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Solar Water Heating Systems

Solar Water Heating SystemsSolar water heating systems are a basically simple design. Solar collectors heat water during the day, which is stored in an insulated tank to keep it warm for ongoing use. But freezing temperatures can bring this kind of system to a standstill. But new and improved methods have been developed that allow solar hot water systems to operate effectively even in cold climates. Here is a basic description of how they work.

What kinds of solar water heating systems can be used In cold climates

After a few decades of experimentation with solar hot water systems, most experienced users have decide that the closed loop design is the most effective for climates with freezing temperatures. Because oxygen is eliminated from the system, pumps will not corrode and will have a longer lifespan, saving you time and money for repairs and replacement parts.

The system is filled with an antifreeze solution (propylene glycol) at the time it is installed. It then circulates between the solar collectors (where it is heated by the sun during the day) and the storage tanks, which provide heat during the day and night. There are several smaller components that allow the antifreeze to expand and contract, and which prevent too much pressure from building up in the system, among other things. But the solar collectors, the pump and the tank with heat exchanger are the basic components.

Drainback systems are so named because the solar collectors drain when they are not being used. For this reason, you can use either water or antifreeze in the system. But for maximum assurance that the system will not freeze, people often choose to use antifreeze as an extra precaution, especially in regions that frequently experience temperatures below zero.

Even though the collectors drain when not in use, they drainback system is still a closed loop system. It needs a powerful pump in order to return the drained liquid to the solar collector after it has been drained. But it is a good choice for a homeowner who wants a solar heating system that is easy to maintain.

How effective are solar water heating systems

Solar hot water heating systems are relatively simple to install, easy to maintain and the most cost effective way to introduce your home to solar energy. They can save considerable energy and cost when they replace an electric hot water heater. And they can be successfully used even if you live in a climate where freezing temperatures are common during the winter.

If you live in a climate that does not have freezing temperatures, and your household consists of fewer than five people, you can install a batch heater. This is the least expensive solar water heating option, and it is relatively easy to build if you have the inclination to do-it-yourself. It is simply a water storage tank that also serves as the solar collector.

The tank is enclosed in a glass-covered box that is positioned to allow maximum exposure to the sun. The water in the tank heats up and hot water is available for use. However, it is not the most efficient system, since it takes longer to heat an entire tank of water than to heat a flat panel solar collector. And as the tank cools at night, there is less hot water available for use.

There are two better systems that can be used even in freezing climates. The direct pump system circulates water between a solar collector and a storage tank. With this design, water in the solar collector can heat up faster, and the tank can be insulated for better temperature holding capacity. The pump can be designed to run on electricity from a photovoltaic cell if you want to keep your system completely solar powered.

A thermosiphon system also uses a separate solar collector, along with the pull of gravity. And it allows for the use of an insulated storage tank for more consistent hot water delivery. When using either of these systems in cold climates where freezing is an issue, both the piping and the storage tank should be located indoors and properly insulated to provide hot water even on the coldest days.

What kinds of hot water solar collectors can you build yourself

There are 3 main types of hot water solar collectors commonly used in homes: flat plate and evacuated tube systems. There are a number of different “recipes” for building each kind. But here is a quick description of their similarities and differences.

  • First, there are pool solar collectors. These are usually a type of flat plate design, but there are enough differences between solar pool heating systems and solar hot water heating systems that some explanation is necessary. 
    Pool solar collectors, are usually designed as rows of UV resistant black polypropylene pipe that is heat welded together. Because pool heaters require lower water temperatures than hot water for showers or for heating a house, the collectors do not need to be encased in a box. In fact, the polypropylene plastic is not intended to withstand the high temperatures needed for other domestic hot water use, and should not be enclosed by glass.
    Although solar pool heating systems are about the simplest solar energy system that you can build or install, the solar collectors themselves are not so easy to make. The polypropylene pipe does not respond to adhesives, and the process and equipment needed for heat welding is cost prohibitive for a do-it-yourself project. And using a substitute material may not be wise because of its tendency to break down with ongoing exposure to the sun and chlorine from the pool. For this reason, it is probably easier to buy the solar collectors even if you choose to install the system yourself.
  • Evacuated tube solar collectors are also tricky to build. Although they are used for domestic hot water and for heating a home with hot water, the materials require special handling. They use special glass tubing with double walls. The air trapped between the walls act as insulation, similar to the way dual pane windows trap air for insulation. The innermost tube can be filled either with water or with a heat transfer fluid to prevent freezing in cold climates. Obviously, this kind of system is more complex to build and install than a simple hot water heating system. Again, it might be easier to buy the solar collectors unless you have a lot of skill and confidence.
  • Flat plate solar collectors, also used for residential hot water and heating, are usually easier for a do-it-yourselfer to build. The design is fairly simple and straightforward. Flexible tubing for the water is attached to an absorber plate and positioned inside of an insulated metal box. A glass cover is used, which allows the sun to heat the water. As the water is heated, it is pumped into an insulated storage tank and held for use as needed for bathing or washing dishes. With the help of a good set of instructions, building and installing a hot water system using flat plate solar collectors is a good project for people who are handy and motivated.

Converting your main water heating system to solar energy is not a very difficult task

Solar water heating systems are widely available, easy to install and operate. It will adapt to your water taps without difficulty.Solar water heaters can be more costly to purchase and set up than traditional water heaters. However, by using a solar system to heat your water you will definitely save on your utility bills over time. Savings of 50% to 80% are realistic.

Quite a few ways for heating water using solar energy exist. Making your own solar water heater is also possible. What ever the solution you choose, you should keep in mind that you also need an electric or gas backup water heater for days when there is no sunshine. More info

A solar collector and a storage tank are the heart of the system. Both are located outside in order to receive maximum sunlight during the day
The operating system is straightforward, cold water runs through a circuitry of pipes built in a solar collector. When water inside the pipes becomes hot it flows into a storage tank. At this stage, hot water is ready to be distributed to the pipe network inside the house.
The most common type of solar collector for heating water is the glazed flat-plate collector. It looks like a rectangular flat box covered with a glass top. Inside this box resides a flat black plate called absorber. The role of the flat absorber is to transform the light coming from the sun to heat. Once the flat absorber is hot, water flowing through the tubes becomes hot. The hot water obtained is stored into a well insulated storage tank that will keep it warm and ready to use.

