Is a Solar Home for You?

The use of solar energy and solar technologies in home construction is becoming quite popular.  And why wouldn’t it?  The sun provides free heat and light energy to us every day.  Many owners of new and existing homes are adding Solar Photovoltaic, or PV, panels to their roofs and yards.  These panels take advantage of the sunlight and generate electricity.  However, others are worried about the cost, maintenance, or reliability of the systems.  Then there are those who just don’t like the way the panels look!  While (most of) these concerns are reasonable, there are solutions to be found.  There is much, much more to solar homes than panels on a roof.

Homes can be built to utilize passive solar energy, without relying on panels at all.  The south side of the home could be constructed as a collector; which may look like a simple window, or be transformed into a beautiful sunroom.  This collector captures the heat of the sun to warm the rest of the structure.  There’s more to it than just putting glass on the south side, however, quite a bit of planning and engineering goes into ensuring that the home does not overheat in the summer or lose too much heat in the winter.  With this method, the heat is stored throughout the day in mass walls, or floors, or materials such as water or phase change salts.  Then the heat is released as needed to the rest of the home.  Existing homes can be retrofitted to include a passive solar wall or room.  These systems can be changed from passive to active with the addition of fans or pumps, which can then also be powered by solar energy.

There are systems that generate hot air or hot water directly from the sun without the use of solar electricity.  Hot water solar panels can help provide hot water for radiant floor systems, which are an extremely comfortable type of winter heating.  These systems can also provide domestic hot water for cooking, bathing, and cleaning.  Hot air panels can help provide heat directly to rooms that may not have a connection to the central heating system.

There are many varied and creative ways to include solar energy in your living situation, whether you are constructing a new home or renovating an existing one.  These methods can be mixed and matched for any living space and style.  Learn more about all these types of solar energy and see if any of them can help you turn your home into a solar home.