What is Renewable Energy?

Fossil fuels are used to make energy we use, but once they are gone we will never get more of them. Coal, oil, and natural gas all fall into this category. They are used all over the place in high amounts so you may not realize that they are in limited supply.


These forms of energy have been used mainly because they are affordable and they don’t take up very much room to incorporate. They can be transported anywhere they are needed as well. With natural resources there have to be certain elements in place in order to take advantage of them.


The concept of renewable energy embraces the ability to use the resources we naturally have, but that we will never run out of. This way we can continue to have all the benefits we want without destroying the Earth.


We also won’t be preventing future generations from having the chance to future grow and evolve beyond what we were able to see take place in our own lifetime. This process involves taking these types of natural resources and turning them into a product we can use for power.


That means a great deal of information and technology has to be collected and evaluated. Many of these methods though continue to see advances in the designs and processing which will result in them being even more valuable in the future than they are right now.
Most will agree that renewable energy sources are better for the environment. The burning of fossil fuels including gasoline and coal isn’t good for the environment. These natural resources will allow us to save resources and at the same time to live in a cleaner environment than we have now.


Many believe it isn’t practical or safe to depend only upon these types of resources though. That is because the sun doesn’t always shine so the energy can’t be collected. There are many places where the sun is blocked for days due to the changes in the seasons.


You can’t predict how much wind will be produced or how much power can be taken from the water. It will vary significantly but there is no reason why we can’t rely upon these renewable energy sources as the primary providers. We can then depend on fossil fuels as back up so we never have to go without the energy we want to use.


Chances are you have heard about the various forms of renewable energy but not in detail. Keep on reading and you will get all the information you need including the pros and cons of each type. You will find each of them does offer some hope for the future though as far as reducing our dependency on those resources which we can’t replenish.




Types of Renewable Energy

When you think about the natural things around us a couple of things come to mind. First, you have the sun that continues to shine brightly in the sky day after day. It gives off a great deal of heat which can be converted into energy. The sun shines brightly some days and then is covered with clouds other days. So the amount of energy you can collect each day is going to vary.


Next, you have water which covers the majority of the surface of the Earth. There is also the additional moisture and rainfall that can be collected as time goes by. There is energy found in the water as it moves along and this can be converted into energy at hydropower plants.


Even if it is just barely there on certain days, you also have the wind. In some areas it is extremely windy all the time. In order for the equipment used to create wind power to be worth the cost it must be blowing most days at a speed of at least 15 miles per hour.
Most people view that as a nuisance but they don’t realize the full potential of it. They aren’t really aware that the wind that is all around you can be used to create renewable energy. It is also very clean for the environment so you don’t have to worry about negative effects from it.


Biofuel is also a source of renewable energy and the one most people know the least about. This concept involves using types of materials that you can burn to create energy. This can be left over paper and wood, trash, and even manure from animals.


It is quite an interesting concept and one you will want to be sure you read about. You can be sure this is one area of renewable energy that will continue to grow by leaps and bounds in the next decade. Don’t underestimate how valuable it can be as it also removes waste from our environment. This type of renewable energy is scientific in nature and one that has been around the least amount of time.





Solar Power

Solar power is likely to be the most valuable of the renewable energy sources available. That is because it is plentiful and it is the least expensive to implement. New buildings can be built that incorporate the concepts as can homes. There are also solar panels that can be added to what is already in place.


That way you can take any home or business and modify it to use solar power with. They can be expensive but you will find that they can be a very good investment. If you own an apartment building with the electricity included in the rent this can help to reduce your overhead expenses. In a couple of years the process will pay for itself.


This process involves placing collectors and panels that will be in places where the sun will reach such as the roof. The process of converting what is collected into energy is known as photovoltaics. In order to make this happen, silicon is used to transform it.
The concept of solar power has also found its way to vehicles. They have cells that capture energy from the sun to provide movement for the vehicle. The advanced design allows that energy to be continually conserved too such as when you come to a stoplight.


If you drive your vehicle for longer than you have enough solar power for you aren’t going to be stranded in the middle of the interstate. You also won’t find your vehicle shutting off the moment the sun goes down. This is because it also operates on regular gasoline.


The solar energy is always consumed first though before any of the gas is used. You will continue to use the gas for movement until you have replenished the solar energy. Even though when you are using the gas, this type of vehicle is going to burn cleaner and thus not place all of the pollutants into the atmosphere that other vehicles do.


Hybrid vehicles are available in quite a few models and more of them seem to be introduced all the time. However, it can be very expensive to be able to purchase one. They cost quite a bit more than other types of vehicles on the market. Yet if you are looking for a great way to rely upon renewable energy sources this is one way to do it.
If you are paying a fortune right now for fuel to keep your current vehicle going it may be most cost effective for you. Even with a higher monthly payment until you pay off the hybrid vehicle you can take the money you save on gas and allocate it towards that payment.


