Energy costs in the U.S. are steadily rising. What are you doing to cut down on your expenditures? Going solar is a great alternative for both cost and environmental reasons.
Whether you plan to partially run off of solar or want to truly be off-the-grid, solar power is now a feasible power solution for small and big homes alike.
Benefits of Switching to Solar Energy
Switching to solar power can result in significant savings on the long-term as well.
For example, in California, where energy costs are amongst the highest in the nation, the average household can expect to save up to $100 per month or more. Over a 25-year timeframe, the savings can exceed $40,000!
Solar technology has come a long way. From the panels themselves to all of the devices which can now operate in energy-efficient modes, switching to solar has never been easier.
Oh, and the government can often offer tax incentives if you’re planning on installing solar power in your home.
Great for the Environment
Solar energy doesn’t require combustible fuels or connection to an electrical grid. All you need is a good amount of natural sunlight.
No pollution, no risk of carbon monoxide leaking, and no need for being tethered to a municipal power grid if you so choose.
Not being reliant on fossil fuels also means that you’ll be reducing your overall carbon footprint. Environmentally-conscious choices help humanity and our future generations to inherit a cleaner planet and one worth respecting.
Solar Energy Basics
If you’re looking to get into solar energy for your home, you’ll need to understand the basic components that make it work.
Although too comprehensive to explain here, the basic components are the solar panels themselves, a battery system to store the energy, and the devices or appliances that are able to use the stored energy.
Some states tend to receive more sunlight than others, such as Arizona, New Mexico, and California. This means that they’ll be able to take advantage and make better use of solar panels than elsewhere.
You should always try to locate your solar panels where they’ll maximize sunlight absorption and avoid shaded areas.
Products for Off-the-Grid Living
Here are a few great ways that you can get started.
You don’t have to buy all of these products outright, but once you see the benefits and savings associated, you’ll surely be incentivized to start saving more and reducing your carbon footprint by using the raw power of the sun.
If you’re planning on investing in solar energy and building your own solar grid at home, you’ll need to learn about wiring and electricity so that you can get to work safely and efficiently.
Photovoltaic Design and Installation for Dummies is a great crash course into the complexities involved with planning, building, and implementing your own home solar energy grid.
Be warned that you will need to brush up on some mathematics and learn a little bit about what an electrician does, but it’s well worth it considering that you’re doing this to save money in the long run as well as helping out the environment.
The best part about doing it all yourself is that you can pick and choose which components will work best for your setup. Which batteries and how much storage capacity will you need? How are you planning to regulate and control voltage?
All these questions can be answered by tailoring your solar energy grid to exactly your specifications.
Pros & Benefits:
A comprehensive guide to building a quality solar power grid
Easy to understand for beginners; complex enough for those with some experience
If you don’t have the time to learn all the ins and outs of building a solar energy installation yourself, then the first step to going solar is a good quality solar panel kit.
If you’re new to solar energy, there are many things you’ll need to learn to get started. Luckily, a good kit will include everything needed to start without having to be an expert electrician or having to hire one.
The WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit comes complete with four 100-Watt polycrystalline panels, ideal for everyday use in homes, cabins, RVs, boats, and more.
You’ll also get all of the relevant cables and connectors required to properly get going with solar energy.
This kit also comes with four AGM deep cycle batteries at 100Ahm for storing accumulated energy. Most kits don’t come with these, meaning you’ll have to normally acquire them separately.
The problem is that no two batteries are alike.
Whether you’re purchasing new or used, technologies, as well as lifespans, can differ drastically between batteries. If you’re new to solar, you’ll be happy to have four fresh new batteries to get you started.
Of course, you’re always going to be able to fine-tune and customize better by buying each component separately and learning the ins and outs of connecting yourself to solar.
If you’re in need of a quick and easy solution, however, purchasing a good kit is a reliable way to get into solar without having to learn the nitty-gritty.
Great for home use as well as camping or in your cabin or shed, the KK.BOL Portable Solar LED Light Bulb is an effective way to make use of solar energy for lighting spaces.
Lighting your home can be done by connecting your lighting system to your solar energy, but those wanting to get their feet wet with solar energy should consider smaller appliances such as this rechargeable solar-powered light bulb.
It’ll help you get started in going green as well as reducing your overall energy expenditure.
