This is Lesson 11 of our informal online course: Home Energy 101. All lessons by Philip Drader.
In all our previous lessons, we looked at how to reduce your energy usage while trying to also make your home more comfortable. It makes sense to reduce your energy use before taking a look at how to generate the energy you still need. It helps to recognize, though, that even your best efforts at conservation will reach a point where it is more cost-effective to generate than it is to conserve.
Generate your own electricity
Wherever you live, you likely have access to some light. The rooftop of many residential buildings is an ideal place for capturing the sun’s energy.
Most residential homes will have no difficulties with the added weight of solar photovoltaic panels, also known as PV panels. You’ll want to have only one layer of shingles that have been fairly recently installed, as the lifespan of the PV panels is expected to be 40-50 years.
By generating electricity, it is possible to make your home into a home that generates as much energy as it consumes (assuming you have made energy efficient upgrades discussed in other lessons).
How cool would it be to come home every night and see how much electricity you’ve generated during the day? It could even motivate you to conserve electricity as you try to narrow the gap between what you’re using and what generating.
Installing solar panels
The process of installing panels will start with contacting a solar installer to get pricing and figure out your payback. Typically, companies such as Big Island Solar Power will size a system out based on satellite images and get more precise measurements on-site if there is sufficient interest.
Getting permits and applications filled out is the next step of planning and preparing for the actual install.
Racking is installed on the roof, and all penetrations flashed with metal to prevent water damage. Then the panels are installed on it. Electrical connections are made and the whole system is connected to an inverter to convert the direct current from the panels into alternating current like the rest of the system supplying your home.
Once it has been inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), it can be turned on and generate power.
If you’ve installed enough solar panels, you might now generate as much–or more–electricity than you use. This achievement is significant progress towards a net zero energy home, which balances all the energy it uses including to heat your home or with the energy it generates.
Solar energy at REEP House for Sustainable Living
Watch the videos to learn about how we generate solar energy at our model sustainable home. Use the links below to dive deeper into this alternative energy option.
Who can help you?
To help you get started, we provide a list of businesses, organizations and services that work with renewable energy. Rather than recommending any of them, we suggest you research them and get written quotes.