The ability to heat up or cool down any area within the home is a special feature. This is achieved through Hydronics radiant heating and cooling, which is a water-based method of temperature control that uses almost no electricity. This is also an eco-friendly method.
The water in this system won’t cost much as it is circulated through the system over and over.
The home is divided into areas called ‘zones’. These zones have temperature control options which are adjusted, meaning that each zone has a different temperature if required. And as the hydronics system is installed below the surface of the floor, any temperature adjustments are felt within a short period of time.
Rooms are insulated, in order to maintain the set temperatures. Double-bricked walls and Lambdaboard in between the walls create doubly-effective insulation, and this means a further saving on electricity.
Electricity usage is reduced with energy conservation, and smart technology is useful in reducing usage to an even larger extent.
With smart technology, data is continuously collected. An app, laptop, desktop and/or smart devices are used to view information. Data is available per minute, hour, day, over weeks, months and even years. Patterns are thus identified and managed.
As an example, if we increase the temperature within the home at the start of the cold season, the hydronics radiant heating and cooling system takes 24-48 hours to adjust to the new temperature. When the new temperature is reached, the data on the new electricity usage is available almost immediately. Whilst maintaining the comfort within the home, we then lower the temperature by a few degrees or so to save on electricity usage. We thus do not have to wait for the monthly bill before we become aware of the costs.
Thus, smart technology provides added convenience and cost-saving.
It’s the ultimate dream for every homeowner—being able to produce enough electricity to run your home without ever relying on the grid. The benefits to homeowners are twofold. First, it can significantly reduce your monthly electricity bill. Second, you’ll never be without power. Even if the grid goes down, your appliances and lights will carry on working.
Existing homes can also be retro-fitted with a photo-voltaic system, although this may incur some additional costs. We’ll look at what’s involved, how the system works and what costs and saving you can expect from using such solar power.
What is a photo-voltaic system?
Essentially, photo-voltaic means harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into electricity that can be used to power your home. The system can be independent or work in conjunction with your existing electricity supply. It consists of the following components:
- Solar panels
- An inverter (which converts direct current (DC) power from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) for powering appliances
- Batteries to store electricity which is not used immediately (these are for when the sun isn’t shining)
While there are currently no incentives offered to homeowners who install such a system, this may change in the future. And it may be possible that local councils will purchase electricity back from homeowners as more people install these systems in their homes. In other words, installing a photo-voltaic system in your home will not just save you money, but earn you money too.
What do you need and how does it work?
These are the main components of any photo-voltaic system:
The solar panels are made up of a series of cells that convert the power of the sun into electricity you can use in your home. They are often installed on the roof where they can capture the most sunlight during daylight hours. They are made from semi-conductor materials such as silicon. When light strikes the surface of the panel, the energy penetrates the cells and dislodges electrons from the material’s surface. Chemicals added to the surface of the panel help to create a path for the electrons to travel down. And this is what creates an electrical current.
- DC-AC inverter: This device converts the electrical current into one that can be used to power the appliances in your home.
- Solar storage batteries: Considering our sunny climate it is possible to generate more electricity than you need during the day. In this case, batteries can be used to store the excess electricity generated, ensuring that you have an uninterrupted and constant supply of power whenever you need it.
- Charge controller/regulator: These prevent excessive discharge or overcharging which may damage the storage battery.
The system is a simple but effective way on powering your home for free. But there are two different systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Types of Solar Power Systems
Either of these systems is suitable for the home or office. Which one you chose will depend on your needs. They are:
The stand-alone solar power system
This system only consists of two components: the solar panels and the DC/AC converter. It’s a popular choice for powering ventilation fans, water pumps and with small circulation pumps with solar water heating systems.
Because it doesn’t include batteries, there is no way to store the power generated for use when there is no direct sunlight. So it’s worth considering adding batteries to your solar panel that will allow you to store energy for use during periods of insufficient sunlight.