This easy-to-install light bulb works right out of the box. It comes with a photovoltaic solar panel, bulb, charger, and connector. As with all solar-powered devices, be sure to locate the panel in an area that receives a good amount of sunlight.
A day’s worth of sunlight can power this bulb for a good five hours. This makes it ideal for patio lighting or in areas where there isn’t much shade.
Pros & Benefits:
Simple and works out of the box
Great start to switching to solar without committing too much
Keeping warm in the colder months can be both expensive as well as environmentally-taxing. Freezing temperatures to some people correlate to big energy bills just to keep themselves warm.
Consequently, it’s always a good investment to look into more energy-efficient ways to provide you with adequate warmth.
Unfortunately, the transmission of energy into heat is inherently wasteful, no matter whether you’re using propane or electricity.
The good news is that energy-efficient electric heaters are now becoming more and more effective in keeping you warm whilst saving you money.
Space heaters such as this Comfort Zone Oscillating Space Heater make great use of materials and build to provide you with fast and efficient heat.
If you’re running on solar power, you’ll find that no matter what, heating will consume your energy the fastest. That’s why high-efficiency electric heaters such as this one are an excellent way to reduce the drain on your batteries.
If staying cool is what you’re after, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of completely solar-powered fans and ventilators available.
One that stands out is the Rand Solar Powered Attic Fan, which is a breeze to install and has enough power to cool up to 700 square feet of space.
This fan requires some assembly, preferably somewhere that is able to both get a lot of natural sunlight and also somewhere on your roof that is appropriate for providing proper ventilation indoors.
The good news is that once it’s installed, that’s all you need to do. The fan operates on its own, even on days with some clouds or less sunlight coming in. There’s no wiring involved because the unit is designed to function completely on its own.
One of the best things about this fan is that you’ll never need to pay for energy again (at least for cooling your home) and consequently the fan pays itself off easily in the future.
Although it’s made of good corrosion-resistant materials, it comes with a generous 20-year warranty, which by that time you’ll have already paid it off in earnest.
Great for warmer summer months, solar-powered fans such as this are a great way to introduce yourself to solar energy.
Converting energy into heat is unfortunately wasteful.
Although some methods of generating heat are better than others, the reality is that if you plan to do any cooking indoors, you’ll need to be using combustible materials such as propane or butane, or you’ll need to consume a lot of built up solar energy to use for electric cookers.
If you’re environmentally-conscious, you’ve probably already ruled out propane or other non-renewable fuels. This leaves you with electric or induction stovetops to do all of your cooking.
A great alternative for camping or outdoor cooking is the HUKOER portable parabolic solar cooker. Now it may not be suitable for everyday cooking, but it certainly fits the theme of solar-powered devices.
The best part is that it requires no combustible fuels or electricity to operate.
Just leave it out on the patio and fold out the reflective array when you’ve got a good amount of sunlight and let mother nature do the cooking for you.
Note that you’ll need to do a little bit of assembly before it’s ready for cooking, but once it’s assembled it’s quite portable, weighing only 37 lbs.
Along with outdoor cooking, another great option for camping or RV owners without easy access to a hot shower is a good solar-heated water camp shower such as these ones from Coleman.
If you’ve never used these before, a word of caution. There’s very little pressure. Furthermore, five gallons is not a lot of water.
You won’t be able to spend a long time under continuous flow like you would under a normal shower. If you’re careful about conserving your water for washing and rinsing, however, five gallons can certainly get the job done well.
By absorbing the sunlight coming in, these bags naturally keep the water inside nice and warm. If you’re out camping, secure it to a tree using a little bit of rope or place it near your vehicle if you require a little more privacy.
The “shower head” nozzle has an on/off button for easy access, meaning you can conserve water quickly and easily.
As mentioned, it doesn’t have much pressure, but given that it’s gravity fed, the nozzle does allow enough pressure to feel just good enough for washing your hair or even doing your dishes whilst on the road.
Keeping an entire home or even a room warm enough during the cold winter can be very inefficient in terms of energy usage.
Not only is the conversion from energy to heat inherently wasteful, but even great insulation will dissipate that heat eventually.
If you’re trying to keep warm at night, you want solutions that won’t deplete your solar energy halfway through your sleep and work to keep you consistently warm.
