Residential Solar Energy

Increasingly, for homes in many parts of the world today, residential solar energy is becoming an alternative source of energy to grid-supplied electricity.

Solar energy could be used by homes in two ways.

In the first case where solar thermal systems are used, solar energy is concentrated (read more about concentrating solar energy below) and used to heat up water (e.g. shower water, pool water, etc) in the home.

In the second case where photovoltaic solar energy systems are used, energy from the sun is captured and converted directly to electricity that can be used throughout the house. In this latter case, photovoltaic solar panels are installed on roofs of homes to maximize exposure to the sun’s energy. Read more facts about solar panels and how they work below.

In this article, we will be focusing on photovoltaic residential solar energy systems.

Section 1:
Residential solar system – to have or not to have

With your own solar installations at home, it would mean that you can convert the FREE sunlight that reaches your home into useable electricity for your household, and subsequently reduce your dependency, and your energy bill, with the power grid companies.

Besides saving on energy, you might even be able to earn from extra cash from your home solar system, when you sell excess energy you have to your neighbors or back to your grid company.

With the solar system, you can make use of electricity with the peace of mind that you are contributing minimally to global warming and pollution. In addition, you can also be proud of yourself, and your house, for being “one” of the fore-runners in terms of adopting green technology.

You might also be glad to know that solar roof panels used in residential solar energy systems work silently, so they would not disrupt your daily activities. They are also easy to maintain once they are installed. You just need to maintain your roof like any other homes. To ensure that your solar panels work most efficiently to give you the most output energy, clean it once in a while to remove the dust, dead leaves or any other materials that have settled on the panels and may block out the sunlight.

Read more about solar energy advantages.

Nonetheless, not all homes are suited for the use of solar systems to supply electricity. If your home location or position is such that you received very little sunlight, any solar system that you might install might not produce enough electricity to meet your household needs. We will be discussing this issue in greater details in Section 2 below.

There is also the issue of cost, which we will be touching on in Section 3 below.

Read more about the disadvantages of using solar energy.

Section 2:
Planning for your residential solar energy system

If you are convinced about the benefits of solar energy as an alternative source of energy in your home, you will next need to assess and make suitable plans for installing a residential solar energy system for your home.

The US Energy Information Agency estimates that the average energy a home uses is about 24.5 Kwh per day. Verify this energy requirement with your monthly home energy bill. This is because your solar power system should be able to provide for this need.

If you live in an area with an almost constant exposure to full sunlight, ie. your roof top or your garden has access to full sunlight for many hours in a day, then the residential solar energy system is definitely for you. The more constant sun energy input will ensure that you get a higher electricity output with your home solar system.

However, if you live in an area where you get only a few hours of sunlight each day, you might need to store excess energy produced during brighter hours, for use during the darker times of the day. In addition, you might also need to supplement the solar energy system you have with energy from the grid, or from another renewable energy system (eg. wind energy) installed in your house.

In the worst scenario where your residential area does not get much direct sunlight, residential solar energy might not be the best option for you. You might need to consider other forms of renewable energy systems, like wind power energy (or hydroelectricity or geothermal energy, if your geographic location allows).

To better determine the suitability of solar electric systems for your home, you might want to contact some of the solar system installation companies out there for a more detailed assessment.

Section 3:
Paying for your residential solar energy system

The cost of installing pre-wired solar energy systems can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the system needed in your home, and if you call in the professionals.

While this cost may sound quite a bit, you might still save some money in the long run with a solar system for your home. And this is especially if your house is located far from power lines and you need to extend power lines by quite a bit to get electricity from the grid.

And fortunately, many state governments are now offering rebate incentives or putting in place measures to reduce the set-up costs of solar electric installations for homes and small businesses. For example, with the renewable energy related legislation in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the purchase of a residential solar energy system qualifies for a tax credit equivalent to 30% of the cost of the solar system (including installation).

And according to the North Colorado Business Report, the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, signed the 1199 House Bill into law in June 2011, as such requiring that all state permit fees for solar installations in homes and for small businesses be limited to the cost of administration for the government (i.e. not exceeding $500 for residences and $1,000 for small-sized business). Similarly, Vermont has taken a further step to making such solar installation permits free. SunRun, a leading company for home solar services, estimated that the removal of the permit fees could save consumers of solar installations an average of 50 cents per watt.

Some residential solar systems are grid-tied.

This means two things. First, in the event that your home solar energy system is unable sufficient energy for your needs, the additional energy needed would be drawn from the grid (you have to pay for that amount drawn from the grid, of course).

Second, excess electricity produced from your residential solar energy installations could be channeled to the grid and earn you extra cash (that can help you off-set the initial cost of setting up the solar set-up). Such arrangements are not only beneficial to solar installation owners. It is also beneficial for power producing companies as it supplements their supplies and helps them cope with the high demands on their power supplies, especially during peak periods. Most of the solar installation companies would be able to advise you on connecting to the grid from your residential solar energy system.

But if you still find the professional installation costs for solar energy system in your home expensive, despite the various government grants or tax relief, you can actually consider building your own solar panels for your home or small business. Many people have given it a try and are now benefiting from their DIY residential solar energy system.

Read articles related to solar energy:

Return to page on Alternative Forms Of Energy from this page on Residential Solar Energy

Return to Eco Green Living and All Recycling Facts Homepage from this page on Residential Solar Energy

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