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Converting Your Home to Solar & Wind Power

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The reasons that homeowners chose to convert their homes to alternative power are numerous. Some wish to be more environmentally friendly and produce less greenhouse gas, while others wish to become independent of big business, help the nation to be less dependent on foreign oil, and save money on utility expenses at the same time.  Choosing to revert to alternative power sources can save money but keep in mind the initial conversion can be a bit expensive depending on the systems chosen.

Depending on the local homeowners can choose between solar or wind alternatives or a combination of both. A smaller number of homeowners are also able to take advantage of hydro-generated power by exploiting a river, waterfall, dam or even the ocean waves if they are nearby. This article will deal with solar and wind generated systems of a small, residential scale. Many of these conversions are now available in kit form, and homeowners with a modicum of DIY experience and the proper tools can do the work themselves, others choose to have professionals do the installations for them.

In the last section of this article we will discuss the tax incentives and grants that are available from state and federal agencies that can help to further offset utility expenses for the construction and ongoing use of alternative energy generating systems.

The Most Popular, and First Choice, Is Solar Conversion

Home solar systems are comprised of either panels or boards built out of photo-voltaic cells or strips. Depending on the amount of energy to be generated the size and number of units needed for the array will first be determined according to formulas developed to determine how many cells of a particular kind are needed. When figuring how many panels will be needed the precise location and angle of the array will also need to be determined. Many times they are placed on the roof of a dwelling, but they can also be placed in an area that receives more sunlight as many homes have trees near them for shade and this would diminish the amount of energy that could be collected by the system once it is operational.

Once the solar array is built it will be connected to the existing power system and equipment that can convert the direct current (DC) generated to alternating current (AC), which is the system that our homes in America run on. Some homeowners choose to remain on the grid to allow for supplemental electric when needed, and also to sell the extra electricity they produce to the power company. In some cases generators and batteries are used to either supplement the solar system or store the collected energy in batteries for those times when the solar system is either down or there is not enough sun to produce enough electricity to be independent.

If a do-it-yourselfer is frugal, and wishes to save as much as he can on the installation of his solar array, he can purchase either discontinued models of solar cells or factory seconds. Discontinued models work perfectly well, but they will not produce as much energy as the new generation of cells now being produced. Factory seconds may need a bit of repair to make them functional, but the savings acquired from purchasing them may be well worth the little bit of extra work required to use them.

Once your panels are purchased or built they will need to be connected to the main system so they can be utilized. It is highly recommended, and may be the ordnance where some homeowners live, that a qualified licensed electrician familiar with these types of systems does this final phase of the work.

How to determine the size of your solar system relative to the amount of energy you wish to harness.

Formulas and calculators have been developed for those interested in energy conversion to best determine the size of the solar system they will need to meet their energy needs. The formula relies on accurate data for the amount of electricity that will be consumed in a month, the location of the solar array, and the amount of peak hours of solar exposure. Further, if you intend to be totally independent of the existing electrical grid you will need deep cycle batteries to store the solar energy that will be used during the night time or when the sun is not at peak.

Here is a quick way to “guesstimate” your needs:

  1. Collect your electric bills for the year and then divide total kilowatt usage by 12 to arrive at an average monthly usage;

  2. Search the Internet for a World Solar Insolation Map to gauge peak sun hours per day on the worst days of the year;

  3. Next, divide your average monthly wattage use by the peak sun hours amount to arrive at the roughly calculated total wattage of panels your system will require.

If you search the Internet for solar panel calculators you will see there are many solar panel companies that offer them free for prospective customers to estimate what they will need to build a home system. Some of these calculators will also take into consideration if you are going to rely solely on solar or still remain connected to the grid.

In conjunction with your solar panel array you will need power inverters, breakers and switches and a licensed electrician to either sign off on your DIY project or perform the installation himself. It is also a good idea to speak to your local electrical and fire inspectors, and check the local zoning and building codes as well before you start building your system

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