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Solar Power in the Home: A Consumer's Guide

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 10/14/2011

Solar radiation, also known as insolation is freely available in many parts of the world. This energy can be used to provide domestic hot water through solar thermal panels and also electricity from photovoltaic (PV) panels; these are examined in the following guide to utilizing solar energy.

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    Bright Sparks

    We have been using energy from the sun in numerous applications for centuries. The Greeks and Romans used magnifying glasses to start fires in the 7th century BC and later in early AD they began designing their buildings to be heated by passive solar energy.

    Nowadays solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, providing hot water and electricity to our homes and businesses alike through the use of solar panels. Its biggest advantages are that there are no fuel costs and no harmful polluting gases are produced.

    This guide presents the reader with a handy reference point that charts the development of the field and examines how solar energy is used in the home as well as looking at the pros and cons.

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    Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

    Although there are numerous advantages in the use of solar panels, there are a few disadvantages such as cost and payback period. However, most people feel these are outweighed by the clean energy provided by this natural, continuous, permanent and renewable resource.

    Solar Powered Home Heating

    Using solar panels to heat the home is really not the most efficient way of taking advantage of the sun's energy. However there are a number of other options available for home heating using solar power.

    Solar Water Heating

    This is the most popular use of solar panels and a cost-effective way of delivering piping hot water for your home.

    Solar Thermal Panels

    Get up to speed on how this cool piece of technology functions and performs. Solar thermal panels can not only provide hot water for your bath and shower, but they can even heat up indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

    Photovoltaic Panels

    So just what are the CO2 and cost savings of installing photovoltaic panels? Here we crunch the numbers to give you a clearer picture of the payback period.

    Solar Panels Explained

    Solar panels are made up from many small cells; these are linked together in a special frame to produce the required electric DC current output.

    Are you Eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credits?

    Solar panels are a source of renewable energy, and when fitted to your home they can be eligible for a Federal Tax Credit. This can be up to a 30% rebate of the total costs of purchase and installation costs from a government approved supplier.

    Swimming Pool Solar Panels

    Swimming pool solar panels are very basic and are mounted beside the pool where they can perform well, making big savings on conventional heating methods. Here we shed some light on their ratings.

    Trace the Development of Solar Panels

    A little history lesson can be a lot of fun especially when it throws up some golden nuggets about the development of this fascinating and planet-friendly technology.

    Organic Cells Vs Silicon - Based Cells

    One problem or disadvantage of PV panels is the cost of materials. Cells manufactured from organic sources may be the answer.

    Feed-in Tariff - What it's all About

    Do you think the take-up of renewable energy is a bit sluggish? Some governments do which is why they have created a policy mechanism to accelerate investment by home owners, investors and business owners into renewable energy technologies.

    Estimating Solar Radiation to a Rooftop PV Panel in the US

    Location of the panel in relation to the sun is very important in order to achieve the optimum output; for instance roof mounted panels should face south at the correct angle.

    Understanding PV Systems

    PV systems consist of a number of components; several PV panels connected in what is known as an array, a set of 12V batteries, and an inverter to change the DC output to AC.

    Off - Grid Electrical Power Supply

    There are still many locations such as outback cabins and farms, where getting connected to the national grid is prohibitive due to the massive costs involved. In such locations a diesel generator is normally used for power, but a PV panel array, using a diesel generator as back-up is a much quieter and environmentally friendly alternative.

    The Future of Solar Panels

    So where we now and what’s next on the research and development front? A number of PV manufacturing companies went to the wall because of the global financial crisis, so how will this affect future development?

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    Author's Note

    I hope reading the above articles will help home-owners to understand the operation of solar panels, and help you to decide which type is applicable to your home.

    The panels produce zero CO2 and are becoming more popular as the purchase prices fall due to ongoing research and development that is improving the technology.

    The panels may be eligible for a government grant, tax breaks or FIT allowance so it is worthwhile when deciding on solar panels for the home that the local authority is contacted.

    Although panels can be purchased as a DIY project, unless the home owner is a qualified plumber/electrician, I strongly advise using the supplier or another qualified professional to install the panels.

    In today’s age of rising CO2 emissions, installing either thermal or PV solar panels can help to mitigate global warming and climate change.

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