What Makes a Solar Energy House? How the Sun Powers Up Your Home  

by Pool Builders on 06-08-2010 in Articles

For thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of years, humankind has been harnessing the power of sunlight to provide for our most basic of needs. The methods by which primitive man used solar energy for heating, lighting, preparing food, and bathing are not exactly as high-tech as we like to think of our modern methods, but man already knew where to turn to for energy.
Today, there is a structure known as a solar energy house. A homeowner may choose to build a house that relies purely or partially on solar power to save home energy that is generated by the coal power plants connected to the city's grid system and consequently invest in a system that generates huge savings in electricity and other utility bills in the long run.
Here are the different ways by which a house can take advantage of the sunlight streaming freely from outer space into the Earth's atmosphere.

1. Portable photovoltaic systems. These are small devices equipped with the ability to absorb energy from the sun and convert this into electricity. A calculator that runs on solar-powered batteries is one of these, and so is a solar lawn mower, and solar RV appliances.

2. Solar pool heaters. Harnessing solar power to heat the swimming pool in your backyard is a practical and cost-effective means to take advantage of sunshine and save home energy at the same time. Solar pool heaters are often open-loop systems that circulate running water through a solar collector and directly into the swimming pool or a hot tub. These systems are, admittedly, not inexpensive (around $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the model specifications), but they pay for themselves in the long run. In addition, governments and private financing companies offer a variety of incentives for investing in energy-efficient systems, including solar power systems, wind energy systems, and geothermal heating systems.

3. Solar water heater. A solar energy house usually has a closed-loop solar water heater, which consists of a system of pipes whose one end is connected to a solar collector and whose other end is connected to a regular water tank. Inside the pipe is a natural anti-freeze fluid known as glycol. This solution collects the solar heat trapped inside the collector and transfers it to the water. This is one of the most popular uses of solar power, but homeowners have to be careful enough to maintain the system in the long run. A common mistake is overheating the glycol to a temperature more than it is needed. Just because sunshine comes in free doesn't mean you can heat up the glycol all you want, or the glycol breaks down. A good way to prevent this is to use an additive that prevents the breakdown of glycol or have a small vent built into the solar collector. The glycol must also be replaced once every year. Yearly maintenance of your solar water heater can cost only $25 if you know how to properly take care of it.

4. Independent photovoltaic system. A full-fledge solar energy house does not only save home energy by providing a supplementary source of energy, it runs off-grid purely on solar power. This is most possible if you live in an area closer to the equator, such as in the Sun Belt states. A house that runs on off-grid electricity may even generate an extra income for the family living in it by connecting the solar energy system to the city's mainstream power grid and selling excess electricity generated from solar power. An independent photovoltaic system consists of solar panels to collect sunlight and convert it into electricity, batteries for storing electricity, an inverter to convert electricity into usable AC current, and a backup generator just in case you go weeks without the sun.

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