We were using solar energy for residential purposes for millennia before solar panels were invented. Think about it. Agriculture relies on solar energy. Home gardeners have been harnessing the power of the sun for longer than any of us have been alive. So too has home design been influenced by the use of solar heat as we’ll see in the “Passive solar heating” section of this piece.
Solar panels for your home
Want to lower your energy consumption? If you do, it’s probably because you either want to save money or save the planet. Either way, while solar panels may not lower your energy consumption, they do lower your carbon footprint – and they can lead to more money in your pocket.
You’ll want to make sure your local utility offers net metering or a similar solar power purchasing scheme. This will allow you to sell your excess energy to your utility during the summer and get a discount on the cost of electricity in the wintertime.
Solar panels are becoming more efficient and less expensive. Solar energy is the least expensive source of electricity in history – and the price is trending downwards. That means investing in solar panels is probably worth the money. That’s especially true if you plan on living in the same home for a few decades.
You don’t need your roof to be at a particular slope to get solar panels – in fact. Solar panels don’t even need to be placed on your roof! Powering your home with solar energy is getting easier every year.
When some people think of solar lighting, they think of its commercial applications for parking lots, street lights, billboards, and the like. They may not know that solar lighting is available for residential applications – and it can be pretty useful.
Let’s say, for example. You have a small path winding from your front yard to your backyard. Consider placing solar lights all along the path to ensure no one trips and falls. You could also use solar lighting to light up doorways – solar security lighting is becoming more and more popular.
Solar water heating
Most water heaters use either electricity or natural gas for heating. As you can imagine, both of these methods lead to a lot of carbon emissions.
Fortunately, solar water heating is a great alternative – and one that’s really coming into its own. Solar water heaters are incredibly popular in China – and we expect they’ll become more popular in the rest of the world soon.
Insulated chambers are placed outside to heat the water that will circulate into your home. A different liquid may be used instead of water – water freezes below zero, so liquids with a lower freezing point are sometimes used instead. In those circumstances, a heat exchanger will be used to heat the water.
Some solar water heating systems use pumps to bring the water into your home, while others use natural forces – that means they use little to no electricity at all.
Passive solar heating
There is, of course, a problem with this. When we started to develop heating and cooling technologies, architecture changed forever – that’s why we have giant skyscrapers. Emissions have been skyrocketing, and buildings are a huge contributor.
Residential homes are also part of this problem. Fortunately, architects have started moving toward passive heating techniques – some of which have been around for centuries. One of the most popular green heating trends is passive solar heating. There are a lot of passive heating techniques available, but let’s focus on one:
You can use masonry to absorb heat energy from the sun. When your masonry system is properly designed, that heat will be emitted every night to warm your home in the cooler hours. Homes can even be retrofitted with this technique, making it accessible to many homeowners.
These are just a few ways you can use solar energy to improve your life at home and help the environment, too. Come back to our blog anytime you want more green advice!