There are two types of solar water heating systems

Active and passive. Active solar heating relies on electrical and mechanical devices like pumps, to push the water inside the tubes and to the storage tank. On passive solar heating systems, the installation angle of the flat plate collector and the storage tank is critical because only gravity makes the water circulates from a side to another. As a result, the water flow can be slow sometimes. Both systems are efficient and at the end of the day, it is a matter of personal choice.
Solar water heating systems offer a simple and affordable solution. It can be set-up quickly and the technology is mature enough to make you decide to use it without any hesitation.. Heating water using solar energy is a clever choice for your pocket and for the environment.

Residential Solar Power

 

Residential Solar PowerUsing residential solar power is non pollutant and once the necessary components are bought, you can have free energy.

Life on earth is fed by heat and light coming from the sun. Solar energy makes it way to us via electromagnetic waves similar to radio waves but on a totally different range of frequency. Some energy is lost while traveling thru the atmosphere, but the remaining is sufficient enough to maintain life and provide a limitless amount of free energy. To recover and transform this energy to a practical form like electricity or heating the main devices involved are the solar panels to generate electricity (photovoltaic) and the solar collectors to produce hot water or hot air. These units don’t rely on gas or electricity to operate as they are autonomous.

The most commonly used residential solar power applications are thermal. Such technology utilizes the heat coming from the sun for heating spaces and water. It can also be used for cooling spaces, ventilation, Desalination, cooking and many other purposes.

Solar energy is also used to generate electricity

A good example is the calculator with a small solar cell. Solar battery chargers are also available; they can recharge cell phones, Ipods, laptop computers and other small devices. Space technology is using solar technology since a long time. Solar panels known also as photovoltaic, transforms the sun’s energy to electricity. Residential solar power is also used to provide electricity for homes. In this particular case, solar panels are installed on the roof or on the ground. The electricity produced feeds a battery bank and an inverter provides 110 or 220 volts for the home. Other popular solar devices using solar technology are solar lights, solar fountains and solar pumps. These products are widely available and are a good example on how solar energy can be implemented.

Another widely used residential solar power application is the solar water heater

Solar water heating is not a new technology and implementation is straightforward. The system is made of solar collectors that heat the water when it circulates through tubes. Once heated the water flows into a storage tank and is available for use. The same system can be used for heating spaces. Solar collectors are also used to produce distilled water in this case the water is obtain by evaporation.

Although not considered as residential solar power, a less known application of solar energy uses what is called focusing collectors. The system consists of a movable mirror always following the sun. Heliostats as they are also called can generate extremely high temperature. Such systems are usually used for a solar furnace. Heliostats can also generate electricity by turning water to steam. The steam obtained can then run a generator.

All these different devices are allowing transforming the solar energy into useful and practical applications and solar power can be obtained using the above different ways. But most importantly, by using residential solar power technology and other clean sources of energy you are helping in improving the environment.

You know about the energy benefits that are possible from switching to solar energy from traditional power-plant energy.
Maybe you’d like to live off-grid because you care about the environment and want to reduce your carbon footprint.
But there’s a problem…you live in an apartment, so you’re not about to invest several thousand dollars into solar panels for your home. What are your options?

Here are some ideas that can help you realize your dream of using residential solar power

  1. Invest in your own portable solar panels for your small appliances. If you have a window, patio, deck or balcony that gets enough sunlight during the day, you can get a portable solar charger that will collect the sunlight and store enough of it to recharge your laptop or power your TV. These portable systems will only provide an hour or two of use, though. And the cost of portable panels isn’t yet cheaper than running your laptop and TV off the grid. But they’re a good backup power source if you live in a place with frequent power outages. And they’re a great way to keep your rechargeable batteries fully charged.
  2. Talk your landlord into installing a solar panel system for the whole building. You might be able to get together with some neighbors and make a presentation to your landlord. This approach can be especially effective if your apartment building is located in a city or town where solar energy is popular and already being used. You’ll have to gather some data from the local utility company to find out what their policy is on buying back energy from solar installations, and how much money your landlord might save from installing solar panels.
  3. Do some research on state and local tax credits for installing solar energy systems. Also, find out if there are any other apartment complexes in your town (or even nearby towns) that use solar energy, and ask them how they market that fact to their future renters. The plan is to show your landlord that he can save money on utilities, and decrease vacancies because renters would rather live in energy efficient apartments. With a little research, you can come up with a presentation showing your landlord that using residential solar power is a good business decision.
  4. Make a point of seeking out apartment buildings and complexes that already have solar panels installed. You might be surprised to find out that there are apartment communities in your town that are ahead of the curve on solar energy. This is especially likely if you live in the “Sunbelt” area of the US, or if you live in a progressive-minded college town, or if your state or city offers attractive tax benefits for solar energy installations.

Even if you can’t live your off-grid energy dream right now, take heart. Solar energy technology is under rapid development right now around the world. That means your dream of better solar technology for lower prices is not far away. Click here for more info

Solar Heating for your Indoors

Solar Heating

Courtesy www.theguardian.com

Solar heating can be implemented if you are building your home from scratch or if you are just renovating it. You can transform it to a solar home by making some modifications. When your gas and electricity bills become hard to handle, switching to solar energy to heat your home can be a wise choice. The heat coming from the sun spread equally when reaching the earth. To take advantage of the solar energy few steps are necessary.

When building your home, numerous choices are available for solar heating

  • The most important one is to build it facing true south. It is the direction where the sun rises. This way the house will get maximum sunshine during the day.
  • Installing double-glazed windows of good quality is important too. They will let the heat from the sun come through and will keep the rooms warm for a long period of time. At sunset the home will stay warm thanks to the sunlight that came in all day long. In order to keep the heat inside the house, doors must stay closed as much as possible.
  • It is also important to have curtains (preferably insulated) on the windows during the night; they will also help keeping the heat inside. When building a house, another thing to keep in mind is to not plan for too many windows on the side facing sunset, you want to avoid the house to cool down too quickly.

Transforming your home to take advantage of natural solar heating is not very difficult

It is obvious that changing the direction of your house to face sunrise is impossible, but you can still make some modifications to trap the heat coming from the sun. A good and well designed insulation will definitely help. Double glazed windows for example are a must. An original method to use solar energy for heating purposes is to build a sun room facing south to catch the sun from early morning. The sun will heat the glass structure and provide hot air inside the sun room. The warm air obtained can be pushed into the house by using fans. This can provide sufficient heating during the day.

As the sun doesn’t shine everyday, you will of course need a backup heating system running on gas or electricity, but you will significantly reduce the amount of time your electric or gas heater is running.

Using solar heating is not only a good way for saving money; it is also a natural method to heat your home which will also help in improving the environment.