Solar power plants have started to crop up in locations where people never expected them. Both California and Florida have plans to create at least eight new locations each in the next five years in order to generate more of their power from the sunlight.
In fact, California is a leader in promoting the use of solar power. There is a plan in the works to create 3,000 megawatts of it by 2017. The goal of this is to create a way for California to get all the energy they need without using up their natural resources.


Many of the citizens of California aren’t happy with the initiative though due to the cost of it. This is a project that will cost almost $3 million before it is completed. Yet the leaders of California are confident it is a step in the right direction. They are confident it will help all of their residents now as well as future generations.


Many people in California though are taking the initiative and running with it. They are being offered very high rates of money back for installing solar panels on their homes and businesses. Construction companies are offered incentives to build new structures with them already in place.


California isn’t the only state that is moving forward with incentives for residents though. Check to see if your state is willing to reimburse you for a portion of the cost of having the solar panels installed. This can be a great way for you to save money on the project. At the same time you will be doing your part to cut back on the amount of non-renewable energy your household consumes.


It is vital that we learn do to all we can with collecting solar power. Experts believe that there is more energy from the sun every single day that we can use than what we burn up in fossil fuels annually. That is an amazing evaluation and one that does mean a great deal for the future of all of us.


Just imagine if we were collecting and using a fraction of that amount what we would be able to preserve in regards to our non-renewable resources. You may be asking just what is holding everyone back and the answer is simply the cost that is involved.


Yet as you will notice more and more of it will be taking place and every little bit will be one step closer to really getting the results we are striving for as a society. It is going to take decades for us to get there but that is still better than the alternative. There is no reason to continue depending only on non-renewable energy when we don’t’ have to.
It is estimated that 20,000 homeowner’s in the United States currently get at least 80% of their electricity from solar energy. This saves approximately 50,000 tons of coal each year in order to produce that same amount of power. That is quite a bit of our natural resources being saved from such a small number of people being involved.






Wind Power

Across the plains where there is open land, the wind is able to move at high speeds. This is due to there not being any buildings or homes in the area to break it up. This is the perfect location for wind power to be generated and collected.


The use of windmills to create energy has been around for a very long time. Of course these windmills were quite small compared to what is out there just to create the energy. Not all spaces are right for large windmills so they look for those where the wind constantly blows at a rate of at least 15 miles per hour.

There are large windmills hundreds of feet high strategically gathered in these open areas. Each of the blades on the windmills requires a semi-truck to haul it. They are then put into place with various pieces of construction equipment. They operate on their own but are closely monitored to ensure everything is working like it should on them.


Even though it costs a great deal of money and work to get them installed, each one can last about 20-25 years. That means they are well worth the investment because they don’t constantly have to be replaced. That really has been an encouragement for more of them to be put into use.


The collection of wind power has proven to be so profitable in many small towns that some farmers and ranchers have given up those operations. Instead they are allowing various companies to place these windmills on their land and getting paid to do so. They don’t have to do any of the work to maintain them and they are guaranteed to make money.


With the high risk involved in the line of farming and ranching, it is understandable why so many of them do it. For those close to retirement age as well it just makes sense to be able to rely on a given income source. This is less stressful than hoping for a good crop in the field or that the price of meat doesn’t decline on the market.


Installing these types of windmills to generate the power though is extremely expensive. It is also a time consuming process due to the sheer size of them. When you see them from an airplane or driving down a main highway you won’t realize just how enormous they are. On average they are approximately 200 to 250 feet from the ground.


The largest wind turbine in the world is located in Hawaii. It is more than 20 stories high. Each of the blades on the windmills are the size of a full football field. Each of the turbines located here is able to produce enough energy to offer electricity for 300 homes in the area.


If you get a chance though go drive into an area that features them so you can see with your own eyes how they really appear. In Iowa there are approximately 800 of them on what is known as wind farms. More than 200,000 homes are supplied with power from them. You will also find them in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas, California, and Colorado.


When you watch the turbines spinning you will notice the turn counter clockwise. As the wind blows the shaft is engaged which is connected to a generator. As the blades turn this generator will move the power created along to the locations on the grid. They are monitored and there is an emergency shut off for them as well.


In the event of pending natural disasters such as a tornado, these turbines can give them more power to move on and to destroy everything in its path. By shutting them off that isn’t going to be the case.


It can also prevent the blades from being damaged during such an event. With the cost of the windmills being so high, keeping them in good working condition is very important. In some areas tornadoes are a common problem so the windmills are constantly watched.
Not everyone is a fan of these windmills though because they think they are an eyesore. They want to be able to gaze out their window and see the open land. Instead they are seeing tons of windmills. They also feel it takes away the romantic and tranquil feeling of the area.


