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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.

Peter Anderson, Getty Images

Tip #1: See if your old solar panels can be reused.
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.

Dreamlight,Getty Images

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.

Alamy

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.

Alamy

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.




  • Chuck

    If anyone's interested in finding a professional to help with a solar installation, you should check out GreenHomeGuide.com. The site has a green professional services directory that is geographically searchable. It's pretty cool.

    Reply
  • Spirit Solar

    Lots of great tips, thank you! In the UK, we have a little less sunshine, but enough to make a solar system worthwhile (honest!). Our Government has recently introduced whats known as the "Feed in Tariff", which means homeowners with solar panels can claim payments for all the energy they produce, whether they use it or not. Excess electricity can also be sold back to the National Grid - all part of the programme to reach targets on reducing dependency on non renewable energy sources.
    Theres tons more info at http://www.spiritsolar.co.uk

    Reply
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