Solar powered homes

Solar powered homes used to be thought of as part of alternative lifestyles only for hippies and hardcore environmentalists. That is no longer the case as solar power technologies have become more mainstream and affordable. With soaring energy costs and concerns over the environmental impact of using fossil fuels, solar powered homes are becoming more popular every year.

Completely solar powered homes will start off with using an architectural design that takes advantage of passive solar heating and daylighting techniques. By planning the design carefully, a home can be built that can get much of its heat and light from the sun. South facing windows allow the radiant energy from the sun into the house in the form of heat. The materials used in the floors and walls of the home will help to distribute this heat evenly throughout the home.

The same windows that allow for direct gain also save energy on lighting costs. That and other window options are referred to as daylighting. Other passive solar heating techniques such as adding special architectural features for indirect heat gains can increase the amount of heat captured, as well. These techniques alone can save a homeowner well over half of the energy costs each year while still maintaining a comfortable home.

Of course, heat and light are not the only things we use electricity for in our homes. One of the highest energy users after heating is the hot water heater. By replacing a traditionally powered hot water heater with a solar water heating system, you can reduce your reliance on external power sources even more. Even if you don’t want to have a strictly solar powered home, just by using solar energy to heat the water you need will save you huge amounts on your utility costs.

If you have fully integrated passive solar heating techniques into the design of your home, it is actually much simpler to create a completely solar powered home. The passive technologies have already reduced the energy needed to run the rest of your home. Therefore, you won’t need as large a system as you would without those passive techniques in place. That would have a significant impact on the costs of implementing a home solar system.

Solar powered homes have more options than ever before. No longer are you limited to placing giant PV panels on the roof, although they remain an option. New roofing options allow for utilizing solar energy while staying true to the overall design of your home. Roof solar shingles, tiles and even slate can be manufactured with solar cells incorporated into the materials. This allows your roof to still look good while harnessing the sun’s power and providing energy to run your home.

It is easier and less expensive to create solar powered homes in very sunny climates, of course. There are less storage needs required in areas that get large amounts of sun daily. However, even in regions that deal with frequent inclement weather, solar powered homes are a feasible option given modern technology. Many solar powered homes in those regions are still tied to the grid as a backup but they still help reduce our reliance on less environmentally friendly energy sources.

With the current energy crisis and ever growing environmental concerns, many groups are calling for legislation requiring a higher usage of alternative energy sources. Solar powered homes take advantage of an energy source that is clean and infinitely renewable so many people are supporting these types of legislation. In fact, there may come a time in the not too distant future where solar powered homes will become a standard in home design.

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2 Responses to “Solar powered homes”

  1. John Hingle Says:

    As the cost of fossil fuels become more expensive, it is up to us to use alternative power sources. Solar power is a reliable and constant source for us to use. It has become a cost efficient system that any one can use. Solar hot water and solar radiant heat are very cost effective and simple to install. That is a good place to begin the use of solar power. Another advantage is using solar energy to run our out door lighting and our some of our household products as well. Solar can be used to operate radios, watches, and to recharge every day items such as PDAs, cellphones and other every day items. It is possible to use solar power on every level of home life.

  2. Mark in Scottsdale Says:

    The total absurdity of living in Arizona and NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND ONE SINGLE HVAC contractor to give me an estimate on a solar powered radiant (in floor) heating system for my home is driving me almost to the brink of insanity!

    The HVAC dealers seem hell bent on selling me yet another, better, more costly, heat pump. Well, as a matter of fact I have 12 tons of SEER rated 15 TRANE heat pumps NOW – and the truth is that the lousy system does not keep the house warm other than when it is running. Obviously the heat loss calculations were not done and the installing HVAC contractor simply threw in the number of units and tonnage he deemed necessary.

    While the house is new and has R40 in ceilings and R20 in walls, the installing HVAC Contractor failed to account for 12 & 15 foot ceilings and travertine marble floors throughout (on a slab, of course.) Our first winter here has been awful! We’ve installed a propane heater in our bed room and bath to make it habitable in the early mornings. Our heat pumps can run until they’re blue and the rooms simply do not stay warm!

    I feel the best long term solution is a solar powered radiant tube system in the MBR/MBR Bath & Dressing area and back it up with a small electric boiler set to run at the very lowest utility rate times only. A few hundred gallons of solar heated 140 degree water and a circulating pump or two should not present a major problem to install. However, the local HVAC contractors are incapable of “thinking” of anything that does not suck down electricity by the megawatt per hour and they won’t even bother to respond to a request for design and proposal.

    It’s my intention to add the radiant system to the MBR/Bath/Dressing area this year, and then expand it to the central part of the house next year as I can afford to replace the rather pricey Travertine Marble with Hardwood floors. While it may take me three years, I’ll have mainly solar powered heating for the entire house and no more winters in a marble massoleum. The costs of the installation will be recovered in about five years and from then on, my wintertime Heating costs should be minimal. The fact that AZ has more sunshine per month than any other state would make one think that solar powered HVAC would be a major business here. Much to my disappointment it is not.

    And interestingly enough, it is these same narrow minded HeatPump Jockeys that are crying because the building industry here is now in the toilet as are home prices. Maybe if they were smart enough to offer something that was BETTER and COST EFFECTIVE the consumers would beat a path to their door, check books in hand! I’ve got a million dollar home and we’re freezing because some of these idiots couldn’t do their homework right, or they maximized their profits by undersizing the units intentionally.

    Some of the “biggest” HVAC companies in town are now going under as they no longer have builders standing in line for their dubious services for new homes. A change of attitude and a look at newer technology might be the very thing that keeps them afloat and to date, I cannot find one who’s smart enough to figure that fact out!

    Now I can’t find a contractor who’s competent to fix the mess at my expense. How very strange it seems to me…

    If anyone out there knows a COMPETENT HVAC CONTRACTOR who has experience installing radiant hydronic in floor heating systems powered primarily by solar collectors – PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHO IT MAY BE! I want to meet this rare businessman ASAP!

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