Solar power can be found in several different places on the earth. You can find solar power in a parked car, in a building with no air circulating, in a home without windows opened or fans circulating the air. When you step into any of these places that have been in the sunlight for a while you soon become overpowered by the amount and the intensity of the heat. This kind of heat can be taken and converted into heat that can heat your home, your water, an outbuilding, or any other building you would like to have heat in.

Heating using a solar power system is a free way of heating

When you heat using solar power you use a source that will direct the heat from the sunlight during the daytime to your solar source.

A solar source is a device that you use to attract and trap the heat from the sun.
Just like a car out in the parking lot gets hot when it faces the midday sun and the windows are rolled up. The seats can become very hot, too hot to sit on. These seats are a solar source because they trapped the heat inside and didn’t want to let them go.
When this happens the seats will still be warm long after the sun quits shining directly on that car.

Creating a solar heating system can be easy to do with a little thought put into it

With a solar source you need to think about all the things that attract the sun, such as metal, the color black, glass that is tinted or clear, mirrors and more. There is an endless supply of idea to signal the heat your way and trap it for your use. To get the heat to benefit your water system or even your heat, you need to come up with a way that you can circulate a liquid that when it passes by your solar source it will heat the water naturally because of the concentrated amount of heat that was trapped inside your solar source that day.

When the liquid carries through the solar source and travels into the home it can go directly to the water source where it can be kept warm, like a hot water tank, but naturally without using gas and electricity to keep it warm. This solar source can be a great challenge to create but you will enjoy the rewards for years to come. You can also find solar sources in stores as well as online. Shopping for solar heating items has never been easier and it is not expensive. Some info here

Coming up with a solution that will carry the heat into the home is simple and practical

If your idea is successful you will have heat during the winter and warm water all year around. The main goal of a solar heating system is not only to preserve the natural resources and the environment but it is also a cost saving solution.

Heating Or Cooling With Solar Power

We are used to turn a dial or push a button in order to obtain heat or hot water. These ways are nice but they may be expensive as well. Heating homes, schools or businesses with solar energy is not only easy but cost effective as well. There are several ways that we can capture the sun’s heat even in winter times. In order to capture the sun’s heat you need a solar collector. This collector can be something that will attract the sun rays but trap the heat from it when it enters the source. A good example is a sunroom.

These rooms are attached to a home or a building and are constructed of glass panels from the floor to the ceiling. It is usually facing the morning sun in order to get the full affect of the heat. When the sun shines into the room the glass allows the sun rays heat the furniture and everything in the room. These areas become the source that holds the heat in so that it will not escape back out of the glass. This type of solar heating is natural and can be very efficient if it is constructed correctly.

Other forms of solar power heating and cooling

  • Thermal mass that absorbs and holds in the heat. It traps and holds heat while the sun is shining and disperses the heat when the sun goes down.
  • Trombe wall is a natural solar heating and ventilation system that uses air channels to hold the heat between a glass object and a thermal mass that is facing the sun. The sunlight gets trapped and stored inside this wall and is then circulated through vents and the top and the bottom of the wall. The wall radiates the heat.
  • Transpired collector is also a wall that is used facing the sun. The wall absorbs the sunlight and heats the air when it enters into the ventilation system.
  • Solar cooling is a great way to ventilate a building. It absorbs the solar heat and cools it making ice with a solar powered steam engine that is attached to a cooling device.
  • Solar chimney is also a solar ventilation system. It is made of a thermal mass that is hollow inside. The chimney will warm the air inside the chimney and causing the heat to rise. The rise allows the air to circulate and vent properly.

There are multiple ways that are available for heating and cooling our homes, businesses, buildings or other structures that need to be heated. All the techniques listed above use natural material that will pay off in the long run.

Buying Solar Panels

Buying Solar PanelsAfter you have made the decision of buying solar panels that you want to install on your home, you need to find a reliable company to buy them from and to install them. But how do you know who to choose?

Here are some tips to help you decide

Experience counts. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where solar panel installation has been ongoing, you may be able to locate a company which has been in business for two or three decades. If so, they should be able to provide plenty of references for you to call. It will also be easy to check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if they have a clean record.

Before buying solar panels ask about the equipment they recommend

You can also do some research on the internet to find some reviews of the manufacturers. Find out what kinds of warranties the equipments come with.
Also, find out what kinds of warranties the contractor offers on labor and workmanship. It is common to find 10-year warranties on the solar panels, and 3 to 10-year warranties on pumps, inverters and controls. Workmanship should have at least a one year warranty.

Some installers have experience only in off-grid systems, and you may be concerned about them working on your system if it will be tied to the grid. It is true that there are definite differences between installing the two systems. But off grid systems are much more complex than grid tied systems An off grid installer will most likely be quite capable of connecting your system to the local power company, especially since he or she will be monitored by the local building inspectors.

Membership in a professional organization for alternative energy vendors might be another indicator of professionalism. But find out first what the requirements are to join the organization before you decide to be impressed. Memberships are voluntary, and some only require paying a fee. Other organizations (like the Solar Energies Industries Association) require continuing education and field experience in order to qualify for membership.

The best recommendation  for buying solar panels is always word of mouth from a trusted source. If you know someone who has recently had solar panels installed, ask them if they would recommend the company they used. You can also ask a local real estate agent. They usually know the trustworthy contractors in town.

Three things to consider before buying solar panels

Before There is a lot of talk about solar energy being a solution for the world’s energy problems. But wouldn’t it be wise to know if there are any dangers or hidden negative issues before starting a large project? Here are 3 things to think about before you spend your money:

  1. Toxic materials. Some of the materials used in the newer thin film solar panels are toxic to the environment. Even though this only becomes a problem when you dispose of the solar panels (which probably won’t be for another 20 years or more), it’s important to know that the panels will need safe disposal when that time comes. But new disposal and recycling methods are being researched and developed. Hopefully, they will be in place by the time you need to use them.
  2. New Technology. If you read the news about solar energy research, you will be amazed at the number of companies that are developing new systems and products. Solar energy research is a worldwide growth industry, with new discoveries being made every month. There is a real temptation to hold off on your solar energy project so you can use the latest technology. But not every experimental product with market potential actually makes it to the consumer.
    Solar panels are no different than any other new product in the process of research and development. Sometimes the best ideas just don’t work out as expected, or are just too expensive to produce. So it’s always a bit of a gamble to wait too long for breakthroughs  n new technology. You could be unnecessarily wasting several months or years of using your solar energy system.
  3. Old Technology. Are you afraid of buying your solar energy system right before the next new product breakthrough? This dilemma is the other side of the coin from waiting too long for a breakthrough. The fear is that a cheaper and better technology is right around the corner, but you just spent thousands on “old” technology.You can do a lot to prevent this scenario by doing a little research on the internet or the library. There are professional business journals that have the latest news on industrial R and D (research and development), and forecast when new products will reach the consumer market. But many of these journals cost several hundreds or thousands of dollars for a yearly subscription, so only libraries can afford them. If your library doesn’t subscribe, ask your librarian to get it for you. Then you’ll need to decide whether you want to wait for the newest product, or go with a traditional system that might be more reliable and predictable because it has withstood the test of time.

