While a full-scale photovoltaic solar panel system installed on a roof may be priced out of reach for many homeowners, there are ways to take advantage of affordable solar energy. A whole-house solar PV systems can cost upwards of $40,000 depending on the size of the home and its electricity needs. That figure is enough to discourage many people, causing them to believe that solar power is not an option. There are, in fact, other avenues for tapping into the energy savings that solar power offers. Finding affordable solar power options begins with improving energy efficiency elsewhere, starting small and seeking out all possible sources of assistance.
Benefits of Solar Power
With a solar power system that supplies the energy needs of a home in place, not only does it reduce the amount of electricity coming in from the power grid and with it the expense, but it has the potential of earning credits for the homeowner. Solar-powered homes that produce excessive energy can sell it back to the power company for use elsewhere. For the average homeowner who cannot afford a full array of roof panels, affordable solutions may not generate surplus, salable electricity, but they are a starting point to greater energy savings.
Affordable Solar Power Options
Part of the expense of solar power systems is the supplying of the electricity necessary to run a home. If those needs are reduced, a smaller solar system is better able to meet them. Lights, appliances, water and climate conditioning are the systems that require electrical power in a home. Energy efficiency can be increased by replacing inefficient light bulbs, purchasing energy-saving appliances and by improving insulation. A poorly insulated home is a tremendous energy waster. Outdated windows, especially, are a major source of energy loss and increased heat and/or air conditioning costs. More efficient energy use leads to lower costs now and a reduction in need later on when and if solar panels are installed.
Solar appliances including fans, lights and water heaters are less-expensive ways to benefit from the sun's bountiful supply of energy. While a solar water heater can cost $5,000 or more, it is far less than a full solar panel system and will reduce energy costs immediately. Solar lights provide inexpensive outside ambience, while fans not only require no electricity to run, but they help to cool a home passively.
Passive solar power involves working with the cycle of the sun to store heat within thermal substances. This method is more effective in homes specifically built with it in mind, but retrofitting existing homes can help as well. Adding a thermal wall that soaks up southerly sun by day and slowly diffuses it by night is one option. The placement of windows and proper insulation are other aspects of passive solar designs.
Other ways to make solar power more affordable include applying for rebates, grants or low-interest loans earmarked for solar or green energy upgrades that may be offered at the state and/or federal level. Another option is green power generated from renewable resources that may be purchased in lieu of gas- or coal-generated electricity. While it's not a personal solar power system, it's a step in the right direction.