Announcement: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy

Residential solar energy is straightforward, and anyone can use it to supplement or replace services with their local utility company. All you need is a set of solar panels or modules that covert sunlight into electric current. You can then use the electricity generated to operate appliances and other devices in your home. Some solar panels convert sunlight into heat, which you can use instead of gas, oil or electricity. With the right information, you can be on your way to saving a lot of money on electricity, just by using the power of the sun.

How Does Solar Energy Work?

The easiest way to get started with residential solar energy is to use a solar panel kit. These include cells that you mount to your roof for the purpose of converting sunlight into electricity, specifically DC power. A unit, called an inverter, takes that DC power and converts it into AC power, which is what most of your home appliances, pumps and motors run on. The solar panel kit will also include a battery back-up that will charge the battery and store excess energy. You can use the battery to generate electricity in the event of a power outage, if you're still using power from the electric company.

Nighttime and Cloudy Days

The primary concern for most when thinking about solar energy is the dread of not having power at night or when there’s not much sunlight due to clouds. A solar system solves this problem with a battery backup that stores excess energy. For example, you might get a lot of sun in your area for a couple of days, in which case your solar panels will convert that energy into DC power. That power is available for you to use for appliances or to charge your battery. Therefore, you will have that electricity in reserve for when you do want to use it, such as at night or when it’s cloudy. Even during cloudy days, you can generate some energy - it just won’t be as much.

Heating with Solar Energy

Solar heating systems or solar collectors work the same way as solar panels for electricity. The difference is that solar energy is converted into heat, by warming up liquid or air in the collectors. The heat gets transferred directly into your home or into storage, much like the battery backup described above.

Solar liquid systems are great to use for central heating. When it collects heat from the sun, the water or antifreeze stored in the collector warms up and gets transferred to a storage tank or heat exchanger, which puts it through a forced-air system. This makes it possible to incorporate a solar liquid system into your current central forced air system.

Solar air systems are less efficient than liquid systems, but they can operate earlier and later in the day. You can also make your own room air heater, or a window box air heater, but it will only provide a small amount of heat for a room.

One design to try for a room air heater is the Solar Sponge. You can find a mechanical drawing of how to build it on

Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or prefer to buy pre-manufactured equipment, making the switch to residential solar energy is worth the time and effort. The hardest part is making the decision to look beyond conventional methods to meet your energy needs.

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