Magazine article Sunset

Is Solar Power for You? How It Works and Which Option to Choose

Magazine article Sunset

Is Solar Power for You? How It Works and Which Option to Choose

Article excerpt

Solar energy is hot these days--pun intended. With energy bills on the rise, nonrenewable fossil fuels in decline, and federal and state tax incentives available, you may be thinking about buying a solar energy system that turns sunlight into electricity. You're not alone: According to the research firm Solar-buzz, the U.S. market for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is growing 25 percent to 30 percent per year.

If you're hesitating because you think a PV system might be aesthetically unattractive, think again. These streamlined, high-performance PV systems are about as close to the rooftop eyesores of the 1970s as iPods are to eight-track players. And installing a PV system can actually increase your appraised property value without impacting your lifestyle. So if you're concerned that a PV system would limit you to running your washing machine only on sunny days, not to worry: With a grid-tied PV system--one that is connected to the electricity grid--you'll still have the same energy capabilities as before.

Financial incentives are another attraction. A federal tax credit of up to $2,000 is now available (thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005) for installing a PV system on your house. And many states are offering additional tax credits and rebates--from reduced permit fees in San Diego to cash back in many cities--that can bring the cost down significantly. Visit www.dsireusa.org and www.findsolar.com for more information on tax credits and incentives in your area.

Solar 101

There are three types of solar energy: passive solar (designing your house to be oriented toward the sun); solar thermal (which includes hot water systems); and photovoltaic (or PV, which uses the sun's energy to create electricity to power your home). There are two types of PV systems--solar direct and battery-based. Most people who live in urban areas and are connected to the utility grid purchase direct, grid-tied PV systems. These systems work when the sun is out and generate electricity that your home uses immediately. Any extra energy that you don't use is fed back into the grid, which helps the utility because the demand for electricity peaks during the day. At night, your home draws energy from the grid when demand--and cost--is usually lower. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.