Friday, August 21, 2009
The Best (Affordable) Solar Products
Families across the nation are trying to save their planet and go green, but the task can be expensive. While solar technology has greatly improved over the last few years, few homeowners have the space or money to own the number of solar panels needed to take their house off of the grid. Even installing a few panels onto a roof to generate electricity for the home can cost many thousands of dollars and require professional help. There are tax incentives for making this drastic commitment to solar energy, but they do not offset the costs entirely. Those who can’t afford a large-scale project can find inexpensive ways to use the sun to improve life in their home and reduce their dependence on polluting energy sources. A Brief History of Solar TechnologyHumans have been harvesting the power of the sun since ancient times. The Greeks and Chinese often redirected sunlight onto indoor spaces with mirrored objects in order to heat and illuminate spaces. One of the central thrusts of the profession of architecture has always been to use natural light effectively.The first major developments in solar technology were made near the end of the nineteenth century as part of the scientific advances of the Industrial Revolution. Solar engines and collectors were produced, but the inventions were laid aside for the better part of the twentieth century. The expansion of solar technology seen during the oil crisis of the 70s would not happen at the same rate until just a few years ago, when the world once again feared a fossil fuel shortage. When worries about the fragile state of the environment and the limit of the remaining oil supply began to mount at the turn of the millennium, more scientists began working on solar energy technology. Since then, the field of solar products has grown rapidly.Tubular SkylightsAlmost every home has a dark hallway or a cavernous bathroom. The dim and dreary places can ruin the ambiance of a living space and make it hard to see. Those who worry about adding another power-gobbling light fixture to their home should consider installing a tubular skylight. These products are not skylights in the traditional sense. Once installed, they look more like an electric can light than another window. A tubular skylight is a reflective tube that can be ran through the attic to any part of the house that needs more light. Sunlight is gathered and concentrated from a lens on the roof and then carried down into the desired room. The shape and reflective properties of the tube guarantee bright light even on cloudy days or at dusk. These skylights only cost a few hundred dollars and can sometimes be installed by the homeowner. Potable Solar ProductsSolar radios and flashlights are not new, but they have recently been revamped with more efficient technology. The disposal batteries usually used to power these products poison the environment with acids and plastics. Those that are charged directly from wall plugs raise electricity bills, and their chargers will continue to drain power even if they are not connected to anything.Some solar flashlights will work up to eight hours after being in the sun for eight hours. Solar radios can be played and charged simultaneously. The best part about these products is that they are often priced competitively with their non-green cousins anywhere from $25 to $50. Small Solar PanelsIt may be infeasible for some to make the complete switch to solar energy, but those who can’t afford to deck out their roof with permanent solar panels needn’t worry. There are lots of small, cost-effective panels on the market that can get any family started going green. Few people realize they can make their home more efficient with a few helpful products. There are many potable solar arrays available that can be used to charge small electronics. Not only can these products be used on the go or for emergencies, but they can save energy at home. Solar chargers start at around $50. Those who want to dabble in creating energy for their home without making a commitment can try some of the solar energy kits on the market. Plug-n-play kits come with a solar panel and a battery. Any appliance can be plugged directly into the system. Size and capacity will vary great depending on the kit. These units start at a few hundred dollars.Choosing SolarAs more alternative energies vie for a market share, choosing the best way to conserve energy can become confusing. Instead of giving up on the idea, start slowly implementing new technology. Solar products are reliable and are a great starting point for those new to energy conservation efforts.