The grid-connected hybrid power system
This kind of system works hand-in-hand with your regular supply of grid power. Because the inverter changes the current of the photo-voltaic solar panels from DC to AC, the electricity is consistent with the voltage and power quality requirements of the grid. Therefore the self-generated electricity is automatically either supplied to the home, the batteries or the grid.
When it generates more electricity than the home needs, and the batteries are fully loaded, the system feeds power back into the grid. It also means that you will still have a supply of power, from the batteries to your home when your panels aren’t producing power due to lack of sunlight, or if it has been disabled to carry out repairs or is being serviced, in which case it either draws power from the batteries or the grid; based on the lower threshold of the batteries, or which part of the system is being repaired or serviced.
The automation ensures optimal use of the self-generated and grid electricity of the hybrid system.
Determining the size of the system you require
A photo-voltaic system can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. The first step in determining whether the long term savings it offers are worth it, is to figure out how much energy you need to run your home comfortably. This is how you should go about it:
- Make a list of all the electrical appliances you use, how many watts they need to work and how many hours you use them every day.
- Now multiply the number of watts by hours of use to get the total needed for each appliance.
- Add these figures together and you’ll have the total number of watts your system needs to generate on a daily basis.
- Work out how many hours of daylight you get every day.
- Finally, divide the total watts you require by the number of daylight hours and you’ll have a figure that indicates how many watts your system needs to produce on a daily basis.
Let’s use your TV as an example. Say you watch about 2 hours of TV every evening, and it uses about 14 Watts, multiply that by 2 and you end up with 28 Watts to run your TV. You’ll need to do this calculation for every appliance in your home.
And let’s say that you work out your home needs an average of 3000 Watts a day to keep all these appliances working. If you get an average of 4.3 hours of daylight, then divide the 3000 Watts by 4.3 and you’ll need a solar panel system that can deliver at least 698 Watts to power your home without relying on the national grid.
Remember, if you use your solar panels in conjunction with the main grid, you can start small and add more panels as you can afford them. This way you can start reaping the benefits of solar power without spending a large amount of money.
And if you consider how much a photo-voltaic system will save on your monthly electricity bill, it won’t be long before you can afford to increase your system to cope with your demands.
Photo-voltaic Solar Panel Installation
If you don’t have the required technical skills, it is best to leave the installation of your solar panel system to the experts. A company that is properly accredited will be able to install the system correctly and safely.
You have three different options when it comes to installing the solar panels:
- Ground mounted solar panels
- Roof mounted solar panels
- Thin film solar panels
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Whether you are buying a green home with this feature or retro-fitting an existing home, you’ll need to consider the cost and practicality of each system before you make a decision. Here is some more information about each kind of installation to help you:
- Ground mounted solar panels
In this case the solar panels are fastened to the ground, and you have a few more options to choose from:
- Static Mounted System:This is the most cost-effective type of installation, provided you have the space for it. The panels are mounted in a position to capture the maximum amount of sunlight.
- Active Solar Tracker:These panels actively track the sun during the day to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
- Passive Solar Tracker:This system uses heat from the sun to move a liquid inside the tracker from side to side. So gravity does the work of moving the panels and it eliminates the need for motors, gears and controls. This makes it slightly cheaper than an active solar tracker.
Ground mounted solar panels are ideal if you have a large area of unused land. You can install more panels and enjoy higher savings. And you don’t have to make any changes to rooftop to accommodate the panels.
- Roof mounted solar panels
You can mount photo-voltaic solar panels on just about any kind of roof, although tiled roofs can present a bit of a challenge. The panels are mounted directly on the roof and will not interfere with the aesthetics of your home.
They don’t take up any space on land that you may want to use for other projects and they offer additional protection from the weather and general wear and tear. This increases the value of your property. They’re also faster and easier to install than ground mounted systems.
Although these aren’t more efficient at collecting sunlight than other solar panels, they have some attractive advantages. They are literally glued onto the roof which eliminates the risk of damage to your roof. They’re lighter than other panels too and in very hot climates they tend to work better than conventional panels.