Yet when you have small towns that are struggling for their residents to make a living, the prospect of getting paid to let a company come in and place windmills in place to collect the energy is an answer to a pray. They would rather have money for food on the table than to have the wide open spaces.


The amount of energy that can be produced this way will never be the same. It can be severely windy one day and only a gentle breeze the next. Even so, there is enough of it to make it worth the cost of getting all the equipment in place. It is worth it to be sharing the natural beauty of an area as well.


Some of these turbines are also located in various bodies of water. It is believed that wind power could one day be responsible for about 50% of the energy we consume. There is still a great deal of research and development that must take place for it to happen.


Yet it is very exciting to know such a renewable energy resource can be there for us. It can make us breathe easier when we continue how much of our natural resources that we can’t replace continue to be consumed each and every day.


The fact that it doesn’t release anything negative into the environment is very important as well. The fact that here isn’t carbon dioxide and other gases going into the air as wind power is produced should mean a great deal to each of us. It means the air we breathe is healthier for us than it was before.


The American Wind Energy Association has continued to work to get this type of renewable energy in place around the country. Many find it strange that other countries including Spain and Germany rely on it more than the United States does. However, with the positive aspects of it you can expect the volume of it used here to continue increasing annually.


According to their estimates, we can create 1 ½ times the amount of electricity used annually in the United States based on the amount of wind that is out there daily on average. That is very exciting news and something that could really help us to preserve our natural resources to the best of our ability.


There have been some animal rights groups pointing out that the spinning turbines on these windmills is seriously injuring and even killing various types of birds. To evaluate these claims there have been some studies in place.


Efforts are being made to prevent this without reducing the effectiveness of the wind energy that is being produced. It is believed that these incidents are very limited though and that birds aren’t in any real danger due to the turbines out there creating energy.






There is also power found in water and that process is referred to as hydropower. It can create much more energy at one time than either solar power or wind power. This is due to the fact that water is so dense.


Therefore it only takes a little bit of water to create some power. It takes much more sunlight or wind to create that same amount. Hydropower is used to offer electricity to more than 28 million people around the world. It accounts for approximately 10% of all the electricity produced in the United States.


The process involves plenty of safety precautions as the water can never come into contact with the electrical part of the process. We all know that can spell disaster. The process occurs as the water flows and it spins turbines that are found in a generator.
While this process isn’t new, it has been upgraded since it was first used thousands of years ago. The Egyptians were a very smart society and they were able to use it to grind down their grains. It was also used as a way to saw wood as it kept the blades cool enough.


The first hydro power plant in the United States was introduced in 1882. It was placed in Wisconsin. Most people don’t realize that a great deal of the early electricity and power in the United States once came from such hydropower plants. In 1940 approximately half of the electricity used came from this source. Later it was replaced by the use of coal.


Of course that was before we knew that coal was something that we will one day run out of. We didn’t realize at that time just how much of it we were going to be using. We also didn’t realize how much it was going to pollute our environment. It seems ironic that to move forward we have to go back but that is how it plays out in this particular case.


There are several dams in the United States where elaborate designs are in place. Here huge volumes of power are generated each day using these methods. It is a very time consuming and complex process though to turn water into energy. Since hydropower is so expensive it isn’t as widely used as it could be.


The largest hydropower plant in the world is located in Washington along the Grand Coulee Dam. It took 11 years to build it from 1933 to 1942. Since that time it has undergone numerous facelifts and changes. It is amazing at a size of over 5,000 feet long and 550 feet high.


In all there are four distinct power plants found here. Each one is controlled separately for easier control of the process to make energy. There are 33 generators and more that 2 million homes in that area get their energy from this particular location. It is an amazing accomplishment and one that really shows the power that can be created with such a renewable energy source.


Some of the newer approaches for hydropower include generating that power from the waves in the ocean. Even the waves that occur all day long in the waters there can be used to create energy. It is believed that the use of hydropower will one day be much more significant than it is right now.


Of course it doesn’t make sense for hydropower to be used everywhere. There are many places where there just isn’t enough water flowing in the area for them to work well. Not every place as an abundance of rivers, streams, and oceans to produce hydropower. Most of them are found along the West of the United States. They are in Oregon, Washington, and California.


If a way to convert that energy from the water can be found that is less expensive than what we know right now it surely will. It only makes sense due to the volumes of energy that can be created from this particular natural resource. It also doesn’t reduce the amount of water out there or place any type of harmful contaminants into it.


There is research though that indicates the aquatic life forms in the waters may be affected by the process. It can upset the natural balance of what ordinarily goes on in that water. There is also the risk of terrorism in an event to destroy what we have built.


Since the events of 09/11 tighter security efforts have been implemented in order to prevent that from happening. There are random checkpoints and stops along the way where vehicles are inspected. There are also restrictions at places including Hoover Dam that prevent large trucks and buses from going across them as an additional safety precaution.


