Solar Energy: Just a Fad or Worth the Investment?

Solar panels and other renewable energy sources are a big investment. It’s easy to wonder…is this a worthwhile investment for my home or just something popular that will be irrelevant a few years from now? Solar power is a growing industry that’s here to stay. The positive impact it will have on your home and the environment as a whole is well worth the investment and can save you money on electric and energy bills in the long run.

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A renewable energy source, solar power is unique because it does not emit harmful greenhouse gases in the energy generation process. The most abundant source of renewable energy, this powerful energy source is already used by many homes and businesses. There are a few types of solar energy systems. Solar power simply refers to any system that converts the sun’s light or heat into usable energy.

There are two primary systems for harnessing solar energy – active and passive. Active solar systems convert the sun’s heat or light into usable energy using mechanical or electrical devices. Passive solar systems don’t require mechanics or moving parts. They are specifically designed to collect and store heat energy from sunlight for heating or electric.

In the last ten years residential solar has skyrocketed, more than tripling the number of homes with solar. Over 1 million homes in the United States alone have rooftop solar in their homes. It is projected that by 2020 nearly 4 million homes will have rooftop solar.

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(Graphic from Namasté Solar)

 

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In addition to the obvious benefit of taking good care of the earth and making sustainable, environmentally friendly choices…solar energy also has more personal benefits for your home, family, and budget.

  • Save money on electric and heating bills. While you will have to spend some money upfront for solar panels, the money you will save using renewable energy will cover the costs and decrease your bills.
  • There are solar energy tax credits, incentives, and rebates. The federal government offers a tax credit and many states, local governments, and municipalities offer additional credits. Depending on location, other solar energy incentives and rebates exist, adding another layer of financial benefit.
  • Solar power isn’t limited to sunny places. Sunlight still gets through clouds, and while diffused sunlight is not as ideal as direct, it can still be converted into energy.
  • Creates more jobs. Employment in the United States solar industry has skyrocketed and will continue to grow with the projected growth of home solar energy use. According to SolarCity, “employment in the U.S. solar industry recently surpassed 200,000 people – that’s more than the oil and gas extraction industry, and three times more than the coal-mining industry.”

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The first step to introducing solar energy to your home is to get a quote. Companies like SolarCity, Namaste Solar (a local Colorado company) EnergySage, SunRun, NRG Home Solar, SunPower, and more will often offer free quotes and estimates to help you find the right solar panel option for you.

If you aren’t ready to jump fully in with solar panels, there are lots of smaller ways to get your feet wet in the sustainability and renewable energy game.

  • Unplug electronics when not in use. Even when devices are turned off, if they remain plugged in they can still use electricity. Get a power strip that turns off, unplug your microwave and toaster when not in use, don’t leave your phone charger plugged in when your phone isn’t charging, and always remember to turn lights off when not in use! You’ll save energy and reduce your electric bill.
  • Power devices with rechargeable batteries. Amazon has a wide selection of rechargeable batteries and chargers, and this easy way to use less energy is quite convenient. Once you start using solar panels, you won’t even have to use electricity to charge the batteries!
  • Get a solar oven and/or solar water heater. Solar water heaters use the sun to heat a reserve water connected to the plumbing. Solar ovens can be purchased or built. Cook your food with the power and heat of the sun, saving tons of electricity and starting small on the road to solar energy.
  • Use daylight whenever possible. Especially in sunny Colorado, the power of our natural light is incredible! Practice not turning the lights on if a room is already well lit by the sun.

All in all, solar energy can decrease your carbon footprint, help the environment, save you money, and contribute to the growing industry of renewable energy. A win all around!

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