What you should know before buying solar panel kits

If you are considering saving money with a do-it-yourself installation of solar panels for your home, buying a kit is a great idea. But it’s not quite the same as going down to your local building supply store and picking up a box of parts to assemble. It’s not like picking out a bookcase at IKEA and putting it together in the living room. There’s a lot of preliminary planning that you will need to do in order to purchase the right kit for your home.

If you have a lot of experience installing solar equipment, you’ll be fine on your own. You probably will only need minimal manufacturer support to answer occasional questions about specific parts. You may need some answers to technical questions to confirm your buying decisions. But you’ll probably be fine just finding a kit within your price range and buying it online. Your situation would be similar to a professional auto mechanic buying a kit car online. You know what you need, you know which parts are the best to use. You know how to make them all work together. You really are qualified to do it all on your own, with minimal help.

But if you have no experience installing solar panels, your best bet will be to find a kit supplier that offers a lot of technical support for both planning and for installation. You’ll need to find a kit supplier that will be available not only by email, but by telephone. You might even want to find one that offers in-person support, if needed.

Your supplier should be able to help you figure out the proper size and configuration for your solar energy system, based on your household’s current and projected energy needs. This preplanning step is crucial. You’ll be wasting money if you buy a system larger than you need. And if you buy one that’s too small for your energy needs, you’ll end up either with no power when you need it, or still needing to buy power from the grid.

Before buying solar panels you’ll also need expert help to analyze your house’s energy needs according to its location and it’s orientation toward the sun. Nearby trees and buildings can affect how efficient solar panels will be. Also, average outside temperatures throughout the year can affect what kind of panels you’ll need.

Your supplier can also help you determine what kind of backup storage is the best fit for your family. Even if you plan to remain tied to the grid, you’ll need at least some batteries to store power in case of blackouts. And there is a wide range of batteries to choose from. Some need more maintenance than others, some will last longer than others, and of course, some will cost a lot more than others. You’ll need help to make the best choice. More info

You’ll also need help determining which manufacturer delivers the best quality for the best price. As with most major purchases, cheaper isn’t always better. But the most expensive isn’t always the best, either. Solar panels come in a lot of different combinations of voltage and amperage. Again, you won’t want to be caught short, or spend money for more than you need.

The time you take to research a competent kit supplier will pay off in the long run. Asking a lot of questions up front will save you time and money. Do some test runs of their email answering system, their phone consulting systems, and their in-person support if they have it. You’ll make a complicated project much simpler and more enjoyable.

Solar Attic Fans an Easy DIY Project

Solar Attic FansAre you looking for a quick and easy solar energy project for your home that you can do by yourself? Installing solar attic fans may be just the ticket. Not only is it relatively easy to do, but it will keep your house cooler during hot summer days and nights.

You may not have even realized how much a hot attic contributes to your air conditioning bills. Attics trap and hold all of the hot air that rises in your house. This is great in the winter, but it can prevent your house from cooling off during the summer.

Attic temperatures can easily soar above 120 degrees Fahrenheit even when outside temperatures are only in the eighties or nineties. Most building codes require attics to be vented, but these vents are simply not designed to cool off the entire attic. And a roof that has no shade receives sun for most of the day.

Installing a traditional attic fan would require a licensed electrician because it would need to be connected to a power source in order to operate.

Solar attic fans are designed with a built-in solar panel powerful enough to run the fans

Not only are they quieter than electric attic fans, but they require no electricity to run since they are installed on the roof and receive direct sunlight.

If you are handy with a saw, drill and screwdriver, and confident enough to cut a hole in your roof, you can install a solar attic fan in a couple of hours. You will need to locate a place on your roof that receives sunlight all day, is near the peak and also near the middle of the attic space. You will be cutting a hole through the composition shingles and roof decking that will accommodate the size or your solar fan.

The trickiest and most important part will be finding the optimal location and cutting the hole the proper size for the fan. A location that faces south will receive the most sunlight. If that is not possible, you can consider buying a model that has a solar module that can be tilted and positioned to face south.

Once the hole has been cut, it is only a matter of securing the solar attic fan to the roof, and caulking around the fan to waterproof your installation. You will be able to immediately feel the cooling effects in your attic. And you will be able to enjoy a more comfortable house and lower cooling bills throughout the summer. How to install a solar attic fan

Solar Shingles To Power Your House

Solar Shingles

Courtesy www.solarpowerauthority.com

You can now buy solar shingles that look like your existing asphalt shingles. They have a similar matte finish and are the same size. The big difference is that they are covered with thin film solar cells that collect sunlight and turn it into electricity. The thin film technology means you won’t have to build a large structure (an array) on top of your roof to hold solar panels. And the solar shingles will collect the same amount of energy as a solar panel array, but are much less visually intrusive.

Some homeowner associations won’t allow home solar panels to be mounted on a rooftop or in a back yard. And even if you still have to get your homeowner association to allow you to install solar shingles, it will be much easier to convince your neighbors (and board members) to say yes to solar cells that look just like the shingles on their roofs.

Solar shingles systems can be off-grid or tied to the grid

This means they can be used with a solar energy system that is self contained (off-grid) or that is tied into the public utility system (tied to the grid). The thin film technology works basically the same way as the larger solar panel systems. Sunlight is still being captured by photovoltaic cells and converted into energy. but the materials used in manufacturing the solar shingles are smaller. Developments in solar technology have allowed improvements that reduce the size needed to produce the same amount of energy. The smaller shingle-sized cells are now efficient enough to produce a significant amount of energy.

Besides the visual appeal, another nice feature of the solar shingles is that they can be replaced as easily as traditional shingles. They’re made to last for more than 20 years, depending on the manufacturer. And they’re built to withstand harsh weather like hail and high winds. But if they do need to be replaced, it’s as easy as replacing traditional asphalt shingles. More info on sun roof here

Still, these solar shingles are relatively new on the market, so you may have to do some research to find a supplier near you. You’ll also need to find a reputable installer who is familiar with the product. your best bet is to search online for solar shingle or building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) manufacturers and suppliers, they will be able to refer you to a professional home solar systems installer in your area.

