Check your electric bill over the last decade, and you'll find that energy costs are on the rise. You can thank several factors for this:
- fossil fuels are becoming harder to find,
- demand for energy escalates as populations increase,
- economic growth in developing nations leads to increased energy use, and
- the use of tech gadgets and devices requiring electricity continues to boom.
And because the the nation's aging electrical grid needs billions of dollars in investment, you can bet that the costs of running on electricity will continue to rise.
In addition, you'd like to do your part in keeping the Earth a greener place. You've probably heard that running your home on solar energy is a great way to both lower your electric bill and keep the Earth a cleaner place. Maybe it's time to give solar a closer look. Here are the top 10 things you need to know about running your home on solar energy.
#1 Solar has come a long way
Photovoltaic energy was first introduced in 1876 when William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Day experimented with selenium. They discovered that when selenium was exposed to light, it could produce electricity. Selenium was then used to create solar cells that were hardly efficient, but exciting in that they were a glimpse at a future energy source. Their work with selenium paved the way for future scientist to give us an energy source that didn't require motion.
In 1953 Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson and Daryl Chapin discovered a way to create silicon solar cells. These cells were able to produce enough energy to run small electrical devices. This was a huge discovery because now solar power was proving itself to be useful and not just a neat trick. By 1956, the first commercial-use solar cells were available. However, the extreme cost of around $300 for a 1 Watt cell kept solar power out-of-reach for all but the exceptionally wealthy.
In 1970, the cost of going solar started to come down from $100 a Watt to around $20 per Watt. Surprisingly, this innovation was all thanks to the efforts of Exxon-- a major player in the fossil fuels market-- whose off-shore oil rigs used solar cells to power the warning lights on the rigs. By this time, satellites for both the US and Soviet space programs boasted solar powered systems, although as a power source, solar power was largely used for novelty items such as toys.
By 1990, solar power was still not quite a common household thing, but the usage of solar technology was on the rise. Railroad crossings and in Australian Microwave towers as well as a few of those remote residences that it was just too costly to get power to.
New technology available today has given way to a major rise in solar usage. Not only is solar power more efficient-- and therefore more practical-- but the cost has decreased dramatically, paving the way for everyday use. New technology has also made it possible to create screen printed solar cells and solar fabric that can be used as siding in homes. Solar shingles can also be installed rather than the larger, more obvious panels.
#2 Costs of solar
Solar power in Las Vegas is now so cost effective that most homeowners could make the switch and have little to no difference in out-of-pocket expenses than paying a regular utility bill.
You are almost guaranteed a return on your investment if you choose to go with solar power. With the help of federal and state incentives and proper financing, an average system can be installed with little to no initial cost. The bonus is that once your system is paid off, your utility bill should practically disappear. As long as your household needs don't exceed the output of your system, then there shouldn't be a utility bill. Also, if your local utility participates in net metering, any excess energy produced by your system that you don't use will be credited to your account. If there were a time when your system was under performing because of inclement weather, then any energy you needed would already be credited to your account. In some cases, any net energy remaining on your account could end up as a check in your mailbox.
Studies have shown that homes that have solar energy systems typically sell for more than similar homes without them. The value of the solar panels can be factored into your price tag when you decide it's time to sell your home. With the growing trend in solar, more and more home buyers are interested in homes that already have solar panels installed.
The average life span of a solar energy system is anywhere from 25-35 years. With little maintenance required and having your system paid off, you can financially benefit from your system for a long time.
#3 Solar efficiency rates
Modern solar cells can be up to 23% efficient, compared to older models from the 1950's which boasted around 6% efficiency. 23% efficiency doesn’t sound like much; however, solar energy is available all day long, and if you live in a solar-friendly climate, current efficiency rates can be very effective. Even though 23% efficiency doesn't sound like much it, can produce enough energy that a modern home can use 100% solar for all their energy needs.
The reason that solar cells aren't very efficient is because the cell itself is a delicate piece of technology. Solar cells without a protective covering are easily destroyed and rendered useless by things like wind, rain, and snow. The use of reflective coatings and glass protects the fragile cells, but reduces the overall efficiency of the technology. If you're thinking about waiting for a better product, then think again. Today's products on the market have been a process of decades of study and implementation. Modern technology makes it possible to improve on old designs and make more efficient units, but it can take a long time for those advances to reach the consumer market. Why wait when you can start benefiting from the savings today?
#4 On the grid vs off the grid
Solar energy is created by cells absorbing sunlight and converting heat energy into electricity. The energy created in the cells either needs to be used immediately or be stored. Storing energy is necessary because when the sun goes down, or if it's cloudy, then the solar panels aren't producing. Batteries are a cost effective way to store the excess energy. This makes using solar energy very attractive for homes in remote areas where utilities are limited.
However, if your community participates in net metering, then the energy that isn't being immediately used is fed into the grid where your household will have access to the energy it needs. The benefit of being on the grid is that if your system does not produce enough energy to cover your household needs, you have access to energy as the need arises; you can still draw off the grid and lower your average utility bill.
#5 Advantages of solar
The advantages of solar include clean, renewable energy, and lower utility costs. As long as the sun is shining and you have a functioning solar power grid, you are capable of making your own energy. There are no chemical emissions from solar cells or burning of fossil fuels. The government also has many incentives for homeowners who wish to give solar a go. After your system is installed, there is virtually no maintenance, so you aren't likely to encounter further costs to maintain the system. Solar power is considered to be safer than using the traditional grid system.
Solar energy is readily available and cost effective. Taking advantage of solar power has long been a goal for mankind, but now the power of the sun is well within reach.
Enlygten Energy can help you take the first step towards seeing if solar energy is the right thing for you. Give us a call today for a free assessment.