Should I Install Solar Panels?

As interest in green energy grows, more people are asking themselves “Should I install solar panels?” and they are making the decision to get quotes and move forward with the process. This is a move which can help the planet and also boost your own finances, so it seems to make sense all round. However, Solar Panel installation is a major decision which needs to be carefully considered. It also pays to be aware of the possible pitfalls before deciding to go ahead.

With fossil fuel use under pressure and a growing drive to cut carbon emissions, the idea of harnessing the sun’s energy is increasingly attractive. Installing PV cells means that, after recouping your initial outlay, you will be able to gain free electricity from sunlight. An extra attraction of Solar Panels for many is the possibility of selling any surplus power produced to the grid.

Count the Costs

Before you book a Solar Panel installation, however, you should do a proper costing. It is easy to get carried away with potential savings and assume that the panels will pay for themselves more quickly than is actually the case. Remember that, although the panels themselves should last for 25 years, the inverter will need replacing more quickly. This is a vital part of the system to turn light into energy for your home. You also need to be aware that some maintenance may be necessary, such as having your PV panels cleaned occasionally.

Protecting Your Roof

If you have an older roof which is not in good condition, then a Solar Panel installation may be a bad move, as it will make it harder to carry out repairs. In the UK, the National House Building Council has warned that if Solar Panels are not installed correctly they may cause damage to a roof, leading to leaks and even in the worst case-scenario to structural harm. This is one of the many reasons why it is vital to choose an experienced firm with the expertise to install panels correctly.

House Moves

There have been some reports that people who signed up to solar leasing deals have had problems in remortgaging or selling their homes. It is also possible that the panels may make a home less attractive to some buyers, by reducing “curb appeal”. On the other hand, however, there is also evidence that many other buyers will be attracted by the panels. A recent survey carried out by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US found homes with panels selling for more across California. Although the market is not yet so developed in the UK, it is likely that Solar Panels will increasingly be seen as adding value there too.

Solar Panel Installation has many advantages in most cases. It means you are using clean, green energy and will help to cut your bills in the medium to longer term. Experts can look at your roof and help you to decide whether this is a good option for you. If you go ahead, the decision to install panels is an investment both in your own future and in that of our planet.

 

Solar Panel Installation Costs Continue to Fall

If you are considering a solar power system for your property, you no doubt appreciate that solar panel installation costs include more than the price of the panels themselves, with the charge for the additional components, fitting the panels and running the system all needing to be taken into account. However, the good news is that the installation price is continuing to fall, so this need not stand in the way of you fitting the best solar panels for your home.

Falling Installation Costs
In a report by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, it was highlighted that the installation cost for a small system call for policies to reduce “soft costs”.

The price drops are largely due to the fact that solar panel module costs fell by $2.6/W between 2008 and 2012, which accounted for around 80% of the overall decline in the price of photovoltaic systems over that time. However, even though non-module expenses such as the price of inverters, hardware for mounting and “soft costs” such as the labor associated with installation and the costs associated with permits and inspection have fallen, they haven’t kept pace with those related to the modules themselves and have changed little in recent years. As a result, non-module payments now make up a greater contribution to the overall solar panel costs. This change was highlighted in the report as indicating that the solar energy industry and policymakers need to look towards ways of reducing non-module expenditure. By targeting soft costs, which are more likely to be influenced by local policies and those made at the national level, this will make installation of the best solar panels affordable to more people, as there is only so much further that the price of the systems themselves can drop.

Solar Energy: The Basics

Solar energy has undoubtedly created an impact on the renewable energy market and has swiftly become a reliable and worthy source of energy. Solar is a highly attractive, natural option on both the local and commercial levels. Technology is shifting towards the renewable resources and solar energy remains a prominent subject for improvement and commercialization.

What is Solar energy? Some basic understanding:

Solar energy is the light and heat from sun that is captured and used in technology gadgets like solar cells, solar thermal electricity and others in order to produce electricity. It is characterized as active or passive solar depending upon how it is being used. The idea is to use the natural resource i.e. sun in order to get maximum return out of it. The following diagram shows how solar works and what is the process.

The diagram shows how the photovoltaic cell is placed at a particular angel in order to get maximum exposure to sun and is charged by this process. It is then directed to an inverter that converts DC into AC; as we require AC for our homes and offices. Later, it is supplied to our homes and then to the meter for all the readings.

How does solar actually produce energy? What’s the process?

Solar is the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable resources available. The solar panel converts the sun’s rays into electricity by actually exciting the electrons in silicon cells by using the photons of light. Solar cells are also known as modules and contain photovoltaic cells made from silicon. Photovoltaic means electricity from light, which defines the true purpose of solar.