The size of your property, the position of your roof, how much energy you need to generate and the installation costs all need to be taken into consideration. You should also work out how much you’ll save to determine your return on investment. You might be surprised to find that solar panels are not that expensive to install.
The benefits of a photovoltaic system
The energy generated from solar panels is a renewable resource. Unlike coal and gas it will never run out and you’ll enjoy free electricity for at least 25 – 30 years (this is the average lifespan of a solar panel).
Solar panels provide a safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly form of power for your home. It doesn’t produce any harmful emissions and you’ll never have to suffer the inconvenience of a power blackout again. With the savings it generates, you’ll have more money to spend down the line as the cost of electricity continues to rise.
Light, heat and power have become a part of our modern lives. Without a steady supply of electricity we cannot work, cook, communicate or play. Unfortunately, increasing demand from businesses and individuals is placing a strain on our national grid. Not only can the national supplier not cope with this demand, but it is also forcing the price of electricity up all the time.
There has never been a better time to invest in this green technology. You will quickly recover your initial costs in the form of regular savings on your monthly running costs. And you can always start small and increase the number of panels as you can afford them.
Investing in eco friendly living homes with photovoltaic solar panels is one solution to the problem. Though these homes are more expensive than traditional ones. If you’re a first time home buyer, does it make sense to splurge now and to save in the future? Here’s everything you need to know about owning a photovoltaic solar powered home.
The advantages of photovoltaic solar power
Beyond the obvious savings on the monthly electricity bill, photovoltaic solar power makes sense for a number of good reasons. Eco friendly living homes that run on photovoltaic power systems include the following benefits for homeowners:
Never run out of electricity
As long as the sun is shining, we’ll be able to run the home. The sun is a renewable source of energy unlike coal and gas. It’s not subject to price increases, and isn’t likely to run out any time in the next 5 billion years!
Get paid for excess electricity
In the future, we may get paid by the national supplier when generating more electricity than required, by feeding that excess back into the grid. Adopting green and eco friendly living habits could prove to be profitable.
Many Electicity Suppliers are already paying for excess electircity to be fed back into the grid.
Always have electricity when needed
By adding backup batteries to the photovoltaic solar system, excess energy is stored for use during the evenings. And when batteries aren’t installed, by using a hybrid grid-tied system, switching between photovoltaic solar power and the grid is enabled. That way electricity is always available.
Low maintenance costs
While photovoltaic solar panels seem futuristic, they are easy to care for. With few moving parts, there’s little chance that of spending a fortune on repairing or replacing parts. The only thing needed is to keep the panels free of dust and debris. If the panels are dirty they won’t absorb as much energy from the sun. All it takes to keep the panels clean is a hose and a little soapy water. Eco friendly living houses are generally cheaper and easier to maintain.
New developments are finding ways to integrate photovoltaic solar power and other green and eco friendly living features into the design of a home. Rainwater harvesting tanks, for instance, are installed underground to ensure they don’t detract from the appearance of eco friendly living houses. The benefits of photovoltaic solar power has resulted in more homeowners retrofitting this green technology to their existing homes.
ROI of a photovoltaic solar power system
After a few years, monthly savings on electricity pays for the photovoltaic solar power system – thus it pays for itself. Depending on the size of the system ROI is within five to eight years. Calculating current electricity costs over say 10 years, adding a modest price increase; keeping in mind the home is fully temperature controlled too, is an easy indication of the ROI period.
After that, savings continue progressively as the price of electricity increases. Keeping in mind when the green smart home is sold on, the cost of the green smart home features is fully recouped. Living green and eco friendly adds value in surprising ways.
The photovoltaic solar power system will last for many years
Photovoltaic solar panels are built to last for many, many years. Improvements in the technology will bring the cost of components down over time. Nevertheless, we’re able to start saving by installing a photovoltaic solar power system.
How does solar power work?
