- Renewable & Alternative Energy
What Are The Benefits Of A Solar Powered Home?
Ever considered getting off the grid? There are many reasons and ways to power your home without paying the light company. How does it really work? Is it worth the upfront cost? These days everyone should be trying to conserve energy, and save money. I live in an area where several of my friends are living off the grid. When there is a power outage, they remain unaware and unaffected. Life with solar power goes on when everyone else gets left in the dark, hoping the power company will come to their rescue. They no longer worry about price increases, tax hikes, what will happen to the food in the freezer, or how they will survive through a disaster when the power goes out. This spurred me to consider ways I could become a beneficiary of my own renewable energy.
Choosing Renewable Energy?
There are several renewable energy suppliers who can help you determine your specific power needs. There are also some great tutorials and DYI books available online that give step by step instruction. It can be a bit overwhelming when you consider the options, but remember, you can choose the degree you would like to use renewable energy in your home. Some people use basic energy saving products, while others have total self-sustaining goals in mind. Here are a few things you should understand before investing in your own power system.
There are three ways to gather renewable energy from the natural resources around your home;
Water- If you are fortunate to have a constant stream of water running through your property, water power may be a possibility. Hydro power is the best choice, and costs less to install.
Wind-If you live in an area where there are frequent winds, consider utilizing the power of the wind. Wind mills are becoming more poplar, and the science to make them more efficient has improved over the last decade.
Sun-Solar power is the most popular option for those wanting to create their own energy. It can be used just about anywhere. There are so many ways to take in the radiant power only the sun can provide. Solar power has been a god send for people in places electricity is not available. For those who choose to get off the grid, solar energy saves money, and has made them self-reliant.
*Consider combining both Solar and Wind power products to increase the efficiency of your system, and to reduce the overall cost.
How does Solar Power work?
Solar power involves drawing power directly from the sun, storing that power into batteries, then converting it for home use. There are six basic components needed to complete this process.
- Solar Panels- Can be attached directly to your homes roof, or a metal frame and post in your yard. (manufacturers recommend using the post if possible)
- Batteries-The most common batteries used are 12-volt DC (Deep Cycle Lead-Acid Batteries) These batteries store the power to be used when it is needed. DC batteries need to be charged often, and should never be discharged below 50-60% of their capacity.
- Charge Control Box-This is a wall mount box that receives the power from the panels, and controls the amount of power being sent to the batteries.
- Inverter- This converts the DC power stored in the batteries over to 120 Volt AC (120 Volt power is what your household outlets produce). The Inverter replaces the need for a connection from power lines to your homes circuit breaker box.
- Generator- It is vital to have a back up power source that can charge the batteries, when the sun can not. There may be consecutive days when the sun can not shine enough to do the job. There are several outdoor gas or propane generators that can be set up with a Automatic Transfer Switch, to start up automatically when the batteries are low.
- Power Center- You can purchase a power center system that includes everything you will need to connect your solar panels; batteries, inverter, generator, DC circuit breakers, and system meters that will show everything is working properly. These items can all be purchased separately, but can complicate the installation process.
Designate a convenient place in your home for a utility/power room. The basement, furnace room, or space under the stairs on a outside wall usually works the best. Check your counties building codes for specific rules. The back up generator should be stored in a shed away from the home. This is not only the safest place, but will reduce the noise you hear while it is running.
How much power can be generated?
The amount of power your system will generate all depends on the resources available at your location, and the capacity of the equipment you select to gather energy. You will not have the same unrestricted power available that using regular electricity allows. You will need to do some homework, and find home lighting, electronics, and appliances that require low energy levels for operation. You will also need to consider using either gas, propane, or low energy appliances for heating, cooking, and laundry needs.
You would be surprised how many products are available that have been developed to use 1/4 of the energy most household products require. Purchasing energy efficient items will prevent the need to make drastic changes to the way you live.
Is it worth the cost?
Prices will vary depending on the products you choose. The cost also depends on what you are willing to live with and without. The cost can be as little as $6,000 to as much as $50,000. On average most people spend a total of $20,000 to $30,000 for a system that will power their household needs. Solar suppliers can give you a estimate based on the size of your home, and how many family members live their.
People I know who have purchased a solar or wind power system, have told me they have absolutely no regrets investing their money into their own power company. Some of them have said they would have added a few more panels from the beginning, but upgrading your system is easy enough once you have established the basic components. They admit they had to change the way they purchase products that use power, but they feel good about being more power conscious and environment friendly. They are very content with solar power and have no desire to go back on the grid. They have peace of mind knowing their investment will continue to be a added benefit and asset for their homes, for years to come.
Small changes with big rewards
When it comes to going green, making small changes in the way we use power can have great benefits. You may not live in a home where installing a entire solar power system is possible. Even if you live in an apartment you can find ways to limit the power your pulling from the grid, and save money in the long run. Have your home inspected for potential problems that can increase your heating and cooling costs. Be energy wise by purchasing items like; LED light bulbs, LED Televisions, and other electronic devices. You can also do something as simple as limiting the amount of time you use your appliances. Unplug or use a power strip for everything. Power strips allow you to turn off devices when not in use. Make it a goal to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Their is no need for every light in the house to be left on.
There are many solar products available on-line that can be placed inside of windows that charge from direct sunlight. There are inexpensive solar lamps for reading, solar night lights, window solar panels that can charge cell phones and other devices, solar flashlights and outdoor solar lights will help limit the cost of power you use each night. Many energy saving products have tax rebates and benefits. Each State has it's own set of ENERGY STAR qualified products to rebate, look to purchase them. These small tips may sound inconvenient, but your efforts will be rewarded when you notice the amount of money you have saved when your power bill comes.