What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the words ‘solar power’? Do you picture an eco-friendly home with solar panels on the roof? You’re not wrong, though there are some other ways to harness the power of the sun for your home. Using solar power can help you reduce your reliance on the grid and put cash back in your pocket.
Solar power is a versatile and sustainable source of energy. Here are some unusual ways you can use it to power your home:
Solar water heaters
Heating water for your home accounts for a significant portion of your monthly energy bills. A family of four needs a lot of hot water for their daily cleaning, bathing and cooking needs. Installing a solar water heater can reduce the cost of generating hot water by as much as 80%. Solar heaters use either evacuated tubes or solar thermal panels to heat the water directly. The heat is then used to warm up water for your household needs.
Apart from saving on costs, a solar water heater can also save water and time. With green homes, during building by installing a linked-loop throughout the home, enables that as soon as you turn on the tap, hot water is available. You don’t have to let the tap run and wait for the water to reach your desired temperature. Few people realise that greener living can actually be more convenient.
Keeping the lights turned on in a dark area of your home is a sure way to run up your energy bill. Installing a skylight in a poorly lit area is a cheaper and better way to bring light into your home. Sunlight is healthier and completely free. If you install a skylight that opens, you can use it to release warm air and keep your home cooler during the hot summer months.
You don’t always need a large skylight either. Tubular skylights are a good option for smaller areas and allow you to funnel daylight into the areas where you need it. They’re inexpensive and relatively easy to install.
Solar garden lights are the perfect way to light up your outdoor areas without flipping the switch. With a tiny solar panel, battery and LED lamp, you can set your garden lights to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. They come in a variety of forms: string lighting, fairy lighting, tube lighting and even Christmas lights. You can get creative and make your garden look even more beautiful without spending a cent on electricity.
Solar chargers for electronic devices
Although they aren’t common, you can find solar charges available in South Africa. These handy devices can be used to charge small electronic devices such as your cell phone or tablet. Depending on your needs, they are inexpensive and portable. Essentially they consist of a small solar panel and some models may include a battery.
You can use them at home to charge your electronics for free and they’ll help to reduce your carbon footprint. Solar charges are the perfect example of how green living can be affordable and convenient.
You’ll find over 60 different types of solar cookers and are categorised as follows:
- Box solar cookers
- Panel solar cookers
- Solar kettles
- Parabolic solar cookers
- Hybrid cookers
What they all have in common is that they use energy from the sun for a chore that you have to do every day—cook food. Not only do they provide you with massive energy savings, they’re much safer to use. They don’t require any kind of fuel and they don’t produce any flames or fumes. Solar cookers provide a clean and efficient form of energy which is completely free.
Going solar doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your creature comforts. If anything, using sunlight to heat your water and charge your electronics makes your life easier. If you’re reluctant to incorporate solar power into your home, perhaps these examples will change your mind. Aside from the cost savings you’ll enjoy, there are some other very good reasons to use solar power in your home.
Reasons to go photovoltaic solar
Photovoltaic cells are incredible. They generate an electric charge when photons in the sunlight hit them. These solar cells are usually made from silicon and mounted in panels on the roof of the home where they are exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight.
By absorbing photons from the sun they generate enough electricity to run your home without relying on the grid. This makes them perfect for eco-friendly houses which are designed to reduce your carbon footprint. The cost saving alone are a good reason to consider installing photovoltaic solar panels.
But there are some other reasons why solar photovoltaic panels are a good investment, particularly if you’re interested in green living.
Photovoltaic solar energy is affordable
While you may think that installing photovoltaic solar panels is expensive, they are actually quite affordable. The cost has come down considerably as the demand for alternative energy sources has increased. Today, they cost half as much as they did in 2008 and the solar market has increased substantially.
