Going to Solar Power by Taking the First Affordable Step

by blackspanielgallery

The easiest way to start converting to solar power is to start with one or more solar energy devices like an attic fan, a water heater, or security lighting, then add a full unit.

Solar power can be expensive to switch over to all at once, but we should take responsibility for our carbon footprints. Commercial power often increases the burning of fossil fuel such as gas or oil, so if we can reduce our dependence on commercial power we will have made a positive environmental step. Notice the word reduce. Moving away from commercial power all at once might be cost prohibited for most people. But, any partial conversion to solar power is a plus, and should be taken.

A partial move to solar power is best achieved if the steps we take can continue to be used should we go more fully to solar energy. Some things are stand alone units that individually utilize solar energy. Having any of these installed will not be wasted should a decision to more fully convert to solar energy be made in the future.

Hybrid Water Heaters

Use Solar Energy when Possible

A solar water heater does not actually convert the sunlight to electricity as most solar devices do.  Instead water is passed through a system of carbon tubing where it is heated.  The sunlight is absorbed by the black carbon, and that heats the carbon tubing.  The water inside the panels is heated by conduction from the panel.  So, the sunlight is converted to heat energy, which is then transferred to the water.


I recommend a hybrid system.  In the hybrid system the heated water is fed into your current hot water heater’s tank.  This reduces the amount of energy needed to heat the water in the tank to the desired temperature.


The hybrid system saves energy, mostly when the sun shines on the carbon.  So it is necessary to place the panels in a place where the sunlight will reach, and at an optimum angle to maximize the amount of sunlight converted to heat.  But, when the sun does not shine on a rainy day or at night the current heat source, whether it is electricity or gas, will keep your hot water supply available.


Another advantage of a hybrid system is the panels can be disconnected and taken indoors if there is a danger of damage from a freeze.  Some units come with freeze protection.  


Note some models are not compatible with certain water heaters.

Solar Attic Fan

The attic fan is an important appliance in reducing your energy consumption.  It takes hot air that can reach some rather high temperatures out of your attic during hot, summer days.  And, it provides limited access to your attic for cold air to enter in the winter.  So, having a properly operating attic fan during the daylight hours in the summer can reduce the heat coming into your home through the ceiling.  And attic heat making the ducts carrying air from our air conditioner less efficient.


Installing a solar attic fan with its own small solar panel will eliminate commercial energy that otherwise would be needed to operate an attic fan.  I recommend making certain it is not installed in an area where a tree or other obstruction blocks the sunlight part of the day.  And, do not allow the placement to be on a side of the roof that slopes away from the sun during most of the day.

Solar Powered Security Lights

Security lights can be placed around your home and not use commercial power.  Choose solar lighting, which consists of a small solar panel and rechargeable batteries.  The requirement is the solar panel must be installed where it received adequate sunlight to recharge the batteries.  Some models incorporate a motion sensor that will allow the batteries to remain charged through the night.  The lights come on only when motion is detected.

Updated: 09/06/2015, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 12/30/2015

On the positive side you can install these even if you have no power run to the location. However, make certain the solar cell gets adequate sunlight to fully charge the batteries.

CruiseReady on 12/30/2015

Thanks for sharing this! I like the solar powered security lights for a beginning option. They're affordable, and many of us are more concerned for safety and security these days.

blackspanielgallery on 09/15/2015

I did it with both a federal and a state plan that together paid about 80% of the cost. I mentioned these in another article. But, even for partial conversion do take advantage of any money you can get from the government.

Rose on 09/14/2015

Have thought about solar heating (my electricity supplier would allow me to sell excess electricity back to the grid). The initial outlay seems steep though.

blackspanielgallery on 09/06/2015

I think any move in the right direction has merit. Thanks for the comment.

frankbeswick on 09/06/2015

This is a good and useful article. I can see the rationality of partial conversion for those not rich enough for the full change.

blackspanielgallery on 09/06/2015

The water is heated in carbon. This is not a conversion to electricity, but a more direct use. The ones pictured are panels, but my understanding is many use carbon. I cannot verify the specifications of what these are made of, but others are clearer on this. Carbon, being black, absorbs sunlight and converts t to heat.

teddletonmr on 09/06/2015

Forgive my ignorance blackspanielgallery, what is this carbon tubing you write about?

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