Solar shingles can be a good alternative to installing solar panels on the roof. They are made with flexible thin film photovoltaic solar cells that are not only lighter weight than solar panels, but will deliver similar solar energy. If you do not like the idea of a large solar array installation on your roof, and you are good with a hammer and nails and a measuring tape, you may even be able to do some of the installation yourself. Here are some facts that will help you decide whether you want to install them yourself or hire a pro.

Solar shingles installation

The design of your roof will influence how easy the job will be. The easiest installation environment is a large gable roof with composition shingles. This design provides large areas of unobstructed roof surface, and the thin film solar shingles can be easily integrated into the composition shingles. Since thin film shingles produce about half of the electricity of traditional solar panels covering that same area, you should estimate using about twice the surface roof area that a solar panel array would require.

Installing the solar shingles is very similar to installing traditional composition shingles, and you can even use regular roofing nails. But solar shingles contain wiring that transfers the electricity produced by the solar cells into the electrical system of your house. For each shingle, you will need to drill a hole through the roof, insert the electrical wire, and then connect it to the rest of the array from underneath the roof. The holes and wires must be precisely placed, which can make for tedious work if you are installing the PV shingles over a large area.

For this reason, it is important to plan ahead and know exactly where you will install the solar shingles. Also keep in mind that they cannot be cut like composition shingles, so there is much less room for error during installation. But if you are willing to take the time and effort, you will have an attractive roof that delivers clean and inexpensive solar power to your home.

Understanding Home Solar Panels

Home Solar PanelsHome solar panels can supply enough electricity to power most of your kitchen appliances such as a small refrigerator, living room appliances (like television, DVD player, etc) and the water pump all at the same time. It can also be a good back-up power in the event of a blackout or power shortage. It has strong tolerance to and manages effectively spikes or shorts because it has a network that is independent of the grid.

You can get significant savings if you affix home solar panels onto your roof

No more electricity bills to worry about. Any equipment in your home that needs electricity is powered up by sun through your solar powers. And the icing to the cake, there are flexible solar panels that are not only easier to set-up but are also easy on the pocket.

  • How it supplies electricity

Do you know that there are semiconductor materials that can pull-off the photoelectric effect? The photoelectric effect is the conversion of light into electricity, or basically, it is how solar electricity works. Selenium and silicon are the most popular semiconductors used for this. However, newer materials such as the amorphous and crystalline silicon are now being used in solar panels because of a higher efficiency in collecting and converting solar energy.

Home solar panels convert the light of the sun into direct current

Using an inverter, the set-up can also convert the DC into AC electricity to supply power to AC-powered appliances. The solar panels will provide DC electricity to charge the batteries. This set-up serves as back-up power when necessary.

  • Designing a solar power system

It seems impossible but solar technology has been with us for some time now. The most famous personal tool that employs solar technology is the big, bulky solar calculator. You can immediately notice the small solar cells in a row placed atop the screen of a calculator. It works but it has low efficiency in collecting solar power. Fortunately for us, technology has changed all that.

Today, flexible solar panels are fast becoming in demand in the construction business because of its flexibility. They integrate seamlessly into any architectural design. Solar shingles are another good example. However, it is still best to position home solar panels strategically to get the most sunlight available.

This means, panels should be located at the highest point of the house or building. This is usually the roof part of the house or the penthouse part of the building. You must note, however, that things that block the sun’s rays, such as trees or a nearby building can lower the collecting efficiency of home solar panels.

The angle of the panels relative to the sunlight is also an important design consideration because at a right angle, solar panels have a higher efficiency of collecting solar energy.

  • As a back-up power

Home solar panels are good back-up power for the house. They will supply electricity if needed but if not, it will store the electricity for convenience.

How much energy will my house need

If you are thinking about installing a residential solar energy system in your home, you will need to know your current energy consumption. Usually, you can get this information from your local utility company. Using this as a basis, you will be able to design your solar energy system to fit the needs of your house.

  • The climate in your region will have an impact on energy use, as will the direction your windows face, the number and location of trees on your site, and the types of appliances you own. Even the kind of light bulbs you use can make a difference.
  • The yearly temperature extremes in the geographical region you live in will be a big factor. If you live in an area with temperature extremes in winter or in summer, you will use more energy to heat or cool your home than if you lived in a moderate climate.
  • South facing windows in a cold climate can help lower your heating bills. North facing windows in a hot climate can lower cooling bills.
  • Mature trees can provide shade and help lower cooling bills during the summer, while the bare tree limbs allow sunlight in during the winter months. All of these factors contribute to your overall energy use. And installing energy efficient insulation in walls, roofs and floors help reduce utility bills in all climates.

If possible, convert all of your appliances to energy efficient models. Newer appliance models often use as much as 50% less energy than older models, especially if they need repairs and are not working at top efficiency. Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs or LED also makes a substantial impact on reducing electricity consumption.

After evaluating your house for these factors, you can plan to build a solar photovoltaic system by multiplying your average daily kilowatt hour usage by about .25. This should give you a rough estimate of the daily kilowatts your home solar panels will need to generate in order to supply your current electrical needs.

Can solar panels survive bad weather

If you live an area that has weather extremes, you may be wondering if solar panels are reasonable for your home. After all, snow and ice storms, tornados, hurricanes and hail take their toll on regular roofs every year. Would it really make sense to install solar panels on a roof that has to withstand those kinds of weather extremes? Here a few facts that will help you decide.

It makes sense to be concerned about hail or wind damage to the glass that encapsulates the solar cells and allows them to have exposure to the sun. But the solution is to make sure that the solar panels you use are made with high impact tempered glass. Good quality solar panels are manufactured with glass that can maintain its integrity during 60 miles per hour storms dropping 3/4″ hail. So they will typically withstand conditions that are similar to what your roofing material will tolerate.

Before your solar panels are installed, the contractor must ensure that the roof itself is able to support the weight of the solar panel arrays. Once that is established and the solar panels are attached to the roof, they should be able to remain solidly in place. In the case of a tornado or hurricane, your solar panels will typically stay attached to your roof. The only way you would lose them is if the roof itself comes off.

In areas where there is heavy snowfall, snow may cover the solar panels and block them from receiving sunlight. In that case, they cannot produce electricity and it will be necessary to brush off the snow. But the panels themselves will not be damaged by a heavy snowfall.
The bigger concern would be that the roof itself may not be able to withstand the weight of a heavy, wet snowfall. In that case, it would be wise to shovel the roof as well as remove the snow from the solar panels. But in the case of a light snow, the heat retained by the solar panels is usually enough to melt off the snow and keep them clean.

