Solar power is designed to be energy efficient, save users money, and help promote a responsible attitude toward the environment. Most types of solar energy are designed specifically for use in residential buildings, and there are a number of kits that homeowners can buy to help them switch over to at least partial solar power. This can be an expensive process, but homeowners should keep in mind that there are a number of tax rebates available for people who install solar systems.
Solar Power Definition
In solar systems, heat from sunlight (held by photons, or light particles/waves) passes into the solar cells and is partially absorbed. The cells either change sunlight into a usable form of electricity, or they simply transfer the heat as it is received from the sun.
Water heaters store the heat from sunlight. These devices are fairly simple. They collect heat, using dark, durable material. The heat is absorbed by water in nearby pipes, which carry the heat to a waiting container. These systems cannot fully substitute for an existing water heater--they cannot make the water hot enough--but they can certainly help. In 2010 a home solar water heater costs at least $1,000. Swimming pool versions cost several thousand dollars more.
A full solar heating system designed to transform the sun's rays into heat for a home's air (and usually water as well) is much more expensive than a supplemental water heater. Homeowners can purchase and install one of these systems in 2010 for up to $45,000 that will heat air and water in several rooms, but prices can easily exceed $100,000, depending on the size of the house and the complexity of the system.
Electrical solar systems do not use the heat from sunlight directly. Instead, they use small silicon wafers--solar cells--to turn sunshine into electrical energy, which is then transferred to batteries that can power a variety of appliances. To fully supply home power, homeowners in 2010 will probably have to spend around $45,000 for a 5-kilowatt system.
Solar energy rarely replaces other energy sources completely, especially heat sources. Even with the largest solar heating system it is costly to heat water using only solar power, so another heat source will probably be needed.