The sun’s free energy can be used in your business or home to help reduce the amount of energy you demand from your local utility provider while reducing your carbon footprint.
Although the most effective method to utilize the sun’s rays is to install a solar photovoltaic system, there are several smaller scale solar home improvement projects you can do to lower your energy bill.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight using a process that naturally occurs in some materials.
Within a certain class of crystals, electrons are freed when tiny packets of light from the sun — called photons — are absorbed. These electrons that are freed travel through a circuit as electricity.
This process does not emit any harmful pollutants, making solar a clean, safe source of energy.
Solar PV systems are groupings, or “arrays,” of modules wired together along with an inverter and utility meter to produce electrical power.
The panels are commonly protected with a 25-year warranty and are designed to withstand hail, lightening, and high winds.
The PV system is tied to the utility grid to ensure a steady supply of electricity. Any excess electricity the system produces will be fed back to the grid.
To move “off-the-grid,” a battery backup system will be needed to supply electricity at night.
A PV system is typically installed on a roof, but can also be installed on the ground as a “ground-mount” system.
Click here to learn more about PV systems, pricing, the installation process, and to FAQs.
Solar Water Heating Systems
One way to incorporate the use of renewable energy in a home is to install a solar water heating system.
These systems almost always require a conventional storage water heater as a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand.
A solar hot water system operates differently than a solar PV system. Instead of using sunlight to make electricity, a solar thermal water heating system captures sunlight to use as a heat source.
A solar water heater makes this possible by using a solar collector and a storage tank.
The most common solar collection option is a flat-plate collector, which is basically an insulated box covered with tempered glass. Inside the box is a series of parallel copper tubes that serve as passageways for water flow. Flat-plate collectors resemble standard solar panels and two are usually enough to service a family of four.
There is a more efficient alternative called an evacuated tube collector, but it can cost twice as much per square foot. An evacuated tube collector is not flat and has a row of large glass tubes that act like thermoses. Within each large tube is a smaller glass or metal tube used to warm the water. This type of collector is suitable for regions that experience temperatures below freezing.
This sums up the basic structure of a solar thermal heating system. However, the way a system transports the heated water can be described as either active or passive and there are several options available under these two distinctions.
Click here to learn more about system options, pricing, and FAQs.
Solar Pool Heater
Solar pool heating systems use collector panels mounted on a house roof, ground rack or a pool maintenance building to warm the pool water as it passes through the collectors.
Collectors are constructed from header pipes and a series of small tubes and exposed to the sun.
Heat from the sun is absorbed by the water and results in increased pool water temperatures: from 5 to 15 degrees above normal pool temperatures.
Solar Attic Fans
As temperatures rise, an attic can quickly become a cauldron of heat and contributes to higher energy bills as it heats the entire house.
Air-conditioning an attic can be costly; instead, install a solar attic fan to provide proper ventilation.
Solar powered attic fans only need a small solar panel to generate enough power for an attic. There is no electrical hookup needed, so once it is installed there are no operating costs.
The fan also reduces damaging moisture in attic. Moisture is constantly accumulated in a house through washing machines, showers and cooking. When this moisture migrates into the attic, it condenses, and can promote the growth of mold and mildew.
Attic fans are also extremely quiet; there is no harmonic hum typical of electric powered fans.
Solar Skylights, Water Pumps, & Screens
Solar skylights, which are literally windows on a roof, are a great economic choice for bringing natural light into a room while decreasing the need for electric lighting.
Skylights can save you money with their initial low-cost investment combined with their annual savings making it one of the most cost efficient products out there.
Skylights are made to fit almost any application: from the smallest bathroom to multiple units on large commercial structures.
A homeowner can choose to use a flat, traditional skylight or a tubular daylighting device (TDD) depending on the space.
Traditional solar powered skylights use a built-in solar panel to capture daylight to charge an efficient battery that opens and closes a skylight to let out stuffy air. No wiring is needed and the skylight can be operated with a wireless remote.
A tubular skylight captures daylight and delivers it via a highly reflective tunnel. A built-in solar powered dimmer allows a user to control the amount of light. Tubular skylights do not open.
Solar Water Pumps
There are many applications for solar powered water pumps such as garden watering, pool maintenance, crop watering, cattle watering, decorative fountains, and more.
Solar pumps can be used to supply and/or supplement watering needs.
Solar Screens are the most effective window treatments that you can apply to your home for lowering energy bills by stopping the heat transfer through your windows and doors while still maintaining your view.
Solar screens will reduce the light available to indoor plants. If you have indoor plants that might be affected, check with your supplier on the level of screening that suits your needs.