In today’s eco-conscious world, it’s almost impossible to ignore the need for conservation. Fuel costs are on the rise, utility bills keep surging, and we’re the ones who keep paying the price. But as we all know, things will get more expensive until we learn how to tap into available renewable resources, such as solar heating.
Solar panels have been a growing trend for some time now due to their unique benefits. However, despite the advantages they provide our world and wallet, they still haven’t been fully embraced by the culture at large. Therefore, they haven’t been given the chance to realize their full potential. As a homeowner, don’t be wary of new technology. Solar panels may look alien, but are actually quite a practical investment.
How It Works: Collect, Convert, and Conserve
For many, solar panels are a bit of a mystery. It’s true — there are a lot of complicated scientific explanations surrounding these products. Yet when you get down to it, the process is quite simple. A photovoltaic (PV) cell is attached to the roof and collects radiant heat from the sun. This energy is then harnessed and converted into thermal energy for the home. Enough PV cells (called an array) can actually fuel anything that is connected to them, including space heaters, water heaters, cooking appliances, and even your pool. If a battery is installed, the PV cells can store excess energy from sunny days, which can then be used anytime the sun is absent (night or cloudy days.)
Why It’s Worthwhile: A Clean Bill of Health
The reason solar heating has gained so much popularity is due to the additional savings it produces — not only for the budget, but the environment as well.
Cost Saver: Since it uses an abundant natural resource (the sun’s rays), you’re no longer relying on the utility company to provide energy, which can save you up to 10 – 40 percent on your monthly bills.
Save Energy: Natural gas is becoming a rare resource, so by using and storing a renewable resource, you’re helping to conserve on other forms of energy, which helps the environment and the nation’s economy.
Clean Energy: Not only does it save on personal utility bills by conserving energy, the energy it does utilize is clean. No pollutants or contamination is produced in its creation.
Where Is the Catch? Expensive, Elaborate Eyesores
If it saves money, helps the environment, and generates an endless supply of energy, then why isn’t everyone jumping on the bandwagon? Well, there are two main reasons: their initial cost and the way they look once they’re in place.
Solar panels aren’t cheap and can cost tens of thousands of dollars to install. Once they’re positioned on your roof, their awkward construction can appear cumbersome, unwieldy, and unsightly. In fact, many homeowners’ associations fight the solar heating trend, thinking their appearance devalues the entire neighborhood’s property.
What Can Be Done? How to Hide the Costs
So they come with drawbacks that make people nervous. But even these shortcomings can be avoided with some creative solutions:
Government Kickbacks: The government understands the importance of energy conservation and is so impressed with this renewable technology that they encourage people to install them. By giving tax breaks and other incentives to homeowners, the government sometimes pays up to half of your installation expenses.
Long Run: Though expensive at first, the money you will save over the years quickly makes up for the initial costs.
Blend In: A lot has changed over the years and improvements have been made. Instead of big, framed PV cells sitting on your roof, you can now buy actual roofing tiles (sometimes called solar shingles) with the cells right in them. They’re slightly darker than traditional shingles so it may look like your roof’s been patched up and it’s a bit more expensive, but they’re almost invisible and generate just as much power as framed arrays.
Underneath: If you have a metal roof, you could install them underneath. The sun heats the metal, which then powers the cells.
Hideout: If you don’t want to spend the extra money but still want your PV cells flying under the radar, many homeowners simply place them in out of the way locations. If they’re not visible from the street, you won’t be breaking any laws. So face them on the back of the house, the side of the home, or on top of flat patio roofs. But no matter what you do, have them professionally installed. If they’re not perfectly positioned, they may not receive the full power of the sun, which makes them less efficient.