It can take years to build the dams for a hydroelectric plant to start operating though. Many people who live in the vicinity of a proposed hydroelectric plant aren’t happy about it either. They worry about flooding and they often find their homeowner’s insurance goes up due to that possibility.







Biofuel isn’t one of the well-known types of renewable energy but an important one to understand. The process begins when plants to through photosynthesis. There is chemical energy stored inside of it that can be released. What they create is a type of biomass and that can be turned into fuel.


It can then be burned in combustible engines. There is still plenty of research that needs to be done in the area of biofuel. The process right now of converting it isn’t as effective as it should be. It is also extremely time consuming and expensive to do so.


Biofuel can be in the form of a liquid or a solid. Vegetable oil that is used as an alternative fuel source for some vehicles out there is a type of liquid biofuel. It can be natural or it can be reprocessed after it has been used. Some restaurants give their used vegetable oil to those that burn Biodiesel in their vehicles. Once it has been cleaned they are able to use it without harming their vehicle.


Some types of food items are grown in higher supply than the demand just so that ethanol can be produced. It is usually mixed with about 15% regular gasoline in order to make the mix work. It seems that many in the business of growing such food items though don’t always agree with this use of it. They feel the foods should be used to feed those in need.


Biofuel is most commonly found in the form of a solid though. For example burning wood falls into this category. You can use it to cook with and to heat your home instead of relying upon natural gas. The downside though is that this can emit dangerous elements into the environment.


There is ongoing testing where the variables are being controlled right now in the area of biofuel. It is believed this type of renewable energy could one day be a breakthrough in the area of supplying fuel for our vehicles. Look for great things to be coming up in this area in the future.


If we can figure out an affordable process for using biofuel we can create more than half of what is depleted annually from our natural resources. This is what facts continue to motivate researchers to move forward and funders to continue with grant money to allow it to happen.


The one issue that seems to be a concern is that in order to generate more biofuel to use, there is a great deal of land that has to be accessed. That could mean land normally used for growing food and other resources is no longer available. A close eye will need to be kept in that particular area.


As some of this concern has come to light, other forms of biofuel to be able to use are being introduced. Since these natural products are able to give off heat that can be transferred to fuel. Even trash can be used to create biofuel. This means less of it will be around to remain in landfills.


One of the most successful biofuel companies out there is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is known as BFC Gas & Electric. They are able to recycle approximately 150 tons of materials each day at their facility. They process wood remains from projects and from sawmills in the area.


There is also paper that is used instead of being wasted when it was used for projects and scraps remain. Sometimes there are types of paper and cardboard that can’t be successfully recycled so it is processed here.


Crops that have been ruined, diseased plants and trees, and the corn stalks that remain after harvest all work as well. More than 40,000 homes in the Cedar Rapids area is provided with electricity from this particular company. They are really working hard to put the use of biofuel to work for the benefit for their community.


In some other areas the use of changing cow manure into biofuel is being done. This is something that not everyone finds appealing but it can be a viable way to get more benefits out of such waste. There are still many details of this type of biofuel to be worked out though.






The Future of Renewable Energy

As you can see there will be plenty of benefits from all of these types of renewable energy. While they are all implemented right now on some level, there is still more that needs to be done. We need to learn how to get the maximum benefits from them.
At the same time we need to learn how to reduce the costs involved with getting that energy out of them. That seems to be the biggest hold up with getting them really rolling. The fact that they work and they reduce pollution is very positive aspects that encourage us to move forward with them.


As we come more aware of the fact that we are depleting our energy sources we need to take action now. The more we can learn not to depend on those resources the better off our entire world will be. Take your time to learn all you can about renewable energy too so you can be aware of what is going on around you.


Keep up on the developments that are taking place in these areas. It is actually quite fascinating and certainly something you will want to continue exploring. At the same time it is wise to take a close look at how you are using natural sources of energy.


Make cut backs where you can to continue conserving what we do have available right now to create the energy we often take for granted in our society. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy your lifestyle, but rather try to view it from an environmentally friendly perspective.


There is some negativity out there though in regards to producing renewable energy. There is a concern about the amount of space it is going to take to get all of these methods into place. There is also the concern that some businesses will lose money as they won’t be needed in full demand to harvest the fossil fuels. Yet the overall design of the turbines for windmills and for solar panels is an area where improvements can continue to be made.


If they don’t have to take up as much room or be so noticeable more people will be willing to install them. Getting creative in this area is something we should encourage and that should be possible due to the technology we have readily available to us.
Some of the experts also worry that there will be some problems that arise but we aren’t aware of them yet. However, that shouldn’t prevent us from moving forward and getting all we can from these renewable energy sources. Crossing those bridges as they arise is the best course of action to take.


