How to use Solar Powered Products to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

With rising gas and fuel prices seemingly never ending, it’s no wonder that more and more people are embracing the idea of a ‘self sufficient home’. Whilst you may be no stranger to this idea, it still may be a distant dream for many. It’s no secret that investing properly in energy efficient products can be an expensive investment, but when done correctly, and with the help of the right suppliers for your products, can massively help in making this unrealistic target a little more achievable, no matter what your budget is.

The question really to ask yourself is – how self sufficient do I really want to be? Do I want to rely on my home’s entire electric power from solar power? Or do I just want to invest in solar powered products so that I decrease how much electricity I use currently from the National Grid? It’s important to be clear from the outset; there will be nothing worse than an over (or under for that matter) investment and soon realising that you’ve put in too much/little time/effort into what you really wanted to achieve.

So what’s the best strategy to take? Do some research. There are literally thousands of articles, sites, blogs that document self sufficient home options, products, tactics and experiences. Have a look around for a blog from someone who’s done exactly what you want to do – from the smallest of lifestyle changes to full blown solar panel installations. Chances are they have already made all the mistakes you could possible make. Learn from others, and use their advice to help you work out what you really want.

Then have a look at websites that offer energy efficient, solar powered products. See what they have to offer. There are so many products that have now been tailored to use less electricity, or to utilise solar energy. You’ll soon be putting together a nice little shopping list – phone chargers that are powered by mini solar panels, hugely energy efficient led light bulbs (I heard recently that there are bulbs in production that will last up to 20 years in a domestic setting!), solar garden lights, etc…

Thinking of going all the way, and installing solar panels? This is truly the biggest investment you can make into turning your home into a self sufficient ‘entity’. There is a huge drawback to this and if you’ve done a little research you’ll see that it’s well documented the prices for installation are huge. The panels themselves don’t cost too much, well not in comparison to the installation and labour. So if you can’t afford this, but want to feed your house with energy via the sun, what’s the best thing to do? The answer: DIY solar panel kits. Over the course of a weekend you can update your home with this renewable energy solution.

The kits can range to suit any home type and power output. So if you’re looking to power a small cottage or a large town house, there will be a product that can be specifically tailored to match your energy use. And don’t be put off by the daunting task of installing them yourself. It won’t be the easiest task, but no rational person would think it would be (I hope!). These kits are made for those with little experience. Have a look online for people who have had a hand themselves, see how they succeeded and what problems they went through. Also you’ll be then aware if you do need any extra help for certain parts. Even if you do require the help of a professional for some of it, there’s no doubt you’ll still end up saving a lot of money than having them installed completely by a third party.

Embracing solar energy is a fantastic thing to do, but ensure you do it properly. Take the time to plan out what you want to achieve and then prepare how you’re going to go about doing it. If you can afford higher quality products do it. Solar technology is like any other type of technology; the more you spend the better quality product you’ll receive, and the more energy you will produce. Don’t be lead into a ‘false economy’, and buy products that cost less but don’t help you save any more money. And most of all, go forth and be green!

Alternative Energy Sources

The collective consensus on alternative energy is that it is a type of energy that is derived from nontraditional sources. Hydroelectric, solar, and wind energy are forms of alternative energy that do not use natural resources, are environmentally sound, and are renewable.

Alternative Energy Sources

Through the ages, man has thought of alternative energy sources. Wood was an initial energy source from the early days of man. Coal was introduced as a way to conserve the dwindling forests by the year 1500 as Europe teetered on the verge of catastrophic disaster. Petroleum was introduced as a way to reduce dependence on costly and hard to find whale oil.

As time has passed, more ideas have been generated to produce more favorable and enduring energy sources. With worldwide interest in reducing our planet’s carbon footprint, alternative energy sources that can reduce our reliance upon declining stores of fossil fuels while reducing our carbon output, have been found.

Solar energy is a way to generate power from the sun. Wind energy, or use of wind turbines, harnesses power from the wind. Geothermal energy is a way to use the deep Earth’s natural heat to produce electric energy. Bio-fuels, hydrogen, and nuclear power are also forms of alternative energy sources, but are under intense scrutiny due to concerns over their safety.

When an energy source is labeled as “renewable”, it means that this type of energy can be replenished naturally. Wood is still the number one renewable energy and actually emits the same amount of carbon whether burned or allowed to degrade on its own.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is a cheap and green way to produce electricity from sunlight. Solar panels work to produce electricity by capturing the sun’s rays by use of photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells then convert the sunlight into electricity that can be used to power lights and appliances. While PV cells work better when there is direct sunlight, even cloudy days can generate some power as well.