As a final point, check with your homeowner’s insurance policy. Solar panels are usually included in the coverage at no additional cost. If not, consider changing to a policy that will provide adequate coverage.

What kind of maintenance do solar panels need

If you are worried that installing solar panels on your home will result in time-consuming, costly and complicated maintenance, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Most solar panels used for residential systems are made of solar cells encapsulated in thick glass, mounted onto metal racks. Since they have no moving parts, once they are installed they require minimal maintenance.

Of course, this may depend on where you live, what kinds of weather are typical for your region and whether or not you have a lot of trees in your yard. For instance, if you live in a region where there is a lot of snow in the winter, you may have to spend some time after a heavy snowfall cleaning off the solar panels so the sun can reach them. Or if you live in an area that has frequent dust storms, or an urban area where there is a lot of dirt in the air, you may have to clean off the glass panels periodically to maximize their efficiency. But if it rains frequently enough, that should be sufficient to keep your solar panels clean enough to function properly.

If there are a lot of deciduous trees in your yard that shed their leaves every fall, you may need to make sure that those leaves don’t cover up your solar panels. Even some evergreen trees shed their needles and may require a periodic clean up. But a quick swipe with a broom should do the trick.

Of course, the solar panels are not the only components in the system. If you have an off grid system, it will include storage batteries and perhaps a back up generator. These components will require more monitoring and ongoing maintenance than the solar panels themselves. It’s always a good idea to plan for regular inspections to make sure that your entire solar energy system is running properly.

If your solar panels are tied to the grid, you will still have an inverter as part of your system. It converts the electricity that your solar panels generate into alternating current that your appliances can use. Even though it has no mechanical parts, it is an important component and should be regularly inspected.

Why should I install solar panels on my home

Solar energy is in the news almost daily. But have you been wondering whether or not installing solar panels on your home would be a good choice for your family? Here are a few of the most compelling reasons.

The economic climate is finally favorable again for people who want to use solar energy at home. There are now federal tax credits in place (or soon to be in place) that can lower the cost of installing a residential solar energy system by as much as 30%. And don’t forget to check into your state and city incentives, too. The list of states and cities that are offering tax credit and other incentives to help people convert to solar energy is continuing to grow.

There is also the immediate cost savings you will see in lower monthly utility bills. Since you solar panels will be powering your appliances during the day, you will be seeing a savings in electricity usage. And if your local utility company participates in net metering, your electric bill could be reduced to zero. Net metering allows you to sell back any excess electricity that your solar panels produce to the electric company for a credit to your account. So if your solar electric system produces a surplus during the day, the electricity that you use from the grid at night could end up being free.

Solar energy is also great for the environment It is produced on site where it is used So there are no fuel transportation costs or emissions, and no plant maintenance costs It does not contribute to global warming There is no pollution from burning oil or coal, and it does not produce nuclear waste that will contaminate the planet for generations to come And last but not least, it is a great way to protect yourself and your family against the future energy price hikes that experts predict.

Will solar panels add value to my home

Adding a solar electric system to your home is a major decision and investment. And if you are considering it, you are also probably wondering if they will add value to your home. The answer depends on a lot of factors. Here are some things to consider.

First, how aware is your community of the benefits and value of solar energy? If you live in an area where a lot of people are interested and involved in the green living movement, potential buyers may be willing to pay more for a house that already has a solar electric system installed. But if you live an area where there is very little eco-friendly activity, where people don’t care much about recycling or environmental concerns, buyers may be indifferent the effort and money you have put into installing solar panels.

But even in a community where people never think about green living, usually everyone can appreciate saving money. Does your house have a history of energy savings over a number of years? If you can produce a paper trail of your energy savings over the past few years, you will have good evidence that the solar panels you installed are a benefit to new owners. With the cost of heating and cooling often running into several hundred dollars each month for some families, savings on utilities becomes important.

But what can you do to prove energy savings if you have only recently installed your solar panel system? You can call your local electric utility company and ask them for their statistical projection of how much your electric bill will decrease. You can also get data from the company which installed your solar energy system. Most of the larger solar installation companies have marketing departments that gather that kind of data to help people see that solar panels will generate energy savings for them.

Another factor to consider is how common solar energy systems are in your housing market. If solar panels are common, your real estate agent will be able to give you actual statistical data that shows the difference in selling price between houses with solar panels and houses that have only public utility electric service. If this kind of data is available in your market, you have the best possible proof that can show a potential buyer.

Will home solar panels damage my roof

The majority of residential solar panel systems are installed on the roof to provide the best exposure to the sun. But that raises a concern about what kind of damage the installation might do to the roof. Here are a few facts so you will know up front just what you will be getting into if you choose to install solar panels on your roof.

Most roofs are built to withstand at least 8 to 10 pounds per square foot of weight above and beyond the weight of the roofing material. That is usually more than enough load bearing capacity to accommodate solar panels. However, each house represents a unique installation project. Your local building inspector or a professional solar panel installer should be able to make an accurate assessment of your roof’s capacity to handle the weight of your solar energy system.

Many installers attach the solar panel mounts to the beams. This kind of installation is extremely secure and provides better load distribution than attaching the mounts to roof decking. Since rooftop installations have been common for more than 30 years, professional installers are knowledgeable about the best methods to insure stability and avoid damage.
However, it is important to consider the age and condition of your existing roof before you schedule your solar panel installation. Since the mounts will be installed over the roofing material, they would have to be removed and reinstalled if you decide to replace your roof. So if you plan on replacing your roof within the next 5 to 10 years, consider replacing it before you install your new solar panel system. That way you can avoid the additional cost of removal and reinstallation.

Of course, if you are still concerned about installing solar panels on your roof, you may be able to use a ground mounted system. The same criteria apply to choosing a solar panel array location whether on a roof or on the ground. It must receive enough sunlight during the day to produce the electricity that your household needs, and it must be free from obstacles that block it from the sun. If you have such a location on you property, it may be a good alternative to using the roof.

Will solar panels work during winter

If you live in an area that has long, harsh winters you may be wondering if your house is a good candidate for solar panels. After all, days or weeks of overcast skies, snow flurries or monsoon rains hardly seem compatible with a technology that relies on the sun for its power.

But there has been a lot of innovation and progress in solar panel technology during the past 10 years. Now solar technology is far enough along that solar panels can easily create electricity even on cloudy, snowy or rainy days.