They are looking though along the lines of pollution and destruction due to the use of the types of construction equipment used to complete such projects. There is also a concern about the risk of the work too. Even with proper training people can get hurt or killed in the process of erecting them.


Some people aren’t up for change and that includes how they get their energy. They are used to relying upon coal and natural gas. They are used to what they pay for these items and they are afraid to embrace something new. Continuing to provide them with accurate information though can really help them to understand the big picture that is here.


The possibilities that are open to us along the lines of renewable energy are huge. There is no limit to how far we can take them as long as they are going to benefit society as a whole. It will be very interesting to look back ten or twenty years from now and see how far the concepts of renewable energy have come.






Three Tips For A Smooth DIY Solar Panel Installation


Does the idea of installing your own solar panels sound like a project you would like to take on?  More and more homeowners feel the same way.  If you are familiar with the basic electronics that are involved, and you are handy with tools, then go for it.  But be aware that installing a grid tied solar electric system is more complex than typical electrical work.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the job go more smoothly.

First, check with your local governing building department (city or county) to see if a permit is required.  If so, find out if it requires that any of the work be done by a licensed electrician or electrical contractor.  You may still be able to do some of the work that does not involve direct electrical connections even if a licensed professional is required.

Next, make sure that the system you are installing is properly designed for the amount of power that your house will require.  This may sound obvious and like overkill if you have already spent weeks or months pouring over catalogs or on the phone with equipment vendors.  But even when you are doing your own installation and have planned it yourself every step of the way, it does not hurt to double and triple check your calculations and your equipment list.

You could even ask the city or county inspector who will be issuing your final permit to review your game plan.  It would be much better to catch a mistake now than to find out during your final inspection that you did not plan for enough solar panels to do the job properly.  As a bonus, you will also be getting to know your inspector early in the process.  He may turn out to be someone who could be helpful if you run into problems during the installation.  And at the very least, you will already have established a good working relationship.







What Kinds Of Solar Panel Kits Are Available?

It seems like the popularity of using solar energy is growing every day.  And people are becoming more interested in how they can add solar energy to their lifestyle in affordable ways.  That's why solar panel kits are now available for a wide variety of solar applications.  Here are a few of the solar panel kits that you can buy.


One of the most affordable kinds of solar panel kits to buy is a 45 watt model, for around $200.  It is large enough to run common home electronic equipment, like TVs and computers, and even to power lighting.  It will even charge a 12v battery so you can store its electricity for use at night.  The technology is now advanced enough that the PV cells can generate electricity even on cloudy days.  And its small size (about 36inches square) makes it easy to find a suitable location.  Kits usually include the panel or panels, mounting hardware and wiring.  Some kits may include an inverter; otherwise you will have to buy that separately.


Other kits expand on that basic concept of assembling the panels, mounting hardware and wiring for more specific applications. For example, solar kits for boats may include solar panels, and array and mounting hardware that is made from stainless steel or other materials that withstand exposure to salt water.  They may also include tracking equipment that will position the panels according to the sun's position.


Kits designed for cabins may include the basic solar panels and wiring.  But they may use a pole mounted array and hardware so that the panels can be positioned in a clearing away from trees.  And the kits might also include a battery back up system for cabins that will be off the grid.


Solar panel kits designed for RVs start with a simple set up that provides basic power for lights and trickle charging the battery.  Yet luxury RVs that contain a lot of electrical equipment, ranging from built-in GPS to home theater systems, might need a system as elaborate and complex as an off grid home.  And there are kits available for these extremes as well as many RV requirements in between


There seems to be a kit available for almost any solar panel you can think of for home, business or recreational use.  The best way to find them is to search online.  And the best way to choose one is to compare their features and customer service.



Visit the Earth4Energy Website to learn How you can make your own solar panels Easily and cheaply today!





Can Solar Panels Survive Bad Weather?

If you live an area that has weather extremes, you may be wondering if solar panels are reasonable for your home.  After all, snow and ice storms, tornados, hurricanes and hail take their toll on regular roofs every year.  Would it really make sense to install solar panels on a roof that has to withstand those kinds of weather extremes?  Here a few facts that will help you decide.


It makes sense to be concerned about hail or wind damage to the glass that encapsulates the solar cells and allows them to have exposure to the sun.  But the solution is to make sure that the solar panels you use are made with high impact tempered glass.  Good quality solar panels are manufactured with glass that can maintain its integrity during 60 miles per hour storms dropping 3/4" hail.  So they will typically withstand conditions that are similar to what your roofing material will tolerate.


Before your solar panels are installed, the contractor must ensure that the roof itself is able to support the weight of the solar panel arrays.  Once that is established and the solar panels are attached to the roof, they should be able to remain solidly in place.  In the case of a tornado or hurricane, your solar panels will typically stay attached to your roof.  The only way you would lose them is if the roof itself comes off.


