Tapping into solar power for some of your home energy needs can be an exciting prospect. All you need is a sunny spot to mount solar collectors, and you can start exploring the possibilities. You could install a solar-electric system to produce some or all of your own electricity, a solar-water heating system for your domestic hot water, or a solar-thermal system to help heat your home. Some solar-powered homes have all three!
When you choose solar energy, you’re taking advantage of a renewable source of power that doesn't produce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Home solar systems also make you more self-reliant — for example, some types of systems can serve as backup heat or power in an emergency. And in the right circumstances, opting for solar energy can save you money, too. A lot of the details depend on where you live and how much energy you consume at home.
The Basics. If you’re not sure where to start, Find Solar has a lot of good consumer information. Check out the resources pages for helpful background information on different types of home solar systems and relative costs. If you’re specifically interested in a solar-electric system, you can use the solar calculator to get a more specific price estimate.
When you’re ready to purchase a home solar system, most people will work directly with a local solar installer to figure out the specifics of their home system. If you’re interested, you can request bids from local installers directly through the FindSolar website. If you just want to browse, you can also search thedirectory of local installers.
Alternatively, you can find solar installers in your area by doing a few simple searches online, and then contact these businesses directly to discuss specifics. Be sure to ask for references and details on how many systems the company has installed. Also, if you have multiple installers in your area, shopping around a little may be helpful.
More Details. If you’re interested in a more hands-on approach to solar energy, you can learn a lot about solar options before ever calling an installer. You can even choose to build or install your own home solar systems. One good resource to be aware of is Home Power magazine. This publication provides tons of product information and other technical details about home renewable energy systems. Look for recent issues, or read articles online at Home Power.
Another great resource is Build It Solar. This site includes specifics on dozens of DIY solar projects, including how to build your own solar heating and solar water heating systems. Even if you never plan to build one of these systems yourself, you can learn a lot by reading more about the details of how it’s done.
This blog is part of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS guide Find the Best Green Products and Services.
Photo by Fotolia/Manuela Fiebig