, such as security lighting and solar sidewalk lights. But how can you bring the power of the sun inside?

Of course we all know that you can put up solar shingles or residential solar panels, but a lot of us aren’t ready to take that leap just yet. So, what options are available if you want to increase your use of solar power without moving your whole house off the grid? There are some easy, cost effective measures you can take.

One of the easiest uses of solar lighting for your home is also the most obvious– so bear with me. They get better. Almost every person in America with a home has the ability to make some use of solar in your house, and it won’t cost you anything. Utilize your windows. Now, you do want to be smart about this. If it’s blazing hot or freezing cold where you live, you may not be able to leave your windows completely uncovered all day every day. But for great amounts of the day, many of us could turn off almost every light in our house and utilize the power of the sun to light our homes. So, be smart and use what you already have before investing one additional dime in solar lighting for your home.

Now, if you want to make better use of your windows, there is an option you can look into. Called a light shelf, it is primarily designed for tall windows that get a lot of direct sunlight. It allows you to better direct the sunlight and get less glare while still lighting your interior with passive solar lighting. There are internal and external light shelves that both serve different purposes, but if you have really tall windows in your house and are interested in improving the use of passive solar lighting, you should look into light shelves.

While light shelves may be a fairly new idea to many readers, the next solar lighting option has been around for quite a while. Skylights are familiar to most of us as a way to bring the power of the sun inside. You might consider installing a skylight in your bathroom or some other room that lacks enough windows to effectively utilize solar lighting.

While skylights have been around for quite some time, there are some new twists on this familiar method of solar lighting. The first is the solar tube. Basically, these utilize a skylight type system on your roof and reflective tubing to bring solar into rooms where traditional skylights would not work. They provide much better and often more focused lighting than a traditional skylight and lack many of the drawbacks of older skylights (such as glare and heat). They are also a relatively cheap solar lighting option, usually more inexpensive than skylights or even new windows. They can be professionally installed in about half a day and don’t require major renovation. Plus, they may qualify for a federal tax credit.

This is a video about solar tube lighting, so that you can better picture how they work.

These are several ways that you can bring solar lighting inside without installing solar panels. My next articles will address another popular solar application– solar water heaters.

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Solar Lighting– part 2

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In my last article on solar lighting, I addressed using solar lighting for outdoor uses, including sidewalk lighting, driveway lighting and for decorative purposes. Now, I’d like to talk about other outdoor uses for solar lights: security lighting, pool lighting, and porch lights.

One of the best feature of solar security lighting is that it will work even in a blackout. When your security lighting provides its own power from the sun, you never have to worry about whether it will work when you really need it. Unlike solar sidewalk lighting or driveway lighting which can be fairly dim, solar security lighting is specially designed to be quite bright. In order to obtain the best results, look for solar security lighting that has a remote solar panel that is large enough to gather enough sunlight to power stronger bulbs and can also be moved to an optimal location for gathering sunlight during the day. Additionally, solar security lighting with a motion detector attached will provide the most efficient use of your solar power. You can find mini solar security lights for less than $50, and full size security lights run by solar power for less than $100.

Oneof the most beautiful and practical uses for solar landscape lighting is pool lighting. There’s nothing much more tranquil than looking out over your peaceful pool, beautifully lit at night. Of course, if you’re thinking about your electric bill at the same time, it won’t be nearly as peaceful. By utilizing solar powered pool lights, you can enjoy the tranquility without worrying about your electricity consumption. There are multiple ways to light your pool, but two of the most popular are floating pool lights and garden lights surrounding the pool area. Standard pool lighting requires that you run wiring or use batteries. Neither of these provide the money saving simplicity of solar lighting for your pool area. Prices for in pool solar lighting starts as cheap as about $8 for cute little LED balls that float in your pool. Larger floating solar pool lights will run about $20 each. Solar lighting for the landscaped areas surrounding your pool are similarly priced and styled to the solar sidewalk lighting mentioned in my last article. Prices range on how decorative you want your lighting to appear, but you can find lighting starting for less than $20. In the upper ranges you may pay $50 or more for each light. But remember, once you’ve invested in the fixture, you probably won’t have any additional expenses. One of my favorite applications are solar step lights, which can be mounted directly to your decking surrounding your pool. They run around $150 for 4, but they provide safety and look great. Most led lights have a life of decades even with regular use, so you’re not likely to need to replace them often. And the power for solar lighting is, of course, provided free by the sun.

Solar lighting for your porch means different things to different people. For some people, this means solar deck lighting for the back yard. For some, this may be a more stylish alternative to solar security lights for your front porch. For the front porch, many people may not like the stark look of a motion-sensor security light. Or perhaps they just enjoy the reassuring glow of a porch light. Whatever your reason, there are solar lighting alternatives for you. There are solar lights that can be wall-mounted, hang or have just about any other look. Since your front porch light is most likely shaded, you’ll again want to make sure that you get a solution that has a solar collector that can be located some distance for the actual light. Most of these lights will run between $50 and $100. For your back porch or deck, the possibilities for solar lighting are numerous. There are solar umbrella lights, solar accent lighting, solar flood lighting, solar lights that can go in your trees. If you can come up with a lighting solution for your back deck, there is probably a solar lighting alternative available. My favorites are the solar lights that can be deck mounted and the solar tiki torches. Prices range quite a bit on these products, but if you look around you can certainly find something that will fit in your price range. Even if you just start with a solar powered grill light (available for around $50), you’re making progress.

