Monday, May 4, 2009

How To Solar Power You Home In 4 Steps

By Tim McDonald

For centuries we have used the sun's natural energy to our advantage. For example, it has been used in ancient times to provide natural lighting in temples, for photosynthesis and natural heating for growing crops, to desalinize and purify water, and it has been magnified and intensified to heat thermal power plants.

And nowadays the sun's rays can be used at home as a renewable energy source.

Currently, there are 4 general ways you can use solar power at home:

Solar Cooking:

Solar cooking is the cleanest and cheapest way to prepare food. Although it is widely used in third world African countries, where fuel and electricity is not readily available, there is no reason we cannot use it during summer at home.

With solar cooking, the oven has a number of reflective panels arranged in a parabola, where they focus the sun on a single pot, in which the food is placed. Depending on the design, the cooker can make a variety of dishes from bread to steamed vegetables to fried eggs to a roast beef, and it typically caters for up to 5 people.

The one drawback of solar cooking is that it tends to take three to four times longer to cook food in. But if you weigh that against the unlimited power savings and its portability, having a little patience is not that bigger deal.

Solar Water Heating:

With a solar water heater, the advancement in technology has enabled any households and business to completely replace their traditional electric or gas geysers and hot-water cylinders.

As cold water is pumped through a solar collector, the pipes absorb the sun's energy, and heat the water, which is then stored in an insulated tank for later use. Usually the water can get so hot that it has to be mixed with cold water before it can be used.

Passive Solar Living:

To think that Americans consume up to 50% of their energy to heat, ventilate and air-condition their homes, a large amount of money and energy could be saved by using passive solar design at home.

With passive solar living, a household is design to effectively use the sun's rays for natural heating and lighting. This would include being built on a sun-facing slope, with the length of the house facing the sun and having a number of large Low-E windows. And as a result staying naturally warmer in the colder months.

With the right placement of windows and mirrors and even white walls in your home, sunlight can be effectively used to light your home, instead of you having to resort to electric lights.

A natural air conditioning solution would be to plant deciduous trees on the sun-facing side of your home. This would provide cool shade in summer, but allow warm sunlight though in winter.

To replace your conventional ventilation system, you could install a solar attic fan or solar chimney that draws hot air out of the house, and pulls in cooler air.

Solar Electric Power:

Also known as photovoltaic power, many homes are starting to make their own power at home with solar electric panels. These panels are made up of small silicon cells and need to be directly aimed at the sun to be most effective.

How sunshine becomes electricity, is as the sun shines on the panels, the cells become charged and generate a current that is then stored in batteries. From there, the current is passed through an inverter, where it can then be used to power your household, and even be fed back into the power grid.

Other than providing you cheap, clean renewable power, solar electric panels have become affordable and simple enough for anyone to install at home. In fact, with the right information it is possible to make your own solar power for under $200, as compared to getting a professional installation for a couple of thousand dollars.

So that is how to solar power your home in four ways. If you just implemented one or two of these strategies, you would decrease your dependence on fossil fuels, get renewable energy tax breaks, and reduce your power consumptions and costs while helping the environment. It is not a matter of these solutions being too expensive or complicated to use, but a matter of us being willing to learn how to use them at home.

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