As the cost of fuel continues to rise, a great number of home owners are considering investing in the installation of a solar energy system for their home. This usually involves situating solar panels on the roof of the property to passively collect solar energy. This is then converted into AC mains electricity that can power the home immediately or alternatively can be stored in deep cycle batteries for later use. While harnessing free power from the sun can sound very appealing, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of system. It’s important that you have all the information to be able to make an informed choice as to whether solar power will suit your needs.
There are a number of advantages associated with having a solar energy system attached to your home. These include:
Renewable clean energy: Many people are concerned about the environmental impact their lifestyle has on the planet. Solar energy is renewable, clean and can generate electricity even during overcast weather. Unlike conventional energy generation using fossil fuels, there are no chemicals such as carbon dioxide or carcinogens released into the environment as a by-product of the solar power generation process.
Reliability: For a great number of people, the technology for alternative energy production can seem a little overwhelming. Many people worry about reliability issues and are concerned about future repair costs. However, solar energy systems are generally very reliable. This is due to the fact that these systems contain few moving components, which drastically reduces the chance of equipment failure. Many solar energy systems have been shown to have the capability to generate electricity for thousands of hours with very little or no maintenance.
Noise pollution: Some people considering alternative energy systems may be discouraged by potential noise pollution. While it is true that water mills, wind turbines and some other forms of alternative energy generation can create high levels of noise and vibration, solar systems operate with neither of these drawbacks. This makes solar energy systems perfect for residential use, where noise pollution could be a huge deciding factor.
Going “off grid”: The idea of going off grid is very appealing to some people. A back up power source is recommended for a situation when the batteries may have been discharged and the sunlight is not optimal. However, this back up need not be the mains electricity grid. A diesel generator or wind turbine could be used to provide a back up, which would mean that the home could still be self sufficient in power and off grid. In this case it is advised that doubling or perhaps tripling the number of deep cycle batteries and running them in parallel with the existing system would add additional peace of mind. Also refrigerators and other critical power hungry appliances could be switched out for models that run on propane.
Selling excess energy: Homes which remain on the mains electricity grid with their solar energy system have the option to sell excess energy. Some utility companies will pay for this excess energy or credit your utility bill. This can be useful to create a financial buffer for those occasions when there are limited daylight hours, such as during short winter days.
There are also some disadvantages associated with the installation of a solar energy system. These include:
High initial cost: Although the installation cost of a solar energy system has reduced dramatically in the last few years, it is still significant. A solar energy system will allow you to immediately begin to generate your own energy. However, it can take a number of years before the savings from this free energy allow you to break even on the installation costs. Some companies may offer finance options including the leasing of equipment, but it is important to realize that the energy is not really free until after you have covered the cost of the equipment from your energy bill savings.
Structural viability: A solar energy system requires some modification to your home. Some properties lack the roof integrity to allow for the additional weight of the panels. Additionally, the position of your home and geographical location may mean that installation is not feasible. In order to optimize energy production, the panels should be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. This can mean that areas frequently prone to overcast weather would take far longer to recoup the initial cost of installation.
Solar energy systems are an excellent way to produce clean, green energy. If you are considering installation, it is worth taking the time to fully assess the advantages and disadvantages, which apply to your specific property. A professional should be able to perform a free survey outlining the costs and feasibility of switching your home onto solar power.