Are you looking for ways to reduce your energy bill while reducing your carbon footprint? Solar energy is a great alternative to traditional methods of supplying energy to your home and can save you those hard-earned dollars. But what exactly is solar power? And how can it be utilized in homes and businesses to provide not only electricity but also cooling and heating? Let’s explore the world of solar power and how it can be used in everyday life.
A straightforward way to define solar power is – energy from the sun that is converted into an alternative to gas or electrical energy sources. Solar power is fast becoming a popular method of heating, cooling, and supplying energy to homes.
Solar power is available in various forms, from various-sized solar panels on the roofs of homes to large-scale industrial solar panels used for heating, cooling, and sources of energy for commercial use.
There are three main types of solar power that are used today.
Photovoltaics, or PV, is the direct conversion of the light from the sun into electricity.
- Solar Heating and Cooling:
This form of solar power, also known as SHC, collects thermal energy from the sun and converts it to use in space heating and cooling.
- Concentrating Solar Power:
Concentrating solar power, or CSP, harvests thermal energy to drive large industrial-sized turbines.
Solar power has many benefits. While one of them is saving you money on your energy bill, another is helping you reduce your carbon footprint by harnessing solar power in your home or business.
The most important benefits are:
Solar power is power generated by the sun. As we well know, the sun is an inexhaustible source of heat and light that is converted into power and electricity to heat homes, swimming pools, etc., and provides an alternative source of energy by eliminating the need for gas or electrical sources of energy.
While the initial costs of installing solar-powered heaters, solar panels, and the like are substantial, the reduction in energy bills will pay off the outlay cost in no time. You are guaranteed to see returns on your investment in as little as 6 months.
Solar power is available as long as the sun shines. While it might not be useful in countries with brief summers and longer winters, solar power can be used anywhere if there is some sunlight available.
Solar panels have the ability to power many appliances in the home or workplace. We use solar panels for electricity, water heating, and space heating and cooling. The most common objects powered by solar panels are:
A solar-powered water heater can all but replace gas and electric heaters in the home or workplace. Water is circulated through rooftop heat panels and stored in tanks to provide hot water to the home.
There are two types of solar heaters:
- Direct circulation solar heaters: These heaters are great for use in homes that are not subjected to freezing temperatures. The water is circulated through solar collection pumps and into the home.
- Indirect circulation solar heaters: For homes that are subjected to freezing temperatures, indirect circulation heaters are the best solution. A non-freezing liquid is circulated to a heat exchanger, and energy is transferred to water that flows into the home.
Keeping small spaces like sheds or chicken coops cooled is easy with solar-powered ventilation fans. Solar panels placed on the roof of your shed or coop are attached to small ventilation fans to cool the area at no cost.
When the temperatures drop and the cold of winter sets in, heating your home becomes essential to keep your home and family warm and comfortable. If you are using traditional gas or electricity, solar panels can help you slash your energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint significantly.
Just as a solar-powered heater can slash your energy bill, so too can solar panels used as an alternative energy source to power your home and appliances. But just how do these solar panels work?
Solar panels installed on the roof of your home or business generate electrical charges. As the sunlight is converted to electricity through the polycrystalline silicon that lines these solar panels, a direct current (DC) is sent to an inverter, which converts this current to an alternating current (AC). The AC power is what feeds into the main electrical service panel and is used as a clean and renewable power source.
Are you looking to light up an outdoor path or patio? Individual lights with their own solar cells and a rechargeable battery can provide hours of light to an otherwise dark space at no cost.
Heating a pool can push your energy bill up significantly. Solar blankets or solar water heating systems – as listed above – are a great alternative to using gas or electric water heaters to heat your swimming pool.
While these are not the only ways in which solar panels can generate power, they are the most well-known options.
Solar power can be one of the best sources of alternative energy and can power homes and businesses, but also unusual and interesting items and buildings. From cookers to fountains, solar power can be used in innovative ways to create alternative sources of energy for a multitude of uses.
Here are a few examples of the most unusual ways that inventors have used solar energy to power objects and buildings:
In December 2019, the world’s first solar-powered airplane made its maiden flight. With 12,000 solar panels on the wings, the Swiss-built solar-powered plane made history and showed just how powerful solar power can be as an alternative to gas and electricity. The Solar Impulse was the first of its kind, hopefully paving the way for future solar-powered air travel.
The “Chill ‘n’ Charge” solar-powered tent by Orange made its debut at the Glastonbury festival in 2009. With 600 mobile phone charging points and free internet access, the tent caught the attention of the thousands of festival-goers. They took full advantage of this solar-powered technology that sees solar threads woven into conventional fabric to harness the energy from the sun to create a dependable, environmentally friendly energy source. Could solar-powered tents be the future of camping?
The City Square in Obrenovac was abuzz with excitement in 2011 as the first solar-powered mobile phone charging station was set up as part of a showcase for the Strawberry Energy Project. Designed by Belgrade students, the three featured a mobile phone charging station surrounded by seating for people to use while charging their phones. Skip forward to 2022, and solar-powered mobile phone charging stations are being used in larger cities across Europe in a way to harness the power of solar energy.
A few more unusual creations that have been introduced using solar energy are:
- Solar umbrellas – Perfect for beach resorts and outdoor restaurants. The umbrellas are lit up with LED outdoor lights powered by small solar panels that absorb the sun.
- Solar cookers – Change the way you grill or barbecue by using a solar cooker. These are also great for remote areas where there are no electrical sources for cooking.
- Solar backpacks – A backpack that uses solar power to create a low-voltage power source to charge phones, tablets, laptops, and more is a great idea for camping, hiking, students, and business people who need to keep their electronics charged on the go.
It has the potential to eliminate the need for conventional electrical sources, reducing carbon footprint and the emission of CO2 into the environment, which leads to global warming.
As the world battles a climate crisis, it is up to each one of us to play our part in looking for more environmentally friendly ways to power our cars, homes, businesses and reduce our carbon footprint.
One of the best, most impactful ways we can have influence is by changing the way we use energy and switching to alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower. While the move to solar power in homes and businesses could be an enormous investment, the benefits outweigh the cost and effort.
Solar power could replace most energy sources that are used in homes and businesses today. By providing heating, cooling, and water heating, homeowners can save on their energy bills while reducing their carbon footprint by harnessing the sun’s power.
Starting off small and using solar power in your outdoor lighting is just the first step in moving your home completely off the grid and going solar. Solar power is the answer to the rising threat of global warming that could lead to catastrophe for the world in the very near future.