In areas where there is heavy snowfall, snow may cover the solar panels and block them from receiving sunlight.  In that case, they cannot produce electricity and it will be necessary to brush off the snow.  But the panels themselves will not be damaged by a heavy snowfall.


The bigger concern would be that the roof itself may not be able to withstand the weight of a heavy, wet snowfall.  In that case, it would be wise to shovel the roof as well as remove the snow from the solar panels.  But in the case of a light snow, the heat retained by the solar panels is usually enough to melt off the snow and keep them clean.

As a final point, check with your homeowner's insurance policy.  Solar panels are usually included in the coverage at no additional cost.  If not, consider changing to a policy that will provide adequate coverage.






Does Solar Energy Savings Outweigh The Costs?

If you are thinking about adding a solar electric system to your home, the costs and the savings are big issues.  First, there is the initial outlay of buying and installing the solar panels.  But there are also a lot of ways that you will be saving money, not only with your immediate energy savings, but savings against rising fuel costs and the increase in your home's value as well.


Since so many factors go into installing a solar electricity system, each house needs to be considered on a case by case basis.  The pitch of the roof, the direction it faces, the location of shade trees or buildings that might block sun from reaching the panels must all be evaluated.  And an accurate evaluation is extremely important for each system to function at maximum efficiency.  Professional installers can provide accurate quotes for the materials and installation for your individual site.


Your immediate energy savings will depend on whether or not your local electric company participates in net metering.  Net metering refers to the policy which some electric utility companies have of buying back excess electricity that is produced by customers who have solar panel installations.  If your local electric company offers this, you will see a substantial decrease in your electric bills.  Some customers actually have a zero balance each month as their solar panel system generates enough electricity for their own use as well as excess to send back into the grid.  But even if you electric utility does not allow net metering, your electric bills will still be reduced.  During the day when the sun is hitting your solar panels, your appliances will be running off your own solar energy rather than electricity from the grid.


And there is also the probability that solar electric systems will become valuable assets to homes in the near future.  As energy costs continue to rise, awareness of the value of alternate energy systems is on the rise.  If you have a history of energy savings that you can show to a potential buyer, it can be a strong incentive for them to choose your home over one that has higher energy operating costs.  And since energy prices are predicted to be higher in the future, your solar panel system represents a real hedge against inflation.  A solar electric system also means that your house won’t be affected by brown outs and power outages that can occur due to bad weather or simply due to grid overload.







How Do I Choose The Best Solar Panel Company?

After you have made the decision that you want to install solar panels on your home, you need to find a reliable company to buy them from and to install them.  But how do you know who to choose?  Here are some tips to help you decide.


Experience counts.  If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where solar panel installation has been ongoing, you may be able to locate a company which has been in business for two or three decades.  If so, they should be able to provide plenty of references for you to call.  It will also be easy to check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if they have a clean record.


Ask them about the equipment they recommend, and do some research on the internet to find some reviews of the manufacturers.  Find out what kinds of warranties the equipments comes with.  Also, find out what kinds of warranties the contractor offers on labor and workmanship.  It is common to find 10-year warranties on the solar panels, and 3 to 10-year warranties on pumps, inverters and controls.  Workmanship should have at least a one year warranty.

Some installers have experience only in off-grid systems, and you may be concerned about them working on your system if it will be tied to the grid.  It is true that there are definite differences between installing the two systems.  But off grid systems are much more complex than grid tied systems.  An off grid installer will most likely be quite capable of connecting your system to the local power company, especially since he or she will be monitored by the local building inspectors.


Membership in a professional organization for alternative energy vendors might be another indicator of professionalism.  But find out first what the requirements are to join the organization before you decide to be impressed.  Memberships are voluntary, and some only require paying a fee.  Other organizations (like the Solar Energies Industries Association) require continuing education and field experience in order to qualify for membership.


The best recommendation is always word of mouth from a trusted source.  If you know someone who has recently had solar panels installed, ask them if they would recommend the company they used.  You can also ask a local real estate agent.  They usually know the trustworthy contractors in town.





How Much Solar Energy Will My House Need?

If you are thinking about installing a residential solar energy system in your home, you will need to know your current energy consumption.  Usually, you can get this information from your local utility company.  Using this as a basis, you will be able to design your solar energy system to fit the needs of your house.  The climate in your region will have an impact on energy use, as will the direction your windows face, the number and location of trees on your site, and the types of appliances you own.  Even the kind of light bulbs you use can make a difference.


The yearly temperature extremes in the geographical region you live in will be a big factor.  If you live in an area with temperature extremes in winter or in summer, you will use more energy to heat or cool your home than if you lived in a moderate climate.
South facing windows in a cold climate can help lower your heating bills.  North facing windows in a hot climate can lower cooling bills.


