Have you always dreamed of having a house powered by the sun? Perhaps you are seriously thinking about it, but want to know more about your options. When most people think about solar power, they think of the classic solar panels that produce electricity. These are solar photovoltaic panels. But solar photovoltaics are not the only way to use solar energy.
Solar hot water: uses the sun to heat your water instead of fossil fuels. There are several different types of solar hot water systems available. They are usually lower tech and cheaper to install than household solar photovoltaic systems, although pricing varies widely with the type of system chosen.
Pro: cheaper to buy than photovoltaic
easier to DIY than photovoltaic
Con: will only give you hot water
too heavy for some roofs
cheapest varieties don’t work in freezing temperatures
Solar swimming pool: this is actually a very inexpensive way to heat your swimming pool. It pays for itself within a few years.
Pro: short payoff time
Con: only heats your pool water
Solar thermal: technically this includes both solar hot water and solar swimming pool systems, as well as solar cookers. It also refers to heating air by the heat of the sun.
Pro: cheaper than solar photovoltaic for the amount of energy produced
Con: heat only, won’t give you electricity
Passive solar/solar architecture: designing or renovating a house so that it gains the maximum benefit from the sun’s heat, while not getting overheated during the summer.
Pro: adds very little to cost of a new house for major reductions in heating needs
Con: hard to retrofit
Solar cooker: uses the sun to cook food. It tends to cook food more slowly – can be compared to a slow cooker. Very easy to DIY compared to other solar options. They are also inexpensive to buy.
Pro: easy to DIY
cheap to buy or make
Con: needs sun to cook food
won’t do anything other than cook food
cooks food slower than most cooking methods
Solar photovoltaic: solar electricity created using the classic solar panels. A full system for your house is expensive compared to other solar power options, but it’s more versatile. It is also possible to buy very small systems intended for charging cell phones for laptops. These are very much cheaper.
Pro: extremely versatile as electricity can be used for almost anything
Con: more technically complex than other solar methods
more expensive than other solar methods for the amount of energy acquired
high-voltage electricity produced makes DIY photoelectric more hazardous than other solar power projects.