As you can see, there are many options for residential outdoor solar lighting. Whether you’re looking for something to improve the look of your yard, increase your security or simply help you enjoy your yard more, there’s a solar lighting alternative available. If you’re looking for how to bring the power of solar lighting indoors, my next article will focus on some indoor solar lighting options that don’t involve taking your whole house off the grid.

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Solar Lighting– part 1

Posted by admin in catbullet Solar Panels




There are many options for solar lighting. From the lights that line your driveway to outdoor lights to solar tubes, your choices in solar lights are varied.

If you are looking for residential applications for solar lighting, you are probably not interested in solar street lights. You are probably more interested in lights along your sidewalk, a solar light on your garage, or perhaps harnessing the power of solar to bring light indoors. This article will address the most basic use of outdoor solar lighting– solar lights for your driveway and sidewalk. Since most outdoor solar lights also use LED technology, they cut down on bulb replacement, as well.

Solar lighting systems for sidewalk driveway lights are widely available at your local hardware store and easy to install. There are driveway lighting systems availabe for as little as $15. These lights help mark your driveway, making it safer for you and visitors to park and lessening the likelihood that people will run through your yard. And for less than $20, you can’t really go wrong with this solar lighting application.

Similarly, solar sidewalk lights are also pretty cheap. For less than $50, you can find multi-packs of solar lights designed for lighting up the path to your door. These systems are better than non-solar lighting options because you don’t even have to run wiring, since they are self-powered using just energy from the sun. There are many options available, from basic lighting to beautiful lanterns and unique fixtures.

One of the most interesting options when it comes to outdoor solar lighting options are LED solar tube lights. You can use them for decorative purposes to outline pretty much anything in your yard. You can get about 30 feet of tube lighting for less than $50.

As you can see, your options for outdoor solar lighting are diverse. There are more options available all the time. In my next article on solar lighting, I will discuss using solar lights for security lighting, pool lighting and porch lights.

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Cost of Solar Panels

Posted by admin in catbullet Solar Panel Facts, Solar Panels, Solar Power




You may be wondering, “What is the cost of solar panels?” Can I afford them? How long will it take before I save enough in electrical costs so that they pay for themselves?

Determining the cost of solar panels is a complicated issue. You have to take into consideration facts like where you live, how much sunlight is available, how much power do you use and more. While the size of your house might SEEM like a concern, what really matters more is how efficient is your home. A tiny home with no insulation might generate more electrical costs than a brand new, energy efficient large home.

So, in order to find out the price for solar panels, you will need to determine your energy usage, determine the average amount of sunlight, and use that information to find out how many watts of power you will need. You’ll also want to look into the current tax incentives that are available and subtract that from your cost.

But, really, you’re thinking, “How much does it COST?” It will probably run upwards of $30,000 dollars to install a 5 kw system, which is what most houses would need to cover all of their electrical needs. The amount will vary based on the kind of solar panels you choose, who does the installation, your location and many other variables.

So, the short answer is that if you’re not planning on staying in your house for quite a few years, you probably shouldn’t count on the system paying for itself. Of course, there are many other reasons to have a solar system, and prices do continue to come down as time passes. And the current tax credits available may allow you to cut the cost of installation in half.

If you’re not looking for whole house solar, then there are still ways that you can install solar around your home. If you have a swimming pool, you can install a solar pool heater, and it will probably cost you less than $5,000. Solar water heaters will run you even less than that and provide excellent savings.

So, whether you’re looking for a whole house system or something smaller, the cost of solar energy is a bit steep to begin with, but well worth it in the long run. In the future we’ll address ways you can save money on solar. Is it possible to find used solar cells? How about free solar panels? Check back with us for the answer to those questions and more.

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How Solar Power Works

Posted by admin in catbullet Solar Panel Facts, Solar Panels, Solar Power




What is Solar Power?

Solar power is the process of using light from sun and turning it into an energy source that can power everything from toys to your own house. It has become a reliable environmentally friendly (green)  alternative to regular power sources. It has even been used in outer space!

Solar power is used in toys, homes, lighting, architectural projects, cooking and pretty much anything that can run on electricity. It has become even more popular as the cost of oil and gas continues to rise and as people have become more concerned about the environmental impact of other energy sources.

Solar panels are designed to collect the power from the sun. Once solar energy is collected by the solar panels it has to be converted into energy. This can be done by a process called solar thermal application. It involves using the energy from the  sun to directly heat air or liquids. The process of photoelectric application involves the use of photovoltaic cells to convert the energy from the solar panels into electricity.

Solar power poses no harm to the environment. However, other threats to the environment may affect the ability to use solar power in the future. Global dimming is the result of pollution. It allows less sunlight to reach the surface of the Earth. A recent concern is global dimming, an effect of pollution that is allowing less sunlight to reach the Earth’s surface.

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is an organization of electric utility companies and the solar industry. They joined together to find solutions to meet our  energy needs. SEPA is a network of more than one hundred companies. Fifty are utility companies, twenty five are solar companies, and the rest are various types of businesses. They share experiences, knowledge, and information about solar energy programs. They also discuss policies and technology relating to their fields of interest.

Is solar energy right for you?

There are advantages to using solar power over other engergy sources like oil, gas, nuclear, etc. Solar energy is free. It can be used in areas where electricity can’t be set up easily. The sun is not a resource that is going to be depleted. Disadvantages are that it doesn’t work at night. The cost of creating solar power stations to store such energy is very expensive. In some area of the world, solar energy just isn’t an option because the climate does not allow for enough sun light to be used by solar panels. In most cases, solar power is an excellent environmentally friendly alternative to other sources of energy.

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