Is solar power really affordable?

February 1, 2010
Solar power is affordable… when you consider the result and what solar “power” actually means. Most people think of massive solar panel arrays costing thousands. But solar power is about using the sun to your advantage. You could do this several different ways:
  • electric solar panels
  • solar water heating
  • solar lighting
  • solar heating (opening window blinds)
  • growing vegetables
  • and more

Electric (PV) Solar Panels

A Solar Cell Let’s look at electric solar panels, or photovoltaic solar panels (PV). When buying solar panels, (or inverters), you need to consider dollars per watt ($/Watt). Around $2.50/Watt is a good price for solar panels and $1.00/Watt for inverters.

You don’t have to buy several panels at once like yesteryear, but it’s usually cheaper to buy a panel with many solar cells. (I recommend eBay for panels.) Don’t forget about government incentives.

To sell power back to the electric company, you’ll need a grid tie or grid interactive inverter. Here are some options according to power:

Solar Water Heating

Solar water heating saves your water heater from doing all the work. A lot of energy is required to heat water. Costs for solar water heating systems can range from $1000+.

If you live far south, you may be able to use a passive system (without pumps). But most systems use pumps to circulate water through a solar collector.

Solar water heating arrangements seem to vary much more than electric (PV) solar panels. If you’re considering solar water heating, I’d recommend reviewing details on these helpful pages:

Solar Lighting and Heating

Simply open the blinds of a window. This is very helpful during the winter since heat also comes through a window. The more windows you have on the south side, the warmer winter can be. It costs $0 and can lower your heating bill. Now that’s free energy!

Skylights are another common option, but usually need to be considered before construction. However, a strategically placed mirror may also get the job done.

Growing Vegetables and More

If you grow your own vegetables, you don’t have to buy as many. However, some gardening experience would be helpful.

Don’t think these are the only ways of using the sun to your advantage. Look for other ways of using the sun, like the classic solar oven.