Commercial and residential uses: What’s next?

Solar cells are widely used at both commercial and residential areas. Different factories and industries are using proper solar panels and civilians use the panels for their houses as well. The efficiency is not as high, but still it provides good results.

In the coming years, you will see this technology sweeping the nation as power plants and industrial areas are replaced by highly efficient solar panels. However, solar companies are now asked to submit an official “net energy meter agreement” to the utility company before the installation process. This step usually slows down the process because solar companies must essentially receive permission from the utilities to install the solar panels.[1]

How it is cost efficient?

Solar energy is cost efficient as it’s mostly a onetime investment where you need to buy a solar panel according to your needs and what’s feasible for you. The source is natural and free! So, it is highly cost efficient and capable of generating good amount of electricity. Solar technology is highly cost efficient and will dominate the energy sources in the coming years. If you need more information about solar cells, the process and its comparison please explore our solar resources and the pros and cons of solar energy.

References: [1] Huffington Post

Wind Energy: A Valuable Renewable Resource

With technology getting to the next level, one can observe a notable improvement in renewable resources across the globe and one of the most imperative is the Wind Energy. On a larger and commercial scale, governments have been working on making wind energy a reliable and constant source of energy; giving a hint of relaxation to hydro and thermal sources. Wind Energy is effective and efficient which surely makes it a reliable factor in the coming years. So, let’s explore the wind energy pros and cons and how it can actually help you reduce your energy bills and increase your energy efficiency at your home and office.

Wind Energy General Process: How it Actually Works

Before getting into the debate of how wind energy can serve you in various aspects; it’s necessary to explore how it actually works. If you have the required means, you can surely apply it for your personal use as well in your working areas and offices.. The basic structure showing the wind energy process and how actually the wind turbine works is shown in the following diagram.

Wind Energy

The diagram above shows the basic wind turbine which actually moves when the wind flows moving a gear box as well. The generator then converts this mechanical energy into electrical energy and with the help of power cables. The energy is then stored in transformers. Finally, it is transmitted to your homes by a channel of electric lines; stepping-down the voltage at every stage till it reaches your homes.

The wind energy plant should be placed in wide open areas where one can expect maximum wind exposure mostly in meadows and fields near seas. Wind energy plants may also be fixed within the sea maximizing both wind and tidal energy. This produced a considerable amount of energy.

Wind plants that are placed offshore have immense advantages, which are beyond the sea breezes. The seabed is relatively cheaper and since the ocean is not exactly prime real estate, much larger wind farms can be built there without citizens fussing over aesthetics.[1] It also helps bringing the costs down, which is a big positive on a large scale.

Small Scale Installments and Cost Saving:

Wind energy works on larger scales but you can surely install it in your homes and nearby your offices. The process is simple and you can produce your own electricity by installing a small wind turbine. What you need is a regular flow of wind. If you are not familiar with the process, you can hire professionals who are trained for this job and they can install the wind plant for you. Bes sure to check out our blog wind energy pros and cons for even more information about wind energy. You can find all the pertinent details of renewable resources and can get a lot of information on how to save your money. So, do visit the website for all the useful information.

By installing a wind energy plant, you are producing your own natural energy, so your electricity bills will undoubtedly drop. Although wind energy is gaining traction as a renewable source of energy, the most popular renewable energy source on a consumer level is still considered to be solar energy. Learn more about the best solar panels by exploring all of Energy Informative.

References: [1] NY Times

Smart Home Reduces Energy Consumption by 88%

It has been one and a half years since Osaka Gas and Sekisui House started working together on the Smart Energy House project. They wanted to test how much energy and carbon dioxide they could save by optimizing a house to be less dependent on outside energy sources.

 

Promising Results

From July 1st 2011 to June 30th 2012, a three-person family was put in the house, and their energy usage was recorded and analyzed throughout the year. This is what they found:

According to their own numbers, power consumption was reduced by as much as 88% from 4830 kWh (average power consumption for a typical household in Japan) to 584 kWh annually.

The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions was greater. In fact, the net carbon footprint was slightly negative (-137kg) over the course of a year. As a comparison, a typical Japanese household will generate about 4 770 tons of CO2 equivalents.

 

The Smart Energy Home

So how did they do it? What exactly is a smart energy home? The success of the Japanese home in this study was mainly caused by these few factors:

 

Solar Panels

A 5.08 kW solar panel system was incorporated in the home. Sunny days meant a constant stream of clean electricity generated from solar energy.

