Solar energy is hot right now. What with the looming energy crisis, fuels prices rocketing, and the very real concern that the burning of fossil fuels is significantly contributing to climate change and the ill health of our planet, the world is looking towards renewable energies with fervour. The fastest growing renewable, and probably the easiest for the public to adopt themselves, is solar energy, harnessed via photovoltaic panels. But just what are solar photovoltaic panels and how do they work?
The simple explanation is that solar photovoltaic panels convert the enormous energy of the sun into electricity, which can then be used around the home or workplace, to power a car, or fed into the grid. Photovoltaics have been used as far back as 1958, when they were first put to use powering satellites in space. Since then, the technology has been under intense research and development and efficiency is improving at a steady rate. We are gradually getting closer to a solar revolution, whereby more and more homes and businesses can take advantage of free power from the sun.
How Photovoltaic Panels Work
Photovoltaic, or PV cells, are manufactured from semiconductors such as silicon, which is currently the most common material used in solar panels. When photons in sunlight hit the cell, they (and therefore their energy) are absorbed by the semiconductor, knocking electrons loose so that they are able to flow freely. The cells’ electric field ensures they flow in a certain direction, resulting in an electric current. Solar panels also consist of metal contacts on the top and bottom of the cell, allowing us to draw off the current and an inverter converts the direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which can then be used directly in the home, stored in batteries, or fed back into the grid.
How Photovoltaic Panels Differ
A number of different solar panels have been developed, utilising a variety of materials, of which crystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells are currently the most common. Panels made up of such cells need an antireflective coating to prevent shiny silicon from reflecting photons away rather than absorbing them and must be protected within a sturdy frame covered with glass plate to protect them from the elements. These panels are the ones you are most likely to see on the roofs of homes. The materials used to manufacture thin film panels are less fragile than silicon so they do not have to be mounted in a rigid frame, giving them greater flexibility. They can be used on curved roofs and can even be sprayed or printed onto a panel, allowing for a wider range of applications – some are starting to be used directly on windows.
Photovoltaic Panel Efficiency and Costs
A huge amount of research is being carried out in an effort to increase efficiency and decrease costs. Currently, the most efficient panels are able to capture up to 34% of the available sunlight and convert it into electricity but new solar cells are able to capture more of the sun’s wavelengths, enabling a 44% efficiency rate. This will only increase as the technology improves and the more widespread solar panels become, the cheaper they will be. Combine this with research into more cost-effective materials and solar panels will soon be more affordable and more efficient.
About the author:
Journalist and copywriter Emily Buckley is passionate about a cleaner, greener, energy-sufficient future and has written articles about the exciting world of renewable energy technology for AGL Solar Energy in Australia. AGL is one of Australia’s leading renewable energy companies. Their commitment to renewable energy means they know solar PV and solar hot water and how to source cost-effective solar solutions for their customers.
They say we should get eight hours of sleep every night. While many of us fall well short of this figure, a sizable chunk of the time we spend at home, is spent tucked up in bed. But think about it, what is this costing us? While we sleep every night, our homes are using valuable energy all around the clock.
Your home may be energy efficient, kitted out with double glazing, loft insulation etc. It does not, however, go to sleep when you do. While you are recharging your batteries, heating and appliances are still on duty and costing you money.
Rising energy costs mean that our bills are not getting any healthier. By reducing our usage at night, however, we can help reduce the impact we have on our wallets, as well as our planet.
Put Ceiling Fans to Good Use
We all like to stay warm at night. While turning our heating down overnight seems a very sensible way to reduce our bills, it is not a very attractive one. You can, however, use a ceiling fan to help get the most out of your heating.
Remember in the summer when you tried to keep cool with a fan? Despite the refreshing breeze they offered, they also had an annoying habit of blowing hot air around the room, you can use this annoying habit to keep you warm while you sleep.
Heat from your radiators rises, and spends most of the night hanging around the ceiling, trapped in by the insulation above. You could bath in this warm air by investing in a bunk bed, but if this doesn’t appeal you can have your fan blow downwards, recirculating the warm air and allowing you to keep your heat on a lower setting.
