If the idea of cheap clean renewable energy for your home appeals to you then you have probably considered solar energy. Who would say no to an endless supply of free energy from the sun to power their homes? While it seems a no- brainer, there are reasons that so many think it is a great idea but so few follow through on an individual level to take advantage of the solar technology that is available today.
The largest reasons that actual adaptation of solar energy is so slow at the homeowner level are cost and availability of skilled trade’s people to install solar upgrades to existing homes. While government programs make it more affordable, and over the long haul of 10 plus years the cost of solar energy is cheaper than purchasing energy from the grid, the upfront cost is still significant. For the last decade milestones have been set (and broken) for the magic efficiency number that would make people swarm to solar, and yet as each milestone passed it was simply replaced with another number and a future improvement to wait for.
The real truth is with any newer technology there is a fear that goes into being an early adapter. What if next year a big improvement happens that makes this a bad decision? The answer to going solar is actually simple. If you want to go solar, then do so like you do home remodeling- one room at a time. Not in the literal sense of installing it a room at a time, but with the idea that it is not an all or nothing proposition.
A common start on the solar conversion is a solar hot water heater. These are simple devices really that are already quite advanced and have been field tested for many years. It also takes advantage of the fact that conversion of solar energy to heat is many times more efficient than solar to electricity so it is a better and faster return. It can also be added to existing systems as opposed to completely replacing them so you can get the majority of your hot water from solar power but there is always a backup for when you have 6 houseguests all wanting to take showers in the morning. A few hundred dollars that is rapidly returned in savings, and in an afternoon the average homes energy could be converted to 10%-20% from solar.
After the first step into the solar arena, it is far easier to understand and see the real savings and potential. Another project would be adding a portable solar generator along with a solar battery storage device to the garage or out buildings like sheds. In many instances, a solar power system can be cheaper than conventional for small out buildings due to lower costs of installation (no need for poles or underground cables). As a perk, the batteries these systems run on can act as an emergency backup supply to the main home in the event of a power outage.
Once you have the feel for how much solar electricity your location can generate in real world conditions by experimenting with these two cheap and easy methods, you can make a realistic estimate of how much of your total energy could be supplied by installing solar panels on the main home. At this point you can choose to install a few panels to supply 40-50% of your total power and use a battery system, or if it is worth considering going with a full installation with a grid tie inverter to stream power back into the grid during the day and draw power out at night for your personal use.
Taking the plunge into solar can be done and it can be done affordably and a step at a time. Doing it in this manner allows the home owner to use real numbers for their exact location and home design as opposed to estimates on a graph. It also can take place over several years to spread costs, or have future expenses covered by the savings in previous steps. In addition, it will allow you to continue to take advantage of future developments as they happen.