In this day and age of economic struggles everyone is looking for long term solutions to save money. Although there seem to be countless ways to accomplish this one of the most beneficial would seem to be the utilization of solar power. After all, the sun is the most powerful form of power known to exist so why not start using some of that power for your home? The introduction of the solar photovoltaic cells has made that possible and the technology is developing. As it does so, new, more efficient products enter the commercial and consumer market.
How do Solar Photovoltaic Cells Work?
Photovoltaics is the process of creating direct current electricity by transforming the sun’s radiation. Semiconductors are used for the process and are made from many different materials such as monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon, cadmium telluride, and several others. Although there are a few applications where PV Cells are built on the ground, in most cases they are mounted to rooftops.
The most important fact about solar power is that it’s considered to be a renewable energy source. This means that this power source will never run out. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this form of power. Now it’s time to look at these in more detail.
First of all, there is more than enough sunlight reaching the Earth to meet all of our needs. In fact, the 89,000 TW of sunlight would generate 6,000 times more electricity than the average consumed. That’s a huge difference. Another advantage is that solar power is completely pollution free during their use and any pollution made during the manufacturing of the cells is easily managed by simple pollution control. Finally, Solar PV (Photovoltaic) Cells require very little maintenance. In fact, after their initial installation, they will operate for years without any intervention. That means that the costs during operation are very low when compared to other forms of power.
One of the most obvious disadvantages is that solar power isn’t generated at night. Also, the efficiency is reduced in cloudy conditions. This means that the power must be stored for these times or an alternate system is required. Another flaw is that Solar PV Cells create direct current electricity. Everything in a home runs off of alternating current. Therefore, the DC produced by the solar cells must be converted into AC. When this happens, an energy loss occurs.
Applications of Solar Power
Many people are under the false pretence that solar power is a thing of the future. That’s wrong. Solar power is already here. There are a lot of applications already and the number of them will only increase over time. Here are some examples.
There are already quite a few solar photovoltaic power stations that have been built. Although these stations are mainly in Europe, that trend is sure to continue to spread throughout the world. The design of these stations allows the solar panels to actually follow the sun’s path across the sky, which generates even more electricity than mounted systems. And since there is no fuel consumed to operate solar powered stations, there is no pollution or waste expelled into the atmosphere.
Solar panels are often integrated into corporate buildings to increase efficiency. Normally, they are installed on the roof but sometimes they can be installed on a wall or even on the ground adjacent to the building. The reason for this is simple. Corporations are looking for long term ways to save money and solar power is a great investment to meet that goal.
As most people know, solar photovoltaic power has always been used for space missions – such as the vehicles that operate on the moon. But are there any known applications on vehicles here on Earth? Sadly, this area is one where there aren’t that many working applications. But the trend seems to be growing slightly as solar PV panels are being installed on boats and cars to provide auxiliary power. This trend will continue to grow.
PV power is used to power a great number of utilities such as hot water heaters, water pumps, parking meters, and emergency phones. The reasons are obvious – to save money and also provide a reliable backup during blackouts.
Many of the streetlights that we see while driving are being powered by solar PV cells. But this trend will go much further than just lights. There are already tests underway as to install solar panels on the road itself. Since roads always take a beating from the sun, why not take advantage? The possibilities are endless.
As you can see, the world is slowly turning to solar power. This trend will continue into the future and will most likely grow with time. In fact, don’t be surprised if solar power slowly replaces other forms of power. People are already finding out that installing PV power to their home saves them a lot of money in the long run. Look for more people to start doing the same.
An introduction to Solar Hot Water Heaters
A large portion of a home’s energy usage can be attributed to hot water heaters. Hot water is used for a lot of everyday things like showers, washing dishes, and laundry. Typical electric hot water heaters can cost quite a bit of money to operate. Gas powered hot water heaters cost a bit less, but they’re still not as efficient as other means which are available in today’s world. The most efficient method of heating water is solar power. Here’s a good example of how solar power is one of the best renewable energy sources available.
Solar hot water heaters normally operate along-side of conventional ones, since weather can affect their efficiency. There are a lot of advantages to owning a solar powered water heating system. However, there are also some disadvantages. The question is, would it be logical to install a solar powered hot water heater on your home? The objective of this article is to shed a little light on this subject. Hopefully after finished, you will have the knowledge necessary to make a sound decision.
How it Works
First of all, it’s important to note that there are two types of solar hot water heaters – passive and active. The basic set-up is a tank to hold the water, a solar collector, and a series of tubes that allow for water flow. Now let’s take a closer look at the two distinct types of solar hot water heaters.
Passive solar water heaters use nothing but the forces of nature to heat water. This is definitely the least complicated of the two. Batch hot water heaters are the most basic of all designs. A tank is filled with water and the solar collector heats the water up while inside of the tank. Then gravity takes over and feeds the heated water to the home. A Thermosiphon hot water heater is another form of passive. In this design, cold water moves through a series of tubes, where it is heated and then send to the storage tank.
Active systems are the opposite of passive – they use electricity to help with their job. This type of solar hot water heaters can be separated into three categories. The first is direct, where water is pumped through solar collectors in order to heat it. The second is indirect, which the solar collectors heat a fluid instead of the water itself. Then the heated fluid is used to heat the water without mixing with it. Finally we have drainback systems. Drainback systems are almost exactly like indirect, except that it is equipped with a drainback tank.
Benefits of a Solar Hot Water Heater
First and foremost, solar hot water heaters are a greener option – green as in both environmentally friendly and saving money. In fact, you might see your light bill cut in half. It’s said that using solar powered hot water heating systems can reduce your energy usage by half. Of course, that number will be entirely dependant on where you live. If you live in a sunny area where days are longer, then you will save more. On the contrary, a place where the days are shorter would save you less money. But the average is a 50% decrease. That would also mean that you will be responsible for less CO2 emissions. Another added advantage is that installing solar powered systems on your home will increase the value.
Disadvantages of Solar Powered Hot Water Heaters
Of course, there are going to be some disadvantages to using solar power to heat your water. At the top of that list is the high cost of getting it installed. However, this money will be made back over time so you could look at it like an investment. But how fast you save the money you invested depends on your location. If you live in a sunny place like Arizona or Florida, then the saving would be seen very quickly. On the other hand, if you live in Alaska, then it might take a while to get your money back.
There are some other disadvantages too. First of all, everything is dependant on your location. Here’s some examples of how your location can affect your decision.
– Temperature – Living in a very cold location can make direct models not available since the cold weather can freeze them.
– Design – Your home has to be set up efficiently in order to gain the most exposure possible from solar panels.
– Regulations – Some places have specific laws concerning a home’s design. An area that’s prone to earthquakes would be a good example of this, as placing a solar hot water heater on the roof would put the home over the weight limit.
A solar hot water heating system can be installed yourself, saving you a lot of money. However, you must carefully do your homework before attempting this. Also, since it involves roof work, you need to take extra precautions. Solar power is becoming one of the most sought after renewable power sources. In a world where being green has become the goal of a lot of people, a solar powered hot water heater is a huge step in the right direction.