The great thing about solar power for homes is the many ways in which it can be utilized. From PV arrays (also known as solar panels) collecting sunlight for use throughout your home, to individual, stand-alone applications that cost you no money for daily operation. Solar energy is one of the best, most easily accessible, renewable energy sources out there.
There are 3 basic levels relating to solar power for homes:
- Off-the-Grid: no longer being tied to the local electrical utility
- Grid-tie: still tied to the local electrical utility, option to sell electricity back to utility
- Stand-alone applications: applications that utilize the solar energy they create
Solar power for homes provides a way for you to become energy independent by going off-the-grid and being responsible for generating and storing all the electricity you need. This option is the highest in regards to initial investment, as you will need PV arrays, batteries, and a backup generator, all sized to run your house day and night. But your impact on the environment will be tremendous. Not to mention your savings as energy prices keep rising.
You can also stay on-the-grid, or grid-tie, and still make an impact on the environment by using solar power. For homes that don’t want the responsibility of providing ALL their own electricity, you can supplement your electric usage with solar power while still being tied to the electric grid. When the sun is not out (nighttime, storms, cloudy weather) or you just need more power than your home solar power system can provide, you use electricity from the electric company. You can still incorporate a battery bank, like off-the-grid, to store your excess solar power that you generate, or you can utilize net-metering. Either way, a solar grid-tie system will definitely help reduce your electric bill.
There is a neat system called solar net-metering, which is available in most states. With net metering, you are utilizing a grid-tie system in which you sell any excess power back to the electric company for a credit. Not all states support solar net-metering – check the DSIRE database for your state’s incentives.
Other options for using solar power for homes are stand-alone applications, such as outdoor walkway lights and solar attic vents. Even if you are just lighting up your walkway, that’s electricity that you are getting from a renewable source – no carbon footprint on that walkway, or increase in your electric bill. Another great benefit to stand-alone solar power applications is the fact that you don’t need an electrician to do any wiring. And so many of these are great DIY solar power projects.
Whether going off-the-grid or staying grid-tied, solar power for homes can save you a lot of money in the long run. However, there is a considerable upfront cost associated with both of these options. To help alleviate some of the financial burden, new solar tax incentives were passed at the end of 2008. These solar tax credits were put in place to try to encourage more solar power for homes and will definitely help you in reducing the time in which you’ll see payback.
So what are some of the benefits of solar energy?
- Use less electricity from the utility company, which will reduce your electric bill, especially important with the current trend of increasing energy prices.
- Reduce your carbon footprint – you are not contributing as much to global warming.
- Generate savings for many years – most PV arrays have a 20 – 25 year warranty so your solar investment will be paying you back for many years.
you are making a positive impact on the environment.