If you have an off grid system which works independently of a public utility system, your solar energy system will include a set of storage batteries. These batteries are similar to the kind used in cars They are designed to hold any excess electricity that your solar panels generate during the sunny part of the day. If your battery storage system is properly designed for your region, it will include enough of these batteries to store electricity for the number of cloudy days that are typical for your geographical area.

If you have a system that is tied into the grid of your local electric utility company, then you won’t need storage batteries. When the sun goes down at night, or during a stretch of bad weather where you don’t see the sun for days, your electrical system will automatically use electricity from your local power company. Of course, during sunny days, your solar panels will be generating your electric power, so you will still be reaping the benefits of lower electric bills.

In some areas, you are even be able to sell power back to your local electric company. This arrangement makes solar panels even more cost effective. The way is works is that any excess power that your solar panels generate flows back into the grid system and you receive a credit for it on your electric bill. That way, even if you need to use electricity from the grid during the night or during overcast days, any excess electricity that your solar panels were able to generate will still be lowering your overall utility bills.

Will solar panels work on my house

If you have you been wondering whether or not you can install solar panels on your house, there are several factors to consider. Things like the direction that your roof faces and the placement of trees in your yard can make a difference You will also need to know whether or not you want your electrical system tied to the local utility grid. Here’s a short list of some of the things you will need to consider.

The most important issue is whether your system will be grid tied or off grid. Grid tied means that your electric system will be hooked up to the local electric utility company. You solar panels will generate electricity that can run your appliances as long as the sun is shining on your solar panels. At night and during weather when the sun isn’t out, your appliances will run on utility company electricity.

An off grid system runs independently and is not hooked up to a utility company. They are more common in rural areas where utility poles are distant and hookups are extremely expensive. Off grid systems use batteries (similar to car batteries) to store excess electricity, and usually have back up generators for emergency situations. Appliances run off the solar panels during the day, and the batteries or generator during the night or during inclement weather. 5 Things to Consider

For both grid tied and off grid systems, the roof pitch, direction it faces, and nearby objects that cast shade are all factors affecting where you can place solar panels. They need access to direct sunlight for as much of the day as possible for optimal efficiency. Large trees that shade the roof as well as taller buildings that might block the sun need to be taken into consideration Since each house has a different combination of these factors, each house must be individually evaluated Accurate measurements and surveys, as well as a site inspection by a knowledgeable installer will produce the necessary information for the best solar panel configuration for your house.

The Technologies Behind Solar Electric Systems

Solar Electric Systems

Courtesy www.wilhitesolar.com

If you are looking for an alternative source of electricity, you may want to check out solar electric systems. People whose houses are located far from the power grid can benefit from these kinds of set up. Solar power generators harness solar energy to produce electricity so it basically works independently from conventional powerhouses of energy.

Current technologies that can do this include photovoltaic cells or PV, concentrating solar power or CSP, and other experimental technologies. Each of these technologies has advantages and disadvantages that people must be aware of.

  • Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic cells are popular components of solar electric systems that are used in supplying power to small and medium-sized applications. These include personal gadgets such as a mobile phone and laptop and home appliances like a small TV, a water pump and an electric fan.

The secret behind a photovoltaic cell is a light-related phenomenon called photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect is the conversion of light into direct current or DC electricity. A particular semiconductor such as silicon is capable of the photoelectric effect. Because of this, variants of silicon, such as amorphous silicon, are used to develop solar panels and solar collectors.

Solar cells were initially used as back-up power to satellites. But as prices of the cells became cheaper, it eventually found its way into homes and small buildings. Solar power systems have become popular because of the relatively cheap cost and low maintenance.

  • Concentrating Solar Power

Concentrating solar power plants are used for large-scale generation of electricity. The most popular CSP plant is SEGS or Solar Energy Generating Systems that is located in the Mojave Desert of California. Solar radiation energy was measured to be the highest in the world at this particular place. This type of solar electric system produces a very high amount of electricity.

A CSP plant concentrates solar energy with the use of a parabolic dish. SEGS uses sunlight to produce 90 % of its power supply capacity and the rest is produced using natural gas.

The nine SEGS plants are generating clean and renewable energy to California for more than three decades. You can find more details here

Other experimental solar electric systems emerged over the years

These technologies are the solar pond, solar updraft tower, thermogenerator and space solar power.

  • A solar updraft tower or solar chimney uses heated air to power a turbine that produces electricity. A solar pond produces electricity by using a contrast of weak and high salt solution, which harnesses and stores solar energy. A thermogenerator produces electricity by exploiting the temperature difference between two dissimilar materials. Check this
  • Space solar power is a new breed of solar electric systems since it places an array of solar cells in orbit around Earth to collect solar energy and beam the energy as a microwave radiation back to Earth. “Rectennas” or receiver antennas on Earth receive the microwave radiation for power distribution. More info

These developing solar electric systems are certainly new to you but through time and with the advancement of technologies, home solar systems may actually be the next alternative source of energy for us.

If you are thinking about adding a solar electric system to your home, the costs and the savings are big issues

First, there is the initial outlay of buying and installing the solar panels. But there are also a lot of ways that you will be saving money, not only with your immediate energy savings, but savings against rising fuel costs and the increase in your home’s value as well.

Since so many factors go into installing a solar electricity system, each house needs to be considered on a case by case basis.
The pitch of the roof, the direction it faces, the location of shade trees or buildings that might block sun from reaching the panels must all be evaluated.
And an accurate evaluation is extremely important for each system to function at maximum efficiency.

Professional installers can provide accurate quotes for the materials and installation for your individual site.

Your immediate energy savings will depend on whether or not your local electric company participates in net metering. Net metering refers to the policy which some electric utility companies have of buying back excess electricity that is produced by customers who have solar panel installations. If your local electric company offers this, you will see a substantial decrease in your electric bills.
Some customers actually have a zero balance each month as their solar panel system generates enough electricity for their own use as well as excess to send back into the grid. But even if you electric utility does not allow net metering, your electric bills will still be reduced. During the day when the sun is hitting your solar panels, your appliances will be running off your own solar energy rather than electricity from the grid.
And there is also the probability that solar electric systems will become valuable assets to homes in the near future. As energy costs continue to rise, awareness of the value of alternate energy systems is on the rise.
If you have a history of energy savings that you can show to a potential buyer, it can be a strong incentive for them to choose your home over one that has higher energy operating costs. And since energy prices are predicted to be higher in the future, your solar panel system represents a real hedge against inflation.

