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Exploring The Solar Technologies Available For Your Home

20 Aug 2016

Posted in General, Residential by Alba Energy

The most common type of solar technology – the rectangular solar panel you are probably most familiar with – is called photovoltaics or PV for short. But your home solar options for harnessing the sun’s free, unlimited, clean energy resource are not just limited to solar PV.

In fact, there are a number of ways to utilize solar energy at home. Along with solar PV, solar thermal and passive solar are popular methods available today, and we explore them all below.

The Main Types Of Home Solar Technology

Solar PV

Photovoltaics gets its name from the process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage). With solar PV you have the ability to harness energy from the sun and convert it to electricity. This solar electricity can then be used to power anything within the home that runs on, you guessed it, electricity.

components-of-solar-panel-installation

Related: How Long Do Solar Panels Really Last?

Your refrigerator, your television, your air conditioner, even your cell phone can all be powered by solar PV. In fact, when you install a PV solar energy system it gets wired into your home’s main electricity panel (sometimes called a breaker box).

Once connected there, solar PV will become the primary energy source for electricity, with your connection to the power grid available for nighttime use and times when your energy needs exceed the capability of your PV system.

With solar PV, a number of different types of solar panels are available, all of which will basically provide the same solar power to your home. Colors Of Solar Panels - What Are The Differences is a good article to read to learn more about this topic, or you can view this gallery of Residential Solar Panel Installations In Texas to see what products local homeowners have chosen.

Solar Thermal

The second most common type of solar energy technology is solar thermal. Imagine a black hose filled with water sprawled out on your driveway during the hot Texas summer. As sunlight hits the tube, the black color absorbs energy from the sun, but instead of electricity it produces heat. Subsequently, the fluid inside the hose, in this example water, gets heated too.

solar-thermal-system-simple-diagram

With a solar thermal system, your water is essentially warmed by sunlight for free. You don’t need to rely on natural gas, propane, or electricity for the warm water you use washing dishes, doing laundry, etc.

Two main types of collectors are commonly used for residential solar thermal applications – flat plate and evacuated tube collectors – both of which function the same but with different aesthetics.

diagram-of-flat-plate-solar-collector

evacuated-tube-solar-thermal-collector

A solar thermal system can get HOT – in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit! And if there is cloudy or cold weather that prevents the thermal system from reaching a desired temperature, most applications of thermal systems are installed with a backup heating element so that you’ll still be able to warm your water and take a hot shower.

Solar pool heating is another common type of solar thermal used to keep water within a pool at a comfortable temperature.
solar-pool-heater

Passive Solar

A third and final type of solar, passive solar, is not so much a technology but more of a technique. Passive solar is a way to design or orient a home so that it harnesses rays from the sun and uses this sunlight for warmth within the home. Passive solar gets its name from it a lack of mechanical and electrical devices that are used with active solar (the above examples).

passive-solar-house

Passive solar design features like greenhouses, sunrooms, and solariums can greatly enhance livability, daylight, views, and home value at a low cost per square foot.

You can take advantage of passive solar by installing specially glazed windows on the south-facing side of your home. Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, these windows will absorb thermal heat from the sun all day long, giving you the ability to warm you home without turning on the heat or plugging in a space heater.

And in the summer, when you want to block out the heat from the sun, you can install an external window covering, or simply pull some inside shades or curtains to keep your home cool.

Another way to design a passive solar home involves the use of thermodynamics or building materials that can easily absorb thermal mass. In this method, a trombe wall is located on the south facing side inside the home, painted black to absorb thermal heat from the sun, and located behind a layer of glass that does not block out any ultraviolet radiation.

trombe-wall-passive-solar

A series of ducts, vents, and fans can be used to blow warm air throughout the house. Like in the first passive solar example, this method also allows you to heat your home without the use of a traditional heater.

Incentives & Rebates For Home Solar Technology

Now is a great time to take advantage of the big & bold Texas sun and power your home with some sort of solar technology. The U.S. Federal Government is currently offering a 30% tax credit for homeowners who install solar PV and solar thermal systems.

Additionally, many electric utilities across Texas will PAY YOU to install solar panels or solar thermal water heaters. For example, in Austin you can earn up to $7,320 from Austin Energy when you go solar, and in San Antonio CPS Energy’s Solar Rebate Program will pay up to $25k! Read our page about Solar Rebates & Incentives Available In Texas for more details.

How Much Money Could YOU Save With Solar?!

Alba Energy is proud to be one of the leading solar installers in Texas, with offices in Austin, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio.

Alba’s SMART solar financing means you can POWER your home with solar panels, pay LESS on electricity bills, and contribute to a CLEAN energy future. Contact the office nearest you to request your FREE solar savings analysis!
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