Put Your Computer in Energy Saving Mode
You may have been told that a computer uses more energy turning on and off, than it does when left on. This is a myth, your desktop computer is very power hungry and adds a nice lump onto your electricity bill. Many of us are guilty of leaving desktops on overnight, this is perfectly understandable, if you check your emails before you leave home in the morning, you don’t have the time to wait while your computer awakes from its slumber.
Many of us also have the CPU, plugged into a regular extension lead, alongside ancillaries such as printers, by replacing this with a power managing lead to can considerably reduce the energy your computer uses. A power managing lead allows the CPU to remain on all the time, while its power draining colleagues can be put to bed whenever they are not needed.
A good lead will cost up to £50 but, during its lifespan, will pay for itself many times over. As a bonus you can buy one with a built in surge protector, and help safeguard your new green machine.
Put Your Kitchen to Bed
Despite their manufacturer’s claims, gadgets such as toasters and kettles all can use energy when left plugged in, so make sure they are all switched off at the mains overnight. Sadly, you cannot do the same with your fridge or freezer without dire consequences.
You can, however, reduce the cost of your freezer by making sure it is full. While it may seem counter-intuitive, empty space in a freezer costs much more to keep cold, by filling your freezer you are helping to reduce its workload. When you take a large item out, replace it with a bottle of water to make sure there are no expensive empty spaces.
About the author:
Author Bio: Joe is a blogger for Force8 doors and windows who writes about property, home improvement, interior design and green living.
Solar panels are attractive for primarily two reasons. First, they have a lot of appeal because of their “renewable energy” tagline since renewables are the in-thing now. They’re trendy, and those who find an opportunity to implement them will often do so for that reason alone, regardless of the costs and benefits. The second reason would simply be the opportunity to save money on electric and energy bills.
All green peace aside, solar panels can be an extremely practical energy solution for your home. Depending on how your home is set up, where you’re located and how much sun you get will determine whether or not solar energy is a practical solution for you, in your particular situation.
So how do we tell whether or not our homes and living situations are ripe for a solar panel inclusion? Let’s cover some of the major factors.
Surrounding Topography and Direct Sunlight – If you don’t get a lot of sun to your home because of shade trees, mountains or other topographical factors, then installing a solar panel, or even including one in new construction probably isn’t your best bet.
The amount of energy that those panels will draw depends heavily on how they’re positioned and how much exposure they get to direct sunlight. That means that even if you live in an area where there are typically a lot of thunderstorms and cloud cover, Seattle for example, your return isn’t going to be as good as it would be in other places.
Stage of Homeownership – What I mean by stage, is whether you are in a position as a homeowner where you’re either getting ready to build a new home, move into a new one or if you’re considering solar panels as a solution for a home you’ve lived in for a long time.
Ideally, those who are getting ready to construct a new home are in the best situation to incorporate solar panels for a variety of reasons:
Solar companies will often include the full price in with your mortgage, taking away the sting of the typical five figure price tag.
New construction makes it much easier for you to place the solar panels in the ideal spot, as you’ll be able to work with the solar company and your contractor to install the panels where they’d get the most direct sunlight. This kind of flexibility isn’t available with a home that has already been built.
Installing the panels in a new home also gives you a better opportunity to conceal them, or have them installed as more aesthetically pleasing roof shingle-style panels.
If you’re not building a new home, don’t throw in the towel yet. It’s not a deal breaker. Though if you are, and you’re interested in incorporating solar power, you’ll have a much easier time getting the job done right and getting the most out of your panels.
Risk of Power Outages – The practicality level of solar panels goes up a few notches if you live in a place where you lose electricity often. Solar kits can be set up to act as generators in the event that you lose power.
The downside is that if you live in an area where you lose power often, you probably live in a stormy area, which means less direct sunlight.
Whether or Not you’re Settled In – Solar panels, depending on what size you install can save you a lot on your monthly electric bill, though you’ll typically need to give it around eight years before the panels pay for their original cost.