Photovoltaic solar panels are easy to install
If you’re retrofitting an existing home, you’ll be pleased to hear that installing photovoltaic solar panels is not that difficult. If you have the knowledge you may be able to do the installation yourself. Though it’s always wise to work with an expert. They’ll be able to provide you with the right advice when it comes to choosing and fitting the panels for your home. Your energy requirements should be assessed and the size and position of your roof taken into account before installation begins.
Photovoltaic solar panels require little maintenance
Green technologies are surprisingly robust and photovoltaic solar panels are an excellent example of this. They are strong enough to survive some tough weather conditions such as rain, wind and hail. A high quality installation can last as long as 30 years and requires hardly any maintenance. Monitoring and operating your photovoltaic solar panels and battery back-up will be no hassle at all.
Photovoltaic solar energy is reliable
This is of particular importance in South Africa where the power supply can be erratic. Load shedding can be frustrating and inconvenient. But with photovoltaic solar panels you never have to worry about coming home to a house without power. Given our sunny weather, you can look forward to a constant and free supply of energy throughout the year.
Photovoltaic solar energy is safe and clean
Solar cells are environmentally friendly. They do not burn fuel, produce noise or pollute the atmosphere. You get all the benefits of a constant supply of power without damaging the environment or contributing to the load on limited resources. Your carbon footprint is reduced without having to sacrifice any modern conveniences.
Photovoltaic solar panels conserve water
And while you’re reducing the strain on the national grid, you’re also saving water. Electricity generated from a photovoltaic system use 100% less water per kWh of electricity than coal power plants. That’s a double saving for greener living enthusiasts.
The big benefit of photovoltaic solar power for home owners still lies in the impressive long term saving you achieve. If you take into account the fact that electricity costs will only continue to rise, investing in photovoltaic solar power now makes it the best investment you can make for your home. While the initial installation costs are high, your savings will enable you to offset that in just a few years. And you can always start small and add on more panels as you can afford them.
The more you understand photovoltaic solar power, the more you’ll be convinced that it’s worth investing in. Here is some information you may find useful.
Photovoltaic solar power components
A photovoltaic system comprises of the following components:
- Photovoltaic solar panels: Made from silicon, these panels are mounted on your roof where they catch the sun and convert that energy into power for your home.
- DC-AC inverter: This unit is responsible for converting the current generated by the panels into a form that can be used for running your appliances and devices.
- Storage batteries: South Africa averages upwards of 2500 hours of sunshine a year. It’s entirely possible that your system could generate more energy than you need. Storage batteries are used to store the power providing you with a constant and uninterrupted supply every day.
- Charge controller or regulator: This prevents damage to your batteries as a result of excessive discharging or overcharging.
All these elements are required, and you can alter the size and number of photovoltaic solar panels depending on your budget and needs. The beauty of a photovoltaic system is that you can add to it at a later stage. This allows you to start small and increase capacity when you can afford it.
Photovoltaic solar power installations
You can choose from three types of installations depending on the size of your property:
- Ground mounted: This type of installation is ideal if you have a large, clear area of land to work with. You can install as many photovoltaic solar panels as you need.
- Roof mounted: Mounting your photovoltaic solar panels on the roof ensures that they receive maximum exposure to the sun.
- Thin film photovoltaic solar panels: These panels are glued onto your roof which eliminates the risk of damage to your tiles. They are perfect for sunny climates as they collect more energy than conventional panels.
Take some time to work out how photovoltaic solar panels could make a difference to your monthly expenses and weigh that against the costs of your preferred installation type. You’ll see why going photovoltaic makes sense.
Though retrofitting photovoltaic solar panels is a big investment to make, it’s the perfect way to start living green. Alternatively, if you’re in the market for a new home, look for one that already has this feature.
Photovoltaic solar energy can be used in different ways to help you cut costs and start living green. Whether you’re ready to say goodbye to the grid for good, or just make small changes to reduce your consumption, the technology does exist. And with each passing year, new developments make eco-friendly homes that utilise photovoltaic solar power easier to afford. Don’t wait too long, the sooner you start living green, the more you’ll save.