You’re looking into solar power for homes. You’ve heard about do-it-yourself kits and it looks inviting and intimidating at the same time. But it doesn’t have to be. Below, you’ll find out about the three kinds of common solar power and how you can ramp up your use gradually.
When they hear the term solar power, most people think of solar panels, and they’re often the most visible form, but not the only kind of solar power you can implement. Your range of options includes three different kinds of solar components.
You can pick and choose the components that are right for you. Here’s a look at what’s out there.
Solar cookers: You may not have heard of a solar cooker, but it’s actually the most common implementation of solar power. You can think of it as a slow cooker powered by the sun. It’s much more flexible though: you can bake, boil, or roast with the solar cooker. They aren’t expensive at all, just nested cardboard boxes. A small box will cook for a family of five with no fuel other than the sunshine and no smoke or emissions.
Solar generators: This is what most people picture when they think of contemporary solar power. The generator is a power inverter hooked up to a panel of photovoltaic cells. If you’ve heard of a solar lighting system, this is what they were describing. Solar generators store electrical power in batteries for later use. These systems enable some users to run appliances without having to pay electric bills. Solar panels aren’t that tough to make and cost only about $200.
Solar thermal systems: These are the most ambitious systems. Thermal systems are updates of some of the oldest consumer technology. Basically, it’s a solar panel that transfers the sun’s heat into a holding tank of water. They heat your water. Blow air over the pipes, and they heat your home. When you think of the big expensive systems of the 1980’s, this is what they were installing. My Dad put cells up on his roof and heated a water tank made from an old filling station gas tank that took up one bay of his garage. Systems are far more efficient and far less expensive these days.
If you Google these terms you’ll find 1) the systems aren’t that complicated these days, 2) you can find plans on the internet, 3) the quality of plans and guides varies a lot and makes a big difference as to whether you can actually pull off the project. Most plans you’ll find are terribly drawn or very technical and complex and difficult to follow.
Get good plans though, and you can start getting into solar power for homes inexpensively and with only a weekend or two of your time.