If you plan on staying in your home for the long term (or at least more than a decade), solar panels are far more practical, simply due to the fact that you will make money off of them.
This is another way that new home construction is a friendly scenario for going solar, since most people who build their home plan on staying there permanently.
Deciding – Solar panels are definitely a trendy option, and while they can save some people a lot of money, they’re not for everyone.
Take these factors into consideration and use them to decide how practical solar energy would be for your home. It’s a big investment, so make sure to take the time to be absolutely sure that they’ll pay off for you in the long term.
Natasha Risinger blogs about energy. Her aricles have appeared on personal finance and eco blogs. Click here www.texaselectricityproviders.com for Texas electricity.
When most people think of the cabin, they think of that classic log home. They think of the wood stove and fireplace, the rustic décor, and the uncertainty of indoor plumbing. All reasonable and expected thoughts. Visually, the cabin hasn’t changed much over the years, depending, of course, on what you consider a cabin. Most people consider the cabin to be a structure made from timber surrounding it, or at least made to look like it was made from that timber. In any case, while the cabin is maintained a certain aesthetic, it has also evolved with our changing sensibilities. We’re much more ecologically aware than ever before and the cabin, in its many forms, is a representation of that.
One aspect of the cabin many don’t consider is how it impacts the environment around it and the fact the cabin is an environmentally friendly structure. Not only does it allow us to escape from our hectic lives, relax, and get away from it all, and maybe even learn a little self-reliance, it defines a new way of thinking, despite its historic existence. What makes the cabin such a successful “alternative” home?”
It’s about sustainability. Technically, a cabin, especially the classic cabin, is the definition of sustainability, if done right. That is to say, if local timber was sourced to construct the cabin, then new trees were planted in their place, sustainability has been achieved. In the case of the cabin of the future, the same approach would be taken. The timber cut to build the cabin should have a positive impact on the local ecosystem, as should anything planted in their place.
It’s about energy efficiency. Most modern homes feature energy efficient appliances and there’s no reason this can’t be allied to the cabin. I know many people who bring old appliances from home to furnish their cabins-which is also a good thing, in terms of keeping those appliances out of landfills or rotting in a garage or shed somewhere. However, older appliances aren’t typically energy efficient and can be wasteful. The cabin of the future would use appliances that draw as little electricity as possible and have minimal impact on the environment.
It’s about the windows. Windows are related directly to energy efficiency, especially when it comes to heating. Newer windows are much more efficient at insulating interiors. It allows cabins to have larger windows, without compromising interior air temperature and who doesn’t love large windows -even more so when you have no neighbors looking back (other than the occasional deer).
It’s about the power of the sun. Solar panels, that is. There are many cabins that already employ the use of solar panels and use them to great efficiency, from heating water, to powering appliances and water pumps. Solar panels are becoming increasingly effective and affordable and will allow cabins of the future to be completely off the grid, while powering all of our modern conveniences (and maybe even a heated floor).
Our society has done a good job of breaking the word “green” up into basically two different meanings. The political implication of the idea alone has caused a rift in the way we think about and deal with the topic as a culture.
Based on their lifestyle (and often their political affiliation), people primarily think of the term “green” in one of two different ways. We’ll call them practical sustainability and moral obligation:
1. Practical Sustainability – There are actually a lot of people who lean right politically, who also love the idea of green energy and food because of the opportunity to save money, being able to eat healthier and the idea of living off the grid. These people would more often describe these things using terms like, “sustainable solutions” or “organic food”.
The motivating factor for these people essentially ends with their own personal benefit, and isn’t associated with the environmental factor. That’s not to say they aren’t concerned with the environment, but the belief system is definitely different than those who would fall into the next category.
2. Moral Obligation – In addition to believing in the savings and health benefits, people on this side of the green movement would also assume a certain obligation to go green, regardless of whether or not it benefits them personally.
The belief in a collective benefit is stronger for these people and would consider themselves part of the green “movement” more so than just people trying to make their home more sustainable, or eat more organic food.