Greener and eco friendly living is the way to go. Photovoltaic solar power is a main green smart home feature. Broadly speaking, here is how it works.
The sun operates like a nuclear reactor, sending out packets of energy known as photons which reach the surface of Earth in eight-and-a-half minutes. Every hour, enough photons bombard our planet to satisfy global energy needs for a whole year!
Such a system is made up of photovoltaic solar panels and an inverter. The panels capture the energy from the sun and transform it into Direct Current. The inverter takes this and converts it into Alternating Current. It is this Alternating Current that is used to power the appliances in the home.
How much do solar panels cost?
There is no standard answer to this question. It all depends on how much power is needed to provide for a family’s needs. When designing eco friendly living houses, developers take the following into consideration:
- How much sun does the rooftop receive?
- What is the size of the roof?
- How much power is required?
- What is the budget?
- Whether it’s a hybrid grid-tied system?
- Whether backup batteries are required?
- Whether smart technology is required?
These are the questions to consider when investigating the idea of installing a photovoltaic solar power system; to an existing property or when it’s being designed for a ready-built eco friendly living home.
Which solar power system is the best?
There is a choice of three systems. Let’s take a closer look at them:
Stand-alone photovoltaic solar system
This type of photovoltaic system is also known as an ‘off-grid’ system. It operates independently of the national grid and makes use of backup batteries to store the power generated by the photovoltaic solar panels during the day. This means solar energy is used to run the home late into the night and during periods of bad weather.
Hybrid grid-tied system
The system works with the national grid. It reduces the electricity bill and is able to switch over to the national supply when needed.
The system also acts as a backup during load shedding and power disruptions.
Ideal green smart home system: hybrid grid-tied, photovoltaic with battery backup
When implementing a photovoltaic solar system, adding backup batteries and tying these to the grid, is the ideal green smart home system.
Such a system works like this:
During the day, the photovoltaic system runs the green smart home directly from the sun. Excess power is stored in the backup batteries. When the backup batteries are replenished, further self-generated excess power is fed into the grid, accumulating a credit with the grid service provider. On most days, by 11h00 the backup batteries are loaded and excess is going to the grid. From around 18h30 the home is run from the backup batteries. Once the batteries reach their evening threshold, the grid is used; first depleting the previously earned credit. Thereafter the grid usage is paid for. The backup batteries evening threshold allows for battery power to run the home during the morning peak period, after which the sun kicks in again. This cycle is repeated each day.
By designing the system to use the home’s own electricity during the morning and evening peak periods, should tiered electricity tariffs be implemented, the highest tariffs is never paid!
The number of photovoltaic solar panels and backup batteries installed is calculated based on evening usage and how much excess is fed into the grid. This is the ideal green smart home electricity system. Becoming independent of the grid on own terms.
How much will I save?
The main reason for investing in any kind of green smart home technology comes down the savings. When determining whether spending a substantial amount of money on a photovoltaic system is worth it, understanding the potential savings is necessary. With photovoltaic solar power there are three areas where savings are achieved:
As mentioned earlier, monthly savings will be determined by how much energy is needed to run the home. The up-front cost of installing a photovoltaic solar system will be offset by the savings. The more that is spent on electricity now, the more the savings are in the future.
Photovoltaic solar systems require little maintenance so apart from the initial installation costs, there is the maintenance costs.
Although it’s not a direct saving, the cost of the photovoltaic system is incorporated in the property value when selling it on. Eco friendly living homes will become more valuable as the trend grows, resulting in higher resale values.
- Avoid future price increases
The cost of electricity will continue increasing. Opting for photovoltaic solar power arrests any future price increases.
Green and eco friendly living is here to stay. It’s a real solution to the challenges we face of limited resources that will become more expensive in the future. To maintain our standard of living, it’s worth embracing green and eco friendly living philosophies to reduce our dependence on these resources without sacrificing comfort.
Photovoltaic solar energy makes a lot of sense for home buyers and existing home owners. Be prepared for the future!