If you live in the West or Southwest, you may wonder about the best ways to take advantage of the bright sunlight that hits your home for much of the day. While flat, glossy solar panels might seem to be popping up on roofs throughout your neighborhood, these solar cells aren't the only way for you to harness energy. In fact, you may find that the number of solar energy choices available to you can be overwhelming. Read on to learn more about your beginner solar energy options, as well as how you can get started after you've chosen the best solar energy system for your home.
What are your options for harvesting solar power?
There are a few primary ways to take advantage of the sun's rays to power your home, run your heating and cooling systems, and even heat your water.
- Photovoltaic (PV) cells are commonly seen in solar panels. These cells are able to capture solar energy and convert it to electricity. This electricity can either be directly routed through your home's wiring or stored in large batteries for later use.
- Passive solar water heating places an insulated water heater on the roof or another sun-exposed area, where it can be heated to (and maintained at) ultra-high temperatures year-round.
- Solar electricity is more commonly used by larger or commercial buildings, but it involves the use of dish-shaped objects that are able to channel the sun's rays and use them to power pistons, which generate electricity.
The right choice for your situation will largely depend on your budget, solar exposure, and what you hope to get out of a conversion to solar power. If you'd just like to shave a bit off your electricity bill or have the ability to store solar energy for winter to keep your bills low year-round, some flat roof panels with PV cells may be your best choice. On the other hand, if your home doesn't have much sun exposure and you want the ability to meet most or all of your energy needs with solar energy, a solar electricity-generating dish may be best.
Where should you begin after you've chosen your solar system?
Once you've made your choice, you may be able to get started without the assistance of a professional. Many PV panels come in kit form, giving you the tools and parts you'll need to install them when and where you want. Performing as much of the work yourself as you can should keep your costs down significantly.