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels in Solar Energy Pros and Cons.

 

Lithium Ion Batteries

At days when the solar panels outputted an excess amount of electricity, more than what the family was able to consume, the surplus was stored in 3.5 kWh lithium ion batteries for later use.

 

Natural Gas Fuel Cell

There will be days when there is neither enough sun to generate electricity with the photovoltaic system or energy left in the batteries. This is when the natural gas fuel cell comes in. It allows for a quick and reliable way to meet energy demand.

 

Home Energy Management System (HEMS)

The home energy management system ties the solar panel system, the batteries, and the natural gas fuel cell together and makes sure that everything runs smooth and energy efficiency is good.

 

Not Finished Yet

The first year of the Smart Energy Home project is finished, but will keep going for at least through 2014. The team will in the coming months focus on incorporating electric cars, pure solar heating and better balancing of the battery system. The homes is scheduled to go on the market in 2015.

How Can Governments Encourage Energy Efficiency?

Almost any news website will have a section covering the latest environmental developments, and most of this section will be dedicated to renewable energy. However, improvements in energy efficiency can make a much larger difference in terms of carbon emissions, and these solutions are often much simpler and most cost effective to implement. So, how can governments encourage energy efficiency?

The issue is that whilst electricity or gas consumption is a huge problem on a national scale, an unfortunately large number of households do not feel much incentive to improve on their personal energy efficiency because their electricity bill, for example, represents only a small fraction of their overall monthly expenditure. This is where the government needs to step in, to make sure that everyone takes a few small steps to make a much bigger difference across the country. What are some of the techniques they can use to cause this change?

 

Modern technology is very exciting – gadget magazines fly off the shelves of newsagents, and everyone is desperately seeking the latest phone or laptop. However, apart from the obvious financial cost of buying these items, there is an increasing environmental impact too. More powerful processors require more energy to run – long gone are the days when a cell phone could be charged just once a week, with most requiring a daily boost. This means that it is becoming increasingly important for the government to control just how much energy these products are using, otherwise producers are liable to follow the demand of consumers, increasing power consumption to make sure they’ve got the most cutting-edge products, regardless of the environmental damage. Carefully implemented controls can reduce this damage, as well as helping our finances.

The source of most of the world’s energy is the home, and in particular heating and cooling it at different times of year. Building codes can be introduced to force the property itself to be well insulated against the loss of hot or cold air. A very significant impact can be had in this area – in the U.S., for example, 70% of the electricity supply, and 36% of the natural gas supply are used by households, and nearly 90% of the increased electricity use from the 1980s to the present day was from households using more electricity. This means that the shift in electricity use is away from businesses and into homes, tying in with improved standards of living as we all leave the heating or air conditioning switched on for longer and longer. Investments in this area quickly pay themselves off – loft insulation costs only $200-$300, and will pay itself off within less than two years in energy bill savings.

Changing consumer behavior is a grass-roots approach, and rather than changing the products, if people can be made to change their behavior, demand for energy efficient products will rise and manufacturers will meet this demand if they’re trying to maximize their profits.

A common example of this is dishwashers, fridges, and washing machines – in the U.K., they have large stickers displayed prominently on them displaying their energy efficiency. Since this pushes demand away from inefficient items as people are made more aware, manufacturers are driven by the market into improving their products, saving energy. Dishwashers made in 2012, are up to 30% more efficient than dishwashers made in 1995, largely thanks to these measures encouraging technological improvements.

If consumers’ minds can’t be changed, a little cash can often help! In many cases, such as solar panels, or energy efficient boilers, even though they can offer an excellent return as an investment item, they are not at the fore of people’s minds. Governments can introduce schemes which provide extra income for those picking environmentally-friendly products – such as the 30% federal grant available across the U.S. For solar panels, or the world-renowned Feed in Tariff scheme in Germany, offering returns of 8% or more.

A careful combination of all of these measures can benefit everyone, and is a good long run approach, particularly when combined with renewable energy generation. However, great care needs to be taken in the way mandatory rules and regulations are put into place. The latest technological products have to be researched, developed and built, which takes years – if the government suddenly steps in and changes the requirements for certain products, then this could have a disastrous economic effect.

Similar rules must apply to building regulation – the construction of a large block of flats must have energy efficiency measures included as part of the design from the start of the project, and so significant changes to rules need to be phrased carefully to prevent major projects being pushed into financial difficulty. The time taken, however, is well worth it.

Article written by James Hawkins, who works for a renewable energy and home improvement company providing a boiler prices comparison in the UK.