Many people are concerned about the environment, and with solar panels becoming increasingly affordable, replacing some or all of your power usage with solar power can be a great way to offset high electricity bills.
Whether you will be able to live totally off-the-grid depends on your energy consumption. If you are able to live very simply, using a lot of low-power appliances and your home has been specifically designed to be “green” or energy efficient, then it may be possible for you to live off the power of the sun alone. However, for most people it will be most effective to just replace some of the power you use in your home with solar.
Heat and refrigeration appliances are one of the most energy-consuming things to operate, and devices like washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and tumble driers will likely not be suitable for solar or photovoltaic energy conversion.
So what sorts of things are candidates to be replaced by solar?
- Small electric cooktops
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Other small appliances like bread makers, toasters, coffee makers, etc.
For most people, a hybrid system is ideal if your home is already connected to the utility grid. This minimizes initial cost, and provides the most output for your efforts. First, lower your home’s total energy consumption as much as possible. This can include replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent, repairing and sealing drafty windows, purchasing more efficient and environmentally friendly appliances, installing a more “green” shower head, and using basic conservation strategies such as only running a load of laundry or dishes when the machine is full, and taking shorter showers. Once you have determined your home’s energy needs, you can begin to design a more efficient system.
If you find that your home needs very little energy because of your lifestyle, or you live in an area with year-round sunshine, a pure photovoltaic system may be an option. However, supplanting solar power with wind, geothermal, or fuel-powered backup batteries is the most realistic option for most homes. Because photovoltaic systems depend on constant sunshine, if you require electricity all the time it’s often smart to have another system in place. As previously discussed, heating is quite expensive. However, geothermal heating systems which tap into the heat of the earth far underground can be a fantastic option that, although initially expensive, pay for themselves over time with heating savings. Supplanting a solar energy system with a wind turbine that can store power for rainy days or long periods of cloud cover is also a smart backup. Of course, if all fails, you can still have a fuel-powered generator, or tap into the municipal energy grid.
Of course, the idea with becoming more energy efficient in general is to lower the total power load your home requires. Being more mindful about energy consumption is a vital step that not only affects us in the short term when we receive our power bills, but also in the long term as we strive to keep our planet healthy for ourselves and for future generations. In short, it is completely possible to power some or even all of your home appliances with solar energy, if you are willing to make the conscious effort to be more mindful about consumption.