Affordability for solar energy on Main Street is becoming more of a reality. The notion of receiving free electricity, rather than paying rising utility costs, is easy to grasp; however, the initial costs are often a hurdle for most families. Find out the basics of solar energy to begin evaluating how you can make “free” an energy reality for you.

Energy is heat. When you consider that the largest heat source is hanging above us, the sun, it’s natural to want to capture that enormous amount of energy for our own uses. Solar panels are not a new concept; however, with the price of heating, cooling, and electricity increasing each year homeowners are awakening to the possibilities of harnessing the sun’s energy. By understanding some of the basics of solar energy and solar panels, you can make your own decision about solar power in your home.

Solar panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity. This electricity can be used to charge up various everyday household appliances that we are accustomed to using. Lights, washer and dryer, curling iron, computer and television as well as larger units such as the air conditioner, water heater, and pool and spa systems. In the initial stages of deciding what type of solar system to consider for your house, you need to take an “energy audit” in your home to discover how much energy you are currently using. It would be unfortunate to switch to a solar energy system only to find that you didn’t get sufficient equipment to match your needs.

You must also consider storage needs. Solar panels have the job of collecting the sun’s energy; however, the cells do not have the ability to store that energy. For this reason, batteries are included to store the energy that is collected during the daytime. For some families, they may choose to have enough batteries so they are completely independent of the energy company,  living “off the grid”. Their battery is their backup plan. For other families, they may choose to remain “on the grid” and use the utility company’s grid system to “store” the unused energy collected throughout the day. On the grid, you may actually see your electric meter go backwards as the excess energy you collect during the day with your solar panels it directed to the utility company grid. In the case of too little solar power, the utility becomes your “backup” plan and energy will be drawn from their system to keep you powered up.

You must consider the climate where you live in order to determine your best system. If you have dark winters, then you need toadjust your panels and placement of those panels to get the maximum benefit. It makes a difference where the panels are installed. Sometimes, the best placement is not always the most attractive; however, the long term savings are beneficial enough to overcome any aesthetic questions. However, solar panels have been successfully added in commercial shopping areas and within treetops to get free power with a pleasing design.

As the price of solar for homeowners becomes more competitive, and government incentives for alternative energy sources are enacted, more affordable and effective options for alternative energy will come to the market. In the past, cost has been a major hurdle in bringing solar energy to Main Street; however, that climate is changing.

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