The sun is an abundant energy source for you to use if you’re going green and remodeling your home. Of course it helps if you live somewhere where the sun shines a lot, but you don’t have to live in the tropics to generate electricity using solar power.
The answer for your green remodeling project is some kind of solar panel, usually for mounting on the roof of your home. There are lots of competing technologies out there, and new solutions are emerging all the time, so prepare to do some research. But to start with, there are two different kinds of solar panel that you need to be aware of.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Semiconductors, usually made of silicon, convert sunlight into electricity. This can be used to power your home directly, but for continuity of supply you’ll also need to store it. Lighting and any other home appliance that runs on ‘normal’ electricity can be powered with solar-generated electricity.
You can buy PV cells in all sorts of designs. Panels are familiar to most of us, but there are other choices. Some PV cells are designed to look like conventional roof tiles. You can also buy transparent cells for installation onto glass.
Solar thermal energy (STE) is the other solar energy choice for green remodeling. It works on a different principle, and is used primarily for heating water. The basic unit is a heat collector. These come as special tubes or as flat panels.
Low temperature collectors are used to heat swimming pools, while medium temperature collectors can meet a substantial part of your home hot water needs. It can also be used for heating rooms. The flaw here is that when the sun is shining you probably won’t really be in need of it.
The big myth about solar panels is that you need blazing sunshine. Of course this will boost your solar energy production, but they still work on overcast days, even if efficiency is lower. If you’re in a sunny location, the thing to think about is whether your roof is structurally strong enough to support panels (they’re not lightweight).
You’ll have to spend to save if you go this route, because installation costs aren’t cheap. But you will have the potential to save substantially in the longer term. With conventional power expensive and often environmentally unfriendly, this is something to really think about if you’re going green in your home.