Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Brief Guide to Solar Energy Power for Homes

Solar Energy for Homes
Solar energy was used in ancient times for heating houses. It was after the discovery of the photoelectric effect and the invention of steam engine powered by solar energy that people started thinking about using solar power for running simple domestic machines, besides using it for heating purposes. The need for using solar power for homes was seriously considered in the 20th century when it was realized that fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil) were not inexhaustible and that electricity will be harder to generate inexpensively in future. Using solar power for homes also offers little serious impact on the environment.

Uses of Solar Power for Homes
Solar energy can be used at homes for serving various purposes. They are primarily used for running small, low-power appliances like radios, lightings, gadgets, small water pumps, and even children’s toys. Solar power can also be stored in batteries and used for lighting the house during an episode of power failure. And of course, solar power is increasingly being used for heating homes during winter.

How Home Solar Power Systems Work?
To use solar power for homes, photovoltaic (PV) panels are attached to the roof of a house such that their expanded surfaces face south for houses located in the northern hemisphere. For those in the southern hemisphere, the panels should face north to gather maximum solar energy. The average power production of a solar cell is about 11 to 22 watt per square foot. The solar energy, when received by the panels, generates electric current in them. This current is stored in a large battery bank that is connected to the PV array through a charger controller. The DC current stored in the battery is converted to AC current (used in homes) by a DC-AC inverter for running home various appliances.

Odds against Using Solar Power for Homes
The major disadvantage that hampers the use of solar power for homes is their high cost of purchase and installation. Depending on the size of the home and the particular solar power system, it costs an average of $20,000 to $40,000 for installing a solar power system at home. The high costs of setting up solar panels at home are due to the requirement of using pure silicon in their manufacture. Recently, however, solar-grade silicon has been derived from metallurgical silicon. This innovation is expected to reduce the costs of installing solar power systems at home to about one-third of the current costs. Besides high costs, solar panels are not very useful in areas of little sunshine and also on cloudy days as well as after sunset.

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