Solar energy has been around for many years, but some people still incorrectly believe roof-mounted solar panels are the only way to use solar technology. While roof-mounted solar panels are one of the most popular ways to use solar energy, other options effectively use solar energy as a renewable energy source. You have several options when it comes to solar energy, and finding the best use of solar technology for your needs takes minimal research. Below are five ways you can use solar energy as a renewable energy source to empower your life while staying environmentally-friendly.
1. Solar Panels
Solar panels are the most common way people use solar energy. Photovoltaic cells within solar panels absorb sunlight and generate an electrical current that can be sent for use, stored for later, or sold back to the electrical grid. Across the world, homeowners and business owners alike are adding solar panels to their roofs to tap into renewable solar energy.
Before you rush to add solar panels to your roof, conduct the proper research to determine if solar panels are worth it for your unique situation. There are many factors to consider before installing solar panels. For example, Solar companies in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida may make great use of the states’ nearly omnipresent sunshine, but solar panels will struggle to reach max output in overcast climates.
2. Outdoor Solar Lights
Solar lights use the same technology as large solar panels but on a much smaller scale. Outdoor solar lights typically feature a small solar panel on top of the light bulb housing, which sits atop a ground stake so the light can be placed anywhere. Solar lights are especially attractive because they do not rely on wires or cables for power. The lack of wires also means there are no monthly energy bills for solar lights as all of the energy solar lights use comes from the sun. Place the solar light where it will receive sunlight during the day so the energy can be stored in the lamp’s batteries and enjoy the illumination once the sun goes down.
3. Solar Generators
Solar panels can be expensive but, fortunately, many people can still tap into the benefits of solar panels without the price tag or long term commitment. Solar generators cannot match the same energy output of a full solar panel system, but they can bring renewable solar energy to households with smaller budgets.
Solar generators are small, often portable, power banks that use solar panels to generate electricity. Solar generators can power a variety of devices, depending on the generator’s capacity. Large generators can power a refrigerator, but most are intended to power less energy-intense devices like smartphones or TVs.
4. Solar Heating
Solar heating is an ancient technology. People have been using the sun for heat since the beginning of time, but modern refinements have pinpointed the best ways to use solar heat. Passive solar heating design uses the sun’s natural light to heat a building. Any building or room that receives direct sunlight will feel the effects of passive solar heating. By positioning your house in a certain way, you can ensure the sun heats your house during the winter and leaves it cooler during the summer. The best position for your home depends on your geographic location, but mainly your hemisphere.
Active solar heating systems use sunlight to heat either a liquid or the air, which then transfers the solar heat to the interior of the building. Solar liquid heating works well with central heating systems, but you can also use a radiant floor, hot water baseboards or radiators with solar heating systems.
Solar heating can also be used to cook food. By setting up angeled reflective surfaces so the sunlight focuses on a central spot, you can cook food with the sun. There are many pre-made solar reflectors of different sizes available online, or you can construct your own at home. While solar cookers use the sun for free heat, they are not fast cookers. Most solar cookers take between eight and ten hours to finish depending on the recipe, but that is a small trade-off for free energy from the sun to cook your food.
5. Solar Attic Fans
Solar attic fans use small solar panels on top of the unit to power the fan pulling the hot air out of your attic. Instead of making your HVAC system work harder to cool your house, solar attic fans take some of the cooling burdens without increasing your monthly energy bill. Energy Star solar attic fans qualify for a tax credit, which helps offset their high sticker price. You can save even more money on solar attic fans by installing them yourself, but this is only advisable if you have decent carpentry skills.
There are several different ways to use solar energy as a renewable resource. Solar panels are the most common way millions of people use solar energy, but solar lights, generators, heating, and attic fans are additional ways anyone can utilize solar energy.