Living in a solar home
- I've seen many points brought up about solar power systems and their
production; Having a passive solar house powered by photovoltaics, I can
provide some insights, within the context of
Yes, some panels were produced with less than desirable chemicals.
However, new thin-film technology eliminates steps for chemical
etching, and streamlines the entire process, producing rolls of PV
material, instead of individual wafer slices in a batch process. The
energy used to produce these panels (in their entirety) is 'paid-back'
in about 1.8 years, depending on location. For several pages of detail,
see Home Power magazine issue #80.
Always the first place to start. R-19 walls, R-38 attic, double pane
Low-e windows with high Solar Heat Gain Coefficient(SHGC) on the south
side, house wrapped tight, heat recovery ventilator. All appliances are
exceptionally efficient, including lighting.
Put simply; use as little as you can get by with. We don't leave lights
on, or use phantom load appliances (unless we unplug them when not in
use). We do have a heat pump, but we only use A/C when the weather
outside is humid and over 85F.
The passive solar aspects of my house cost almost nothing; I arranged to
have most of my window space on the south side, carefully chose my
windows and insulating blinds, and ensured that each south window group
had properly sized eaves over them to block the summer sun. Extra
price: $1300. It
The solar photovoltaic system is 2 kW (thats 2000 watts of electricity
when the sun is shining directly perpendicular) and supplies most of our
home's needs (4 people). We net-meter our system, which means that we
sell back all the power that we don't use by spinning the meter
backwards. It cost approximately $10,000 (including some incentives),
with $3000 installation (I added lots of extras). I also added AGM
batteries, which will primarily be used in emergencies, and will last in
the net-metering mode from 10-20 years, after which they can be 98%
recycled (people may throw away cell phone batteries, but not these).
They require no maintenance; in fact, I've had to do zero maintenance
on the system in the last two years, snow and hail included. Off-grid
applications with flooded lead-acid batteries do require monthly battery
checks and occasional topping off, but gridtied systems get around that.
Solar panels on a condo that faces northeast are completely impractical.
Take credit for all of the other highly sustainable measures you have
undertaken and purchase green power if available in your utility
district. And get a clothes drying rack for drying your clothes indoors
in the winter.
I agree that overpopulation is the biggest hurdle to sustainability, but
that does not stop us from conserving and using clean energy. Carfree,
afterall, is one of the best energy conservation measures we can take.
While we are only car-reduced, our resource footprint is very small.
When I do drive, its in my Honda Insight. We just came back from
bike-shopping, stopping at the farmer's market for our weekly groceries,
much of it organic.
Internal debate can be heathly, as long as we are seeking the truth.