Our Energy Savings series courtesy of Green Home Guide has already shown you how to conserve power while using kitchen appliances, with windows and lighting. Now we're hitting a concept that's especially top of mind, now that summer has kicked into high gear: solar power.
As this natural energy alternative becomes increasingly accessible, more and more homeowners are beginning to realize how much they can really
save by taking advantage of the sun's powerful rays. Read on to find out how you can save too.
Tip #1: See if your old solar panels can be reused
Peter Anderson, Getty Images
If you have old solar panels laying around (or maybe a neighbor has upgraded and donated their old ones) you might just be able to use them again
. If they're solar thermals, you're in luck: the only damage done is that the dark surface has probably fallen off and you'll need to paint the panels with flat black paint to absorb the sun's rays. Leave it out in the sun and see if it gets hot to make sure the paint works. Otherwise you may need to replace the insulation. If you have solar photovoltaic (PV) systems though, you'll need to seek out a professional from a PV company to see if they're still in good shape.
Tip #2: Consider the importance of professional installation
You may be reading this site because you to love to DIY -- and you might try to save some cash by installing a PV solar system yourself -- but you really can't skimp on a task that requires proper training
. Not only do the actual panels need to be installed on the roof, but a registered electrician is needed for the electrical connections. A pro -- namely, one with with NABCEP
certification -- will make sure the panels are installed at the right angle, that they're secure and that the shutoff system is in place.
Tip #3: Not ready to get rid of your on-demand water heater? Consider a combo
There are many ways you can use solar hot-water panels with a tankless on-demand water heater
. But note: You'll need an on-demand water heater with thermostatic controls to regulate the heat output. These controls make sure you're using as little energy as possible to get the solar-preheated water hot enough for your daily in-home water use. As always, it's wise to check in with a licensed solar installer if you're considering making this change. You'll want to make sure you have the right venting setup; double-wall stainless flues might be necessary.
Tip #4: Know your lingo
Even though they sound similar, "Passive House" designs and passive solar house design are two different concepts
. Passive House is dependent on a super-efficient envelope which holds onto the heat that's otherwise easily lost -- body heat, cooking, clothes drying, and so on. Meanwhile, a passive solar
house requires optimal orientation, which means large thermal masses that collect solar energy. It also requires a certain type of climate, which is difficult to nail down. The Passive House is the winner here -- a structure that's 75% to 90% more efficient than usual.
Check out SunPower's solar calculator
to estimate how much you can save by switching to solar energy.
This information is courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council. For more tips on saving energy and greening your home, visit USGBC's Green Home Guide.