How to Convert Your Home to Solar Energy

Energy independence and an eco-friendly future are priorities for many homeowners today. A home solar energy system is a great way to achieve these goals. If you live in a conventionally powered home, you may be considering a switch to solar energy.

As with most home improvement projects, planning is the key to success when you convert your home to solar energy.

It Starts With Conservation
Before you consider your energy needs, work to make your home as energy efficient as possible. Proper insulation, energy efficient windows and low energy appliances will all reduce your energy consumption.

A smaller energy footprint will allow you to purchase a cheaper home solar energy system. Even if you don't install a system, reduced consumption will help the environment and lower your energy bills.

Right Size Your System
Use your past energy consumption to calculate your energy needs. Although most power companies will issue credit for generating more power than you use, very few will rebate this credit to you in cash. An oversized system will work for the power company, not you.

Will A Home Solar Energy System Work For You?
You'll need to determine if a home solar energy system is right for you. Climate, home orientation and available space are all important factors to consider.

The climate of your region will determine the number of sunny hours and days you'll have to generate electricity. In general, northern latitudes will have fewer productive days than southern latitudes.

A home solar energy system will require about 80 to 100 square feet of roof space per 1 kilowatt of generated power. A ballpark figure is 1 kilowatt per 1000 square feet of your homes floor space.

The orientation of your house has a major impact on the efficiency of a home solar energy system. Your roof (or a suitable portion of it) should face directly south. Other southerly facing orientation will work, but you'll sacrifice efficiency. The part of your roof where you'll install your system should also be free of obstructions and shade generating objects.

Installing a Home Solar Energy System
After you've determined the best location for your system, it's time to mount it. Most residential solar panels are roof-mounted, but they can also be mounted on polls or trellises.

For roof mounting, solar panel mounts are attached to roof rafters using stainless steel bolts. Make sure the mounts are sealed to avoid leaks later on.

Pre-assembled arrays of solar panels are attached to the roof mounts following manufacturers instructions.

Supply wiring can be run from the solar panels either directly through the roof or through conduit down the side of the house. Roof connections should be well sealed.

Final installation wiring may have to be completed by a licensed electrician. Check with your local building inspector as well as your local power company. As this wiring will effect the safety of your home, strongly considering hiring a pro for this part of the job.

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Improvements in technology and attractive federal tax credits make this a great time to give solar energy a second look. Solar shingles, lights and heaters can reduce your impact on the environment and your monthly utility bills.

Driven past a gas pump lately? The cost of all forms of energy has risen dramatically in the last several year, and it might be time to consider alternatives to fossil fuels.

Frequently Asked Questions on Ask.com
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The history of home solar energy begins at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Although early uses were limited to science and government, solar energy is quickly becoming a practical reality in today's homes.

Making the decision to invest in a home solar energy system is only the first step. You must also decide whether or not to stay connected to your local power system (grid-tie) or to cut the cord completely (off-grid).

When considering a home renewable energy source, your first decision will be whether you'll cut the cord to your electric company. 

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