Mature trees can provide shade and help lower cooling bills during the summer, while the bare tree limbs allow sunlight in during the winter months.  All of these factors contribute to your overall energy use. And installing energy efficient insulation in walls, roofs and floors help reduce utility bills in all climates.


If possible, convert all of your appliances to energy efficient models.  Newer appliance models often use as much as 50% less energy than older models, especially if they need repairs and are not working at top efficiency.  Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs also makes a substantial impact on reducing electricity consumption.


After evaluating your house for these factors, you can plan to build a solar photovoltaic system by multiplying your average daily kilowatt hour usage by about .25.  This should give you a rough estimate of the daily kilowatts your solar panels will need to generate in order to supply your current electrical needs.





What Kind of Maintenance Do Solar Panels Need?

If you are worried that installing solar panels on your home will result in time-consuming, costly and complicated maintenance, you can breathe a sigh of relief.  Most solar panels used for residential systems are made of solar cells encapsulated in thick glass, mounted onto metal racks.  Since they have no moving parts, once they are installed they require minimal maintenance.


Of course, this may depend on where you live, what kinds of weather are typical for your region and whether or not you have a lot of trees in your yard.  For instance, if you live in a region where there is a lot of snow in the winter, you may have to spend some time after a heavy snowfall cleaning off the solar panels so the sun can reach them.  Or if you live in an area that has frequent dust storms, or an urban area where there is a lot of dirt in the air, you may have to clean off the glass panels periodically to maximize their efficiency.  But if it rains frequently enough, that should be sufficient to keep your solar panels clean enough to function properly.

If there are a lot of deciduous trees in your yard that shed their leaves every fall, you may need to make sure that those leaves don't cover up your solar panels.  Even some evergreen trees shed their needles and may require a periodic clean up.  But a quick swipe with a broom should do the trick.


Of course, the solar panels are not the only components in the system.  If you have an off grid system, it will include storage batteries and perhaps a back up generator.  These components will require more monitoring and ongoing maintenance than the solar panels themselves.  It's always a good idea to plan for regular inspections to make sure that your entire solar energy system is running properly.


If your solar panels are tied to the grid, you will still have an inverter as part of your system.  It converts the electricity that your solar panels generate into alternating current that your appliances can use.  Even though it has no mechanical parts, it is an important component and should be regularly inspected.





Why Should I Install Solar Panels On My Home?

Solar energy is in the news almost daily.  But have you been wondering whether or not installing solar panels on your home would be a good choice for your family?  Here are a few of the most compelling reasons.


The economic climate is finally favorable again for people who want to use solar energy at home.  There are now federal tax credits in place (or soon to be in place) that can lower the cost of installing a residential solar energy system by as much as 30%.  And don't forget to check into your state and city incentives, too.  The list of states and cities that are offering tax credit and other incentives to help people convert to solar energy is continuing to grow.

There is also the immediate cost savings you will see in lower monthly utility bills. Since you solar panels will be powering your appliances during the day, you will be seeing a savings in electricity usage.  And if your local utility company participates in net metering, your electric bill could be reduced to zero.  Net metering allows you to sell back any excess electricity that your solar panels produce to the electric company for a credit to your account.  So if your solar electric system produces a surplus during the day, the electricity that you use from the grid at night could end up being free.


Solar energy is also great for the environment.  It is produced on site where it is used.  So there are no fuel transportation costs or emissions, and no plant maintenance costs.  It does not contribute to global warming.  There is no pollution from burning oil or coal, and it does not produce nuclear waste that will contaminate the planet for generations to come.  And last but not least, it is a great way to protect yourself and your family against the future energy price hikes that experts predict.





Will Solar Panels Add Value To My Home?

Adding a solar electric system to your home is a major decision and investment.  And if you are considering it, you are also probably wondering if they will add value to your home.  The answer depends on a lot of factors.  Here are some things to consider.


First, how aware is your community of the benefits and value of solar energy?  If you live in an area where a lot of people are interested and involved in the green living movement, potential buyers may be willing to pay more for a house that already has a solar electric system installed.  But if you live an area where there is very little eco-friendly activity, where people don't care much about recycling or environmental concerns, buyers may be indifferent the effort and money you have put into installing solar panels.


But even in a community where people never think about green living, usually everyone can appreciate saving money.  Does your house have a history of energy savings over a number of years?  If you can produce a paper trail of your energy savings over the past few years, you will have good evidence that the solar panels you installed are a benefit to new owners.  With the cost of heating and cooling often running into several hundred dollars each month for some families, savings on utilities becomes important.

But what can you do to prove energy savings if you have only recently installed your solar panel system?  You can call your local electric utility company and ask them for their statistical projection of how much your electric bill will decrease.  You can also get data from the company which installed your solar energy system.  Most of the larger solar installation companies have marketing departments that gather that kind of data to help people see that solar panels will generate energy savings for them.