Solar panels are made up of PV cells and can be attached to your home’s roof or walls. The photovoltaic cells are made up of at least one and sometimes two layers of a semiconducting material. The material is usually silicon. When the sun hits a PV cell there is an electric field produced across the cell’s layers.

PV Solar Panels

Photovoltaic cells come in a wide range of styles and colors. You can choose PV solar panels that look like normal roof tiles or panels that are transparent for use on glass or on top of a conservatory. Each PV cell is rated on strength based upon the amount of energy the cell can produce in full sunlight and is measured in kilowatt peak, or kWp.

Using solar electricity is beneficial in many ways. Since solar power is green power and renewable, there is no harmful CO2 emission. In addition, PV solar panels will cut your electricity bills by around 40%, and will reduce your household’s carbon footprint. You can even sell excess energy that your solar panels produce or store the extra energy in batteries for use on days that are a bit more cloudy, and when you need it.

Solar panels are a great addition to your home as long as you have considered factors such as how much sunlight your home receives each day. If your house has a roof or wall that faces south or 90 degrees within south and receives a great deal of sunlight each day, then solar panels are a good idea.

The roof must be strong enough to hold the solar panels. If you are not sure, ask a building expert or solar panel installer. Do not forget to get permission from your local housing authority before commencing work on your solar panel project, and keep in mind it is better to hire a crew to install the solar panels if you are not sure of your installation abilities. Solar panels are quite costly and it is better to have them installed properly than to risk an accident.

Wind turbines are devices, which convert kinetic energy into mechanical energy. A wind turbine effectively harnesses the wind and turns it into electricity. Small, household sized turbines are called micro-wind or small-wind turbines and can help to power lights and other appliances found in your home.

Large blades are the defining characteristic of wind turbines. These blades are blown by the wind and rotate around, driving the turbine, which produces the electricity. The windiest conditions produce the greatest amount of energy.

Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines

Household wind turbines are available as either a freestanding structure that is placed in the most exposed position on the land, or are mounted on the roof of the home. The freestanding wind turbines are roughly twice the size of the roof-mounted variety.

There are many benefits of using wind electricity such as cutting not only your electricity bill, but also your carbon footprint. Wind electricity can reduce your energy costs by up to 40% depending upon your wind production. Any excess energy your wind turbine creates can be stored in batteries for future needs or in some cases, sold to electric companies.

Wind turbines are not for every home as obstacles such as large trees, hills, and buildings can interfere with the amount of wind your turbine receives. If your home is located in a windy area, at least receiving 5m/s winds, and is not obstructed from direct wind, turbine electricity production might be for you.

In order to make the most of wind energy it is wise to invest in the most energy efficient household appliances and to keep your batteries charged with excess electricity. There are many more energy saving tips, which range from hanging your laundry out to dry, to not using appliances during peak times.

Maintenance on a wind turbine system is fairly simple, as checks are only needed to be done once every two or three years. Wind turbines have an overall life expectancy of about 20 years and battery life can range from 6 to 10 years.

Geothermal heat pumps are also known as ground source heat pumps and work by using the Earth as a heat source in the winter and a heat sink in the summer. Because the Earth stays at a relatively constant temperature beneath the surface, heat pumps take advantage of this to provide energy to the home.

Ground Source Heat

Ground Source Heating System

Ground source heat pumps require loops of pipes to be buried in the ground around or under your home. The pipes, called ground loops are filled with water and antifreeze and are then circulated through the ground. The heat from the ground is absorbed into the pipe fluid, and then is pumped into the heat pump via a heat exchanger. The heat pump takes the heat from the fluid loops for use in heating the house and the fluid now passes through and back into the ground to absorb more heat from the ground.

In order to absorb the most heat from the ground, the loops need to be long. The length of a ground source heat pump’s loops will depend entirely upon the space in which the loops can be placed, as ground loops are coiled into horizontal trenches that are dug about two meters deep. Vertical installation can be done to a depth of 100 meters in areas of limited space.

Geothermal heat pumps do require some electricity to run, but can overall cut your fuel bills and reduce your home’s carbon emissions. Heat pumps also need to run constantly in order to be efficient, as they produce a lower temperature heat and will likely never feel hot to the touch, as a normal radiator will.

In order to determine whether a geothermal heat pump is right for your household, it is important to consider a few factors. As even smaller yards can accommodate a vertical installation of ground loops, it is at least important to be able to have room for the digging equipment. In addition, the more insulation your home has, the better as insulation and draft proofing your home will save you money and allow your heat pump to run more efficiently.

Heat pumps are not recommended as a replacement for gas heaters, but work well as a replacement for electric or coal systems. Contact your local housing authority to determine the need of permits before installing a heat pump and as always, hire a qualified construction contractor to assist you in planning your project to install any of these alternative energy products.