Understandably, this difference belief system causes us to look very differently at the issue of green energy and organic food depending on our political background. In a very real and tangible way, it embodies the ever present struggle between individualism and collectivism, or a belief in “the common good”. Now it’s true that you can’t always boil those differences down to such basic beliefs, as there are other schools of thought and methods of reasoning.
Yet for many people, this is where it all starts. The spirit of independence and the spirit of cooperation, though they can exist side by side, will inevitably cause people to look at every area of life differently, depending on which way of life they prefer or feel the most sympathy towards.
The fiercely self-reliant will see green energy as a way to get off the grid, keep more money in their pockets and disconnect themselves more from centralized government. At the same time, those with collectivist views will look at the green movement as an opportunity to partner with other likeminded people to accomplish something that they believe will benefit everyone.
Thankfully, we live in a country where these to view can co-exist fairly peacefully. The bottom line is that saving money and eating better is something that can be appreciated by people from all walks of life, so we should rest in that commonality and continue to implement green solutions in our lives as we see most fitting.
Those who want to collaborate for overall environmental benefit should do so, and those who don’t should be free to sit on the sidelines. In America we can be thankful for both the innovation that allows us to have good organic food and new energy technology that allows us to save money, as well as the freedom to choose whether or not to use them.
Elliot Shah is a specialist in ecofriendly living. He loves to share his tips for going green on environmentally concious blogs. Click to learn more about EnergyHelpLine.
It is no secret that energy bills are rising higher and causing financial hardship for many people. There are numerous ways you can reduce your energy consumption thus reducing your bills. There many not be an immediate result, but with some changes in how you use energy within your home, over time you’ll begin to see a reduction in your energy bills.
Electrical Goods – Televisions – Computers – Phone Chargers
All of these goods are the worst offenders for eating up electricity. People leave their phone charger plugged in, put their television on standby mode by pressing the remote control button, leave computer equipment plugged in. By turning off your TV set at the unit, then switching the plug off, you are saving money and that hasn’t cost you a penny. Never leave chargers plugged into the wall when not in use. Unplug it. Items left plugged in and turned on are still using electricity. Don’t allow appliances to get into a poor working condition. Have them serviced regularly, appliances which are old need more energy to work and will cost you more in the long run.
Kitchens are the hub of activity in a home. Dishwashers, washing machines, kettles, cookers, toasters and other kitchen aids are buzzing, whistling and active for most of the time. If you use an electric kettle then don’t fill to the top. Only use the water you need. Washing machines are another item which eat away your energy. Sort your laundry into colours, don’t overload or underload the machine and do your washing at night. Cut down on tumble drying as much as you can. As tempting as it is to pile your towels in there, dry them off first and then put them in the dryer for ten minutes to fluff them up. Electricity is cheaper at night. Most energy companies have a day and night rate. Use the lowest temperature available on your washing machine and dryer. Dishwashers are another way where you can save money without blinking. Don’t cram your dishwasher full so you cannot fit another teaspoon in and put the dishwasher on at night before you go to bed. If you get into good habits, your dishwasher should only be used once a day if you have a family, if alone or in a couple, as long aa you rinse your dishes, no more than every two to three days should suffice. Turn off all appliances at the plug when not in use. Fridge freezers can eat away energy too. Make sure the element at the back of the unit is dust free and defrost your freezer regularly. An iced up freezer will use more energy.
Check Your Utility Bills
Don’t rely on the energy company to always get your meter readings correct. Make sure you submit an actual reading on a regular basis so you know exactly how much you’re spending and how much you’re using. If you pay by direct debit, then make sure you’re on the best tariff possible. Look over past consumption, most utility companies now have online access and you can look at graphs for your usage. You should be able to see a pattern of usage and which months you use more energy. Work out why this is and look at the most offending gadgets and with some changes to your own behaviours, you can save money without it costing you a penny.
Author Colin McDonald.
A keen consumer rights blogger, I am always looking to get the best deals and share methods of saving money. I am currently working with www.havenpower.com to compile a set of energy wawareness guides.