Another factor to consider is how common solar energy systems are in your housing market.  If solar panels are common, your real estate agent will be able to give you actual statistical data that shows the difference in selling price between houses with solar panels and houses that have only public utility electric service.  If this kind of data is available in your market, you have the best possible proof that can show a potential buyer.





Will Solar Panels Damage My Roof?

The majority of residential solar panel systems are installed on the roof to provide the best exposure to the sun.  But that raises a concern about what kind of damage the installation might do to the roof.  Here are a few facts so you will know up front just what you will be getting into if you choose to install solar panels on your roof.


Most roofs are built to withstand at least 8 to 10 pounds per square foot of weight above and beyond the weight of the roofing material.  That is usually more than enough load bearing capacity to accommodate solar panels.  However, each house represents a unique installation project.  Your local building inspector or a professional solar panel installer should be able to make an accurate assessment of your roof's capacity to handle the weight of your solar energy system.


Many installers attach the solar panel mounts to the beams.  This kind of installation is extremely secure and provides better load distribution than attaching the mounts to roof decking.  Since rooftop installations have been common for more than 30 years, professional installers are knowledgeable about the best methods to insure stability and avoid damage.


However, it is important to consider the age and condition of your existing roof before you schedule your solar panel installation.  Since the mounts will be installed over the roofing material, they would have to be removed and reinstalled if you decide to replace your roof.  So if you plan on replacing your roof within the next 5 to 10 years, consider replacing it before you install your new solar panel system.  That way you can avoid the additional cost of removal and reinstallation.


Of course, if you are still concerned about installing solar panels on your roof, you may be able to use a ground mounted system.  The same criteria apply to choosing a solar panel array location whether on a roof or on the ground.  It must receive enough sunlight during the day to produce the electricity that your household needs, and it must be free from obstacles that block it from the sun.  If you have such a location on you property, it may be a good alternative to using the roof.





Will Solar Panels Work During Winter?

If you live in an area that has long, harsh winters you may be wondering if your house is a good candidate for solar panels.  After all, days or weeks of overcast skies, snow flurries or monsoon rains hardly seem compatible with a technology that relies on the sun for its power.


But there has been a lot of innovation and progress in solar panel technology during the past 10 years.  Now solar technology is far enough along that solar panels can easily create electricity even on cloudy, snowy or rainy days.


If you have an off grid system which works independently of a public utility system, your solar energy system will include a set of storage batteries.  These batteries are similar to the kind used in cars.  They are designed to hold any excess electricity that your solar panels generate during the sunny part of the day.  If your battery storage system is properly designed for your region, it will include enough of these batteries to store electricity for the number of cloudy days that are typical for your geographical area.


If you have a system that is tied into the grid of your local electric utility company, then you won't need storage batteries.  When the sun goes down at night, or during a stretch of bad weather where you don't see the sun for days, your electrical system will automatically use electricity from your local power company. Of course, during sunny days, your solar panels will be generating your electric power, so you will still be reaping the benefits of lower electric bills.


In some areas, you ay even be able to sell power back to your local electric company. This arrangement makes solar panels even more cost effective.  The way is works is that any excess power that your solar panels generate flows back into the grid system and you receive a credit for it on your electric bill.  That way, even if you need to use electricity from the grid during the night or during overcast days, any excess electricity that your solar panels were able to generate will still be lowering your overall utility bills.





Will Solar Panels Work On My House?

If you have you been wondering whether or not you can install solar panels on your house, there are several factors to consider.  Things like the direction that your roof faces and the placement of trees in your yard can make a difference.  You will also need to know whether or not you want your electrical system tied to the local utility grid. Here's a short list of some of the things you will need to consider.


The most important issue is whether your system will be grid tied or off grid.  Grid tied means that your electric system will be hooked up to the local electric utility company.  You solar panels will generate electricity that can run your appliances as long as the sun is shining on your solar panels.  At night and during weather when the sun isn't out, your appliances will run on utility company electricity.

An off grid system runs independently and is not hooked up to a utility company.  They are more common in rural areas where utility poles are distant and hookups are extremely expensive.  Off grid systems use batteries (similar to car batteries) to store excess electricity, and usually have back up generators for emergency situations.  Appliances run off the solar panels during the day, and the batteries or generator during the night or during inclement weather.


For both grid tied and off grid systems, the roof pitch, direction it faces, and nearby objects that cast shade are all factors affecting where you can place solar panels.  They need access to direct sunlight for as much of the day as possible for optimal efficiency.  Large trees that shade the roof as well as taller buildings that might block the sun need to be taken into consideration.  Since each house has a different combination of these factors, each house must be individually evaluated.   Accurate measurements and surveys, as well as a site inspection by a knowledgeable installer will produce the necessary information for the best solar panel configuration for your house.






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