A solar electric system also means that your house won’t be affected by brownouts and power outages that can occur due to bad weather or simply due to grid overload. Check this

Two Advantages of Home Solar Power Systems

Home Solar Power SystemsHome solar power systems are not as hard to set-up as in a commercial or industrial setting. The system is also quite convenient because a home solar power system can handle about 60% to 80% of household electricity needs.

You don’t have to be an engineer to build a home solar system. In fact, homeowners can develop their own solar power system at home by following a few guidelines from a book about the subject. Setting-up a solar power system in the home may require a couple of panels of photovoltaic cells and a rigged system that includes wiring, an inverter, distributor and storage batteries.

You may already have read a number of articles about home solar power systems that discusses its advantages of low cost, low maintenance, environment-friendly, and easy set-up. However, there are other reasons why you should consider a solar system in your house.

Home solar power systems are supported by the government

During the 1960s, photovoltaic cells were barely ever considered for commercial use. It was used instead as back-up power of satellites in space. Today, however, the initial capital investment has become more competitive in the market. Also, on long term, you can slash down electrical bills from 10 to 20 years.

The key here is that governments in countries such as the US, Japan and Germany recognize the benefits that people can have from using home solar power systems. These countries make an effort to establish improved guidelines on net metering, a better research and development on photovoltaic cell technology and a subsidy program for homeowners. All of these are meant to support and promote solar energy.

The energy crisis also fueled the advancement of solar energy and resulted to the Energy Tax Act, which provided tax credits for homeowners who set-up solar systems into their houses. It is a fact that an economic problem is plaguing the world today and home solar power can be the key of salvation. Planning a home solar electric system

Home solar systems have a long life span

Setting up a solar system is not only easy; it is a one-time implementation. This is not only because of the low maintenance; the system also has no moving parts at all. Typical home solar power systems can last from 10 to 25 years and you already had your return of investment from 3 to 5 years. Clearly, the system is a money saver.

The problems a homeowner can expect to encounter are damage or exhaustion of the solar panels and expiry of the storage batteries. Damage or exhaustion of the solar panels is already prevented with the application of a special adhesive on the surface of the panels. All else are accident-related or coincidental.

To prolong the life of home solar power systems, it is best to maintain the cleanliness of the surface of the panels, as well as, to regularly check the status of the batteries. If these two are regularly checked for problems, you can be sure of a long life for your solar power system.

Solar Power Systems In The City

Solar Power Systems

Courtesy www.solarfeeds.com

You rarely see solar power systems in city houses but it may be wise to actually invest in one. Not only will solar systems help you save from electrical bills, but it will also serve as back-up power for your home. In the event of a blackout in the city, which is happening more frequently these days, your house will be the only one with electrical power.

Solar energy is not hard to adopt into a city setup. You only need to make a couple of adjustments and follow a few guidelines to put up that perfect alternative power source for your home.

  • Problems In A City Setting

In a city, tall houses or small buildings nearby can block sunlight from reaching your house. If this is the case, you need to think and consider different methods of collecting sun rays. Home solar systems run from energy from the sun and without it, you may have to devise a way to collect sunlight. For instance, using wall-brackets to hold the solar panels high along the side of a building can be an option to fix the problem.

The next problem that you may encounter is the position of your house. Is it at a corner street facing east? Or maybe sandwiched by two houses? Or your house is inside a plush subdivision with enough space for a swimming pool?

If the house is sandwiched by two houses, the solar panels that you will install may be at risk from neighbor kids at play. On the other hand, a house located at a corner street facing east is perfect since there are no tall infrastructures that can block the path of the sunlight. A house with a wider space to spare is the ideal home to install a solar power system.

The usual location for solar power systems is atop the roof of houses

With the right angle, solar panels can be laid out in formation along the side of the roof to get enough sunlight.

  • The Key Is Creativity

The key to implementing an effective solar power system is to maximize the available space. You can integrate the solar panel systems into almost every surface. For example, there are solar power systems that can be placed atop swimming pool covers such that when no one is swimming in the pool, it can be retracted out to harness sunlight for backup power.

Most often than not, solar energy is used to power the motor of a pool cover, as well as the filtering and cleaning system of a pool. We all know pool motor and cleaning systems run in horse power; therefore, using sun’s power to run these equipment save you on fuel and electricity costs. A solar pool heater can keep your swimming pool warm during winter.

Garage areas are also favorite spots for setting up solar power systems. The solar panel itself can serve as the parking roof for the cars. The wiring can be placed inside the hollow beams that support the solar panels. Some companies even make profit when they use solar panels for the whole parking lot. They save on power costs while at the same time profit from parking fees.

Solar panels and zoning

Before you order your do-it-yourself home solar energy system and start building your own solar panels, you might want to save yourself a big headache (and several thousand dollars) by looking into your local zoning. If you live on acreage in an unincorporated area, you might still be subject to some state restrictions. So it is always wise to ask some questions and do some research at the beginning of your project’s planning process (instead of waiting until the money has been spent!).

In the United States, zoning restrictions usually are the least restrictive at the federal level, and become increasingly restrictive at the most local levels. That means (usually), the state is less restrictive than the county; the county is less restrictive than the town or city; the town or city is less restrictive than the homeowners’ association. So is you do your zoning research at the most restrictive level that applies to your situation, you should be in good shape.

If you live in a community that has a homeowner’s association, start there. Find out if there are rules about installing solar power systems (or any structures) on your roof, or if there are rules about the kind of roofing materials you can use. It’s not the end of the world if your discover restrictions. You’ll just have to develop a proposal that your association board will find so appeal that they’ll approve it with ease.

If your zoning comes from your town or city regulations, you’ll need to go the planning office and find out what your local zoning laws say about solar panel installations. It may take you some time to find out exactly who to talk with; it may be the zoning department, or the planning department, or the building code department. But once you uncover the proper authority, find out what permits you need, and what the process is that you’ll need to follow. If there are no town or city zoning codes in place that cover solar panels, you’ll need to research at the next level.

The next zoning authority level is your county. If you can find the county website online, you may be able to get answers without having to visit the county offices in person. Either way, though, you’ll need to find out which department handles zoning and permits, and get your answers there. If the county has no zoning regarding solar panels, keep asking questions. Someone at the county level should be able to tell you whether your state has any laws in place.

You can also approach all of this research by finding local solar power systems suppliers and installers. Since the zoning regulations affect their businesses, they’ll usually know exactly what the laws are, if any. Be sure you ask a reputable, licensed business person, though. And double check their answers, don’t just rely on what they tell you. As with any “home improvement” there are a lot of scams out there that are easy to avoid by doing a little research of your own. Guide to installing a solar electric system