There are several factors that need to be considered when calculating the number of solar panels needed to power a home. These include:
* Current Energy Usage
* Sun Availability and Weather
* Roof Space and Incline Angle
* Solar Panel Power Output
Determining the number of solar panels needed to power a system is one of the most challenging to figure out. However, there are a variety of information sources to help estimate the number and sizes of panels needed to power a home.
The first step is to calculate the number of watts of electricity used on a daily base to power a home. Many electric utilities include an analysis of their customers’ electricity usage with their bills. There are online tools to determine your usage if one has not been provided. Of course, the consumption of electrical power is highly variable throughout the year. The objective is to look over an entire year to determine the average usage per day.
The size of a solar powered system can range from being just a supplemental source of electricity to one that is totally off the electrical grid. This needs to be understood before the number of solar panels can be determined.
Because solar panels draw on the sun’s energy for power, it’s important to factor in the geographic location of the solar panel system to determine how much solar energy is available to be extracted.
The type of seasonal weather patterns and number of sunlight hours per day need to be determined.
The amount of roof space, incline angle and polar orientation to the sun need to be considered to determine the amount of direct sunlight available to the solar panels. The orientation of the solar panels toward the sun can produce a wide variance in the amount of electricity that can be captured.
Solar panels are manufactured in different sizes and configurations to produce a specific amount of wattage under optimum operating conditions. Solar panels are designed to produce a specific number of watts under peak conditions. They can vary from 50W to over 500W of electrical output. Once the other variables are calculated, you will have a good indication of the number and sizes of solar panels needed to match the current electrical usage.
This online calculator can help to estimate the available solar power for all the states in the U.S.. It also calculates the number of solar watts needed to cover 100 percent of current electrical usage off the grid.
Batteries are needed to store the solar electricity for use after peak sunlight hours. This battery bank designer can help to explain and configure a solar storage system.
About the author:
This article was written by the team at Infinite Energy a Perth based solar panel company. Find them on Google +, come and see their fantastic showroom at 49 Labouchere Road, South Perth, WA, 6151 or give them a call on 1300 074 669.
Recycling or the process of processing waste commodities so that they can become reusable has gained the approval of many environmentalists across the globe. This is the reason why many responsible recycling companies such as Elgin recycling (Elginrecycling.com) continue to expand in the 21st century.
At present, many people make it a point to recycle to limit or avoid environmental harm. Below are some of notable ways of how recycling helps the environment.
Recycling Conserves Resources for Future Generations
By utilizing recycled items, today’s generation effectively reduces the use of natural resources to manufacture new products. Therefore, more resources will be enjoyed by future generations.
With the earth somewhat experiencing a world-wide environmental deterioration, it can be argued that the said advantage is the most important one. It is a fact that paper is manufactured with the use of trees and by recycling paper; everyone can reduce or even totally limit the annihilation of forests.
Recycling Reduces Greenhouse Gases
Green houses gases weaken the ozone layer’s ability to shun away the sun’s rays. It should be noted that they contain ultraviolet radiation that may damage the eyes and the skin if left unfiltered.
Recycling plays an essential role in limiting the production of greenhouse gases by reducing the use of petroleum products and coal—the primary contributors—of greenhouse gases.
Recycling Reduces the Need for Raw Materials
Recycled products can be used as exceptional alternatives to raw materials. In general, raw materials are obtained from natural resources to produce new items. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials by providing appropriate substitutes that can be used in the manufacturing procedures.
Reduces Landfill Use
If the recycling rate is increased, then the need for additional landfills can be drastically reduced. It should be noted that the number of landfills are growing across the US because of the rampant use of various resources.
People who live near the said areas are at risk of developing serious health conditions primarily because of exposure to water contaminants and air pollution.
With the help of responsible recycling companies such as Elgin recycling (Elginrecycling.com), the amount of garbage that will be thrown in landfills can be considerably reduced. In the long run, such development can reduce the need for such dumping sites.
As the recycling business continues to expand, it can be said that a greener and more eco-friendly environment can be developed sooner than expected. Who knows? In the long run, the need for incinerators, landfills, and pollution control will be totally eliminated because of superlative recycling.
