Real Estate

Benefits of Solar Power: How Sunshine Can Help Homeowners Save in the Long Run

As technology has proliferated, the demand for electricity has skyrocketed. Due to government regulations and the large expense of building new power plants, the supply of electricity has not kept pace with the demand. This rising demand has forced homeowners to pay more and more on each electric bill. Fortunately, new technologies have been developed to help homeowners free themselves from the threat of high utility payments. Thanks to solar power, homeowners can reduce or even eliminate their monthly power bills.

What Is Solar Power?

Solar power is the name for electricity generated directly from the sun. There are two types of solar power used today: thermal solar power and photoelectric solar power. Thermal solar power is mainly used by large utility companies; it uses the energy of the sun to boil water, which is then used to spin a turbine. Most small-scale solar power applications, however, use photoelectric solar panels. Rather than using the energy of the sun to boil water, these panels capture sunlight and convert it directly into electricity. Although this technology was first demonstrated in 1883, its use has been largely limited to satellites and other space-related applications. Only in the last few years has the price of solar panels fallen far enough to put solar power within the reach of the average homeowner.

How Does Solar Power Work?

Solar panels take advantage of a quirk of semiconductors to generate electricity. When semiconductors are struck by light, some of their electrons begin to move. If semiconductors are layered in specific arrangements, these electrons will move in a specific direction, creating an electrical current. By layering semiconductors together into a solar cell and wiring many solar cells together into a solar panel, manufacturers can create a viable power-generating system.

What are the Parts of a Solar Power System?

Solar panel installations consist of a few different parts. The most important part of a solar power system is the solar panels themselves; these solid-state devices consist of layered semiconductors, a light-absorbing material, a glass cover and wiring to connect the solar panels into the electrical system of the home. Most systems also include a power inverter and some systems also include a battery storage system. The power inverter is used to convert the energy generated by the solar power system into useful household energy and the battery storage system is used to provide energy when the sun isn’t shining.

What are the Benefits of Solar Power?

By installing a solar power system, homeowners can generate their own electricity. Most homeowners can generate all the electricity that they will need to power their homes by covering their roofs in solar panels. Through a system called net metering, some homeowners may actually receive a payment from their utility company each month. Net metering tracks the net energy production and use from a household; if the meter is in the household’s favor, the utility will pay the household for the excess electricity it produces. Homeowners with solar power systems will also be protected from future increases in energy costs.

Additionally, homeowners with a solar power system will be protected from blackouts and brownouts, especially if they have a battery storage system. Solar power systems will continue generating electricity even when the home’s external power supply has been interrupted. These homeowners won’t have to invest in an expensive back-up generator and they won’t have to worry about the potentially toxic fumes from gas-powered generators.

Lastly, homeowners can enjoy the feeling of doing good for the long-term health of the planet. By installing solar panels, homeowners can reduce or eliminate their homes’ carbon footprints. If they convert their appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces, to electrical systems, they can fully eliminate the use of fossil fuels in their homes. Homeowners can even convert their carbon reduction into a little extra cash thanks to the development of the personal carbon trading market. Although these payments aren’t very large, they do provide these homeowners with an extra perk.

Are Solar Power Systems a Good Investment?

Although solar panel installations can be expensive, they are often worth the investment. The cost of a complete solar panel installation that will provide all of a home’s electricity varies depending on its location. Nationally, the average cost of a solar power system currently stands at about $5 per watt-hour of installed capacity. A system large enough to meet the average household’s energy needs will cost about $25,000.

However, federal and local incentives can take a large chunk out of that price. In some cases, the final cost to the homeowner may be as low as half of the original cost of the system. This reduced cost, coupled with the reduced energy payments that the homeowner will have to make, will help solar panel installations to pay for themselves over time. In some states, the payback period can be as low as five years.

Although solar panels are often billed as a way for concerned homeowners to ease their guilty environmental conscience, installing a solar power system is often a smart financial decision. Homeowners can enjoy substantial savings by installing solar power systems in their homes and they can also enjoy the benefits of reduced dependence on their utility company. As costs continue to fall on these systems, more homeowners will enjoy the benefits of solar power.

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