The best advice for keeping warm is the tried and tested method of layering. Thick and quality materials like wool socks and big quilts or blankets are a must-have because they work to retain your body heat much like a sleeping bag does.
A good electric blanket, such as the Sunbeam Heated Blanket, can be an effective means of keeping warm for those nights where layering up just isn’t enough.
This super soft heated blanket comes with 10 different heat settings and an easy auto-off function, which is important if you’re planning to sleep with it on.
As with all electric devices connected to your solar power grid, you’ll want to be cautious not to consume too much energy if you don’t have to.
Unfortunately, electric heating devices tend to be a hog on your batteries. It is however recommended to have a good and comfortable heating device to get you by, if only on the coldest nights of the year.
Having the biggest and best solar energy setup won’t amount to much if you aren’t optimizing how your energy is being used.
That’s where the ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller can help you make the best use of your energy and reduce strain on your batteries.
Deep cycle batteries have a limited lifespan, which can be shortened significantly if they aren’t taken care of. Using too much of a full charge, for instance, can put unnecessary strain on your battery.
A good quality solar power battery regulator is able to communicate with both your solar panels as well as your battery to control for the optimal use of your solar energy system.
Furthermore, regulators such as this one give you a degree of surge protection, overloading of the batteries, and protection from the consequences of lightning strikes.
Everything is contained in an easy-to-use panel which is able to display all the relevant battery and status data that you need to control your solar energy grid.
Part of living off the grid means that you’ll always need to be cautious of which appliances you’re connecting to your solar power grid. Not every appliance will work optimally or at all with solar energy, so you’ll need to invest in a good quality power inverter.
Without getting into too many specifics, suffice to say that using certain appliances without an inverter can expose you to unwanted risks such as power surges.
Inverters, particularly sine wave power inverters such as the Ampeak 2000W Power Inverter provide you with a safe and easy way to connect your appliances safely to solar power.
Not only is an inverter a key component of a solar energy grid, but this model comes with surge protection as well as a smart digital display which shows DC voltage inputs as well as AC output wattage.
Measuring your input and output is an important consideration for making the best use of your solar panels.
This inverter is highly flexible. Whether you need a solution for home, camping, or on the road, this inverter will get the job done.
Perhaps the most important component of any solar power setup are the panels themselves. Many years ago, solar panel technology was often prohibitively costly and woefully inefficient.
High-quality solar panels can still be a hefty investment, but given that they’re now more readily accessible than ever and have proven cost savings, there’s never been a better time to invest in high-quality solar panels.
Renogy is a brand leader for solar panels, and these 100W monocrystalline solar panels are easy to install and built to last.
While 100W won’t get you too much juice for powering a home, it’s easy to connect these solar panels to other Renogy panels to give you enough power for everyday use.
If you’re looking for a durable and high-quality solar panel for a cabin or RV, you’ll find that these solar panels are a great solution. When paired with other solar panels to make a grid, they’re just as good for an off-the-grid home power supply.
Great for patios, garages or driveways, these solar motion security lights will give you the sense of security and peace of mind without requiring any electrical power supply.
No electrical connections also means that installation is quick and easy. These motion sensor lights can be easily affixed to a wall or flat surface and require no extensive wiring at all.
Powerful LED lights provide strong illumination wherever these lights are placed. With a wide motion angle of 270 degrees and illumination of up to 320 square feet, these lights can provide you with great coverage when placed in a desirable location.
Pros & Benefits:
Great coverage angles and strong illumination
No need to install wiring
Great value for money
These products are just a few examples of great solutions that can exploit free and clean solar energy and get you on the path to reaping savings and living fully off the grid.
Energy costs are only going up and are already very high in the more heavily-populated states such as New York and California.
Potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars over the next 20 years is not only great for your wallet but is also a conscious investment for environmental reasons.
It is important to remember, however, that solar energy isn’t perfect and is still developing.
It’s heavily dependent on getting a good amount of sunlight and therefore on overcast or cloudy days, you can’t expect to spend energy as frivolously as on sunny days when your solar energy grid is generating energy at full capacity.
Perhaps the greatest incentive to get started right away is the potential to receive government tax incentives.
Many states are incentivizing households to switch to green energy and solar in particular can be a very affordable solution when subsidized. These incentives may not last forever, so don’t delay and start considering your alternatives now.