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it have to mean sacrificing luxuries that you love. Check out these simple tips for living a healthier, greener lifestyle and saving money at the same time!
Drink More Water
Why spend money on cola or coffee when you could drink water instead? If you don’t like the taste of water fresh out of the tap, try keeping it in the fridge for a while before drinking it. Water filters can also improve the taste of your water. Yes, they cost money, but each filter lasts a long time, and it works out cheaper per litre than any typical soft drink.
Stop using your car for short journeys – try walking instead. If you must drive, do several errands in one run to save you time and fuel later. Learn how to drive efficiently – use cruise control when you’re driving on flat terrain, and try not to accelerate or break suddenly. Consider learning “hypermiling” techniques to squeeze the most fuel possible out of your car.
If you want to enhance your “green cred” even further, consider joining the office car pool. This will save you money, reduce the wear and tear on your car, and mean that at least a couple of days a week you get to relax and let someone else do the driving during rush hour.
Use a Cold Setting for Your Laundry
Depending on the type of washing machine you use, as much as 85% of the energy used per washing cycle comes from heating up the water. Use cold water instead. Your clothes will still be cleaned, and you’ll see instant savings on your energy.
Use Real Towels
Paper towels are a waste of money and energy. Instead of buying a roll or two of paper towel each week, keep a supply of rags and dish cloths. Those old t-shirts that are too tattered to donate to a charity shop will work fine for mopping up spills. It costs less energy to throw those rags in the laundry than it does to make and transport paper towels to a supermarket. If your rags get too tatty, throw them out and cut up some more old clothes.
Work From Home
If carpooling isn’t enough for you, ask your boss if you can work from home sometimes. Even spending one day a week away from the office is a good thing. It reduces congestion, cuts down on the amount of petrol you use, and saves you time and money.
Upgrade Your Appliances
Admittedly, upgrading your appliances costs some money – at least In the short term. However, it’s still worth doing, especially if you have a very old oven, fridge, freezer or washing machine. Older appliances are nowhere near as energy-efficient as newer ones. Upgrading to an Energy Star A rated appliance could save you a lot of energy over the lifetime of the appliance.
If you can’t afford to replace your appliances now, don’t worry too much about it. Put some money aside so that you can buy a low-energy appliance when it’s time to replace your older white goods.
About the author:
Nowadays you are able to use solar energy for residential homes to supply hot water, lightings and heating. While the initial investment is high, you can pay for itself over a very short period of time. Rather than paying power utilities for use of non-renewable resources, you can save money and help preserve the environs too.
Most solar power systems for residential homes also compliment the conventional utility systems in your home. On extreme cold months, hot water can be heated using conventional sources. During these extreme heat (or cold) period, your solar energy system can be supplemented your power need with conventional systems.
Depending on the type of solar power systems you decided on, the initial investment can range from about $5,000 or more for a do it yourself home owner to a much higher systems that use for heating, cooling, cooking and lighting as well as hot water. For a small home made solar pool heating system can be put together for as little as $1,000 or possibly even less. Use of recycled material in these solar power residential systems can reduce the cost significantly.
Even so, if you are not a do it yourself handy person, you can have a competent, accredited and ascertained contractor to install a complete solar power system for your home. And of course, this is more costly than a do it yourself system but it will still pay off in the end. Your solar energy system will have a warranty and you will be guaranteed of reliable operation. If you choose to build your own system from commercially available components, but there is no such guarantee or warranty.
Many residential homes have large roof top lays out of solar panels called solar photovoltaic panels. This category of solar panel is often used to heat swimming pools and supply some or all of the household’s hot water needs. Oftentimes several solar arrays are needed to meet all the requirements of an average family home.
How modest or complex a solar power system you pick out, you will savor the knowledge that you are able to exercise your part to save the decreasing resources of our planet. You will also enjoy the reality that you will save on your utility bills and, over time, your solar power system will paid for itself in no time.
Get more information on using solar energy to heat and light your home by visiting home made power.