Affordable Solar Options For Your Home

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Want to capture solar power for your home without breaking the bank? Here are five options.

You’ve likely heard the advantages of solar power: it’s renewable, non-polluting and essentially free. The only costs associated with solar power are the mechanisms for capturing it and converting it into energy. Luckily, there are other ways you can take advantage of solar power without breaking the bank.

Solar space heaters

While a solar space heater won’t replace your regular heating system, it can effectively heat part or even your entire home (depending on the unit you purchase and the size of your home) for a portion of the day. There are several options to choose from—some are wall-mounted, some fit in your window, some plug into a regular outlet and some don’t need electricity at all—but they operate similarly. Panels are placed in a sunny area of your home, which warms the air running through heating tubes in the unit. A fan draws cold air out of the room while circulating in the warmer air.

Solar attic fans

A solar-powered attic fan can help reduce your electric bill during the summer months when your air conditioner is running full blast. A solar attic fan uses a small solar panel to collect energy, which then runs a fan to pull hot air out of the attic. Fans are easy to install, require little maintenance and no plug and are inexpensive.

Solar tube lighting

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Tubular skylights are perfect for lighting small spaces and are also inexpensive, easy to install and require no maintenance. Made of a small dome that fits in your roof, tubular skylights should be installed in rooms that receive several hours of sunlight. The sunlight enters through the dome into a reflective tube that guides the light through a diffuser lens to disperse natural light into your room—no electricity needed.

Solar outdoor lighting

Outdoor solar lighting options now range from spotlights to sensor lights and are an inexpensive way to light your grounds at night. The more sunlight they receive during the day, the more light they’ll give off at night, so it’s best to use these lights in bright areas around your home.

Solar leasing

If you love the idea of going completely off the grid and want the benefits of a whole-house photovoltaic (PV) system, but aren’t ready to take on the cost or the maintenance, then solar leasing may be right for you. Leasing solar panels is much less expensive, maintenance-free and more flexible than a traditional PV system.

Through a solar leasing program, you lease the panels for a set period of time (typically around 10 to 15 years) and, in return, receive power to cover most, if not all, of your electricity needs. As with a regular PV system, if your panels produce more electricity than you consume, the leftover energy can be purchased by your local utility.

The company who owns the panels maintains and services them, typically at no cost to you. At the end of your lease term, you can renew your lease, purchase the system or have the system removed, also no cost to you.

And, if you need to sell your home during your lease term, you can typically transfer your lease to the new owner of your home (as long as that owner meets certain credit criteria) or buy out the lease and include the system as part of your home. If the new homeowner doesn’t want the system, you have the option to move it to your new residence (at your expense).

Source: Bankrate.com, NaturalHomeMagazine.com, EarthandIndustry.com, Brighthub.com, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, SolarDirect
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