Consumer interest in home solar panels is on the rise. Solar panels, also called photovoltaic cells, have gotten increasing attention on the Internet, in print, and on TV. You might have already even seen these panels in your neighborhood.
Solar energy represents a shift from using carbon-based fuels to using renewable energy. Solar panels harness the sun's energy and then store it until it is needed by the consumer to operate such items as lamps, refrigerators, stereos etc. Photovoltaic cells can be used in virtually every region of the United States and some advocates claim that it represents the next wave in alternative energy.
Unfortunately, financial barriers make powering a home entirely by home solar panels difficult. As of 2007 there were $2000 federal tax credits and larger rebates from states including New Jersey and California that had brought the cost of installing a home solar power system to a record low. But even with those incentives, powering your home with solar panels made little economic sense.
Retrofitting a home to run entirely on solar energy would cost tens of thousands of dollars; even with the rebates it would take between 10 to 20 years to earn that money back according to analysts at the California Public Utilities Commission.
Solar energy advocates claim that even with the Federal rebates the government is still doing too little to encourage a quick change to alternative energy sources. Critics of the government feel that lobbyists from big oil companies have too much influence and do not want the government to give more than a token rebate. Still, people push forward with photovoltaic panels hoping that they are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint and save the planet little by little.
Industries are responding to consumer demand by trying to bridge the gap between no solar energy and complete reliance on home solar panels. A British company, Industrial Design Consultancy, announced in April of 2008 that it would sell an inflatable solar collector called SolarStore. The company claims that the SolarStore uses the sun's energy to warm water and heats up to three tanks per day at approximately 80°C.
SolarStore is currently directed at consumers in the UK and has an initial cost of less than 100 pounds per panel. Industrial Design Consultancy claims that trial data shows the system pays for itself in only six months. (Contrast that with an entire retrofit which takes one to 20 years to pay for itself as noted above. )
Financial analysts suggest that for some, building a new home from the ground up that is entirely run on alternative energy may be just as cost-effective as retrofitting a home with solar panels. There are advantages to both approaches. Some studies suggest that you can increase your home's value by adding home solar panels. However, if you can afford to raze your home and build from scratch you will have an even more cutting edge home not only in terms of energy efficiency, but also in terms of design and appeal.
Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for Web sites on solar energy, parenting, fashion, and home decor. Her background also includes teaching, gardening, and health and fitness. For more of her useful articles on energy conservation, please visit Solar Power Knowledge Project .