The sun will be here for the next 5 billion years. Since the sun is a renewable form of energy, it would be a real shame if we didn’t tap into it more, rather than just using other resources that the planet will eventually run out of. The topic of planet destruction is very painful, but the technology has advanced up to a point where we can harness renewable resources and avoid draining the Earth up to the point of saturation.
One of the ways in which we can harvest the sun’s energy is by using solar panels. In fact, there are plenty of places across the globe where solar panels have been installed and are capable of supplying electricity plants with the “raw material” needed to bring light into one’s some. What is solar energy, how does it benefit the average home user, and what can you do when you want solar panels and solar lights of your own?
What Is Solar Energy?
As the most abundant resource on Earth, solar energy is basically the radiation of the sun. Solar energy does more than just reduce your electricity bills, it also protects the planet. For every appliance you have in your house, for every gallon of gasoline you use in your car, for every phone call you make or receive, you consume electricity. That electricity is provided by this planet we inhabit and, as you know, our numbers are increasing as we speak.
In 2011, the Earth reached a population of 7 billion people. In 2017, we were 7.53 billion. Most of these people consume electricity and this source of energy will soon come to an end. In consequence, we have to turn to other means we have and to use other sources of energy that are virtually limitless and allow our planet to renew its resources.
If we use alternative sources of energy, we can reduce our carbon footprint which, leaving all elegant explanations aside, is translated into how much pollution we cause with every action that we perform. The reason why solar energy is so valuable is that it’s easier to come across compared to, let’s say, wave energy. The sun is above everyone, whether they live in Australia, the United States or in Africa, so this makes it the most accessible source of alternative energy today.
Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages when you want to start using solar energy and save the planet. For example, you can be in a certain part of this world where there are no green energy providers. Don’t fret, as in today’s day and age, it’s very possible to learn how to make your own solar panels.
The first thing that you need to keep in mind when planning to install solar panels in your own home is that the cost of such a modification is very high. In fact, the high cost of solar panels is the main thing that is keeping people from taking this step toward a greener life.
Another important thing to consider is your location. As you know by now, solar energy differs a lot from one environment, location and climate to another. If your home does not have a proper location, with sun blockage and heavy shades, it will be highly difficult to charge your solar panels.
What Are Solar Energy Fields?
The best way of saving energy costs and protecting our planet would be to aim, green energy providers and consumers together, towards the same goal. It is much better for individuals and also for companies if they could receive green energy directly from an electricity provider. Instead of installing your own solar panels to benefit from solar energy, you could only have a few cables running through your house and deliver electricity to the mains.
Solar energy fields go by different names, such as solar farms, solar parks, or photovoltaic power stations. The terms are pretty intuitive: just imagine fields where, instead of planting sunflowers, people install solar panels.
But are these solar energy fields good? Or is it better for every individual to install solar panels for his own home? Obviously, it is much better for a system to exist, a system that could connect thousands and thousands of households and companies. This way, their electricity bills will be much lower and the electricity will only come from one source, the green energy provider.
Nowadays, those that use green energy to generate electricity for their appliances or cars, use this type of energy along with the energy provided by a regular electricity company. Slowly, but surely, these people will eventually replace one source energy with another, and end up using only solar energy from now on.
Since no greenhouse gases are generated, using solar energy to fuel homes means less pollution. Even though it’s expensive to start a business like this, an energy provider that uses the sun’s energy will have a high profit in the years to come, immediately after the investment will be recovered.
Solar panels can be placed on large territories and create the needed electricity for entire villages or cities. A disadvantage would be that instead of raising cattle or growing plants, the company will use the land for planting solar panels. But these can be placed on top of buildings or on top of greenhouses in areas where this agricultural method is used because of low temperatures.
If a solar energy field produces more energy than it is required, this energy can be easily stored in batteries, which can be used at a later time or sold to other individuals or companies that are looking to switch to this type of renewable energy.
Can You Make Your Own Solar Panels?
Vast sections of our planet are comprised today by solar panels and structures where solar power is harnessed and dispersed to people and large consumers. Sadly, there happen to be places where green power and energy suppliers just can’t be found and, as a result, those people who want to start accessing and benefiting from this type of eco-conscious energy have to figure out other ways by themselves. They have to design and construct their own panels and install them on top of their house by their own means.
Prior to securing the panels in a place where people really don’t benefit from clean energy service providers, you actually have to make them first. Of course, there is always the option of purchasing them online, if there are no proper stores in the area.
Let’s say you could even construct them from scratch, you’ll still have to purchase a ton of materials and parts, like the solar cells, for example. You won’t easily find those in stores. These special cells can be taken from batteries or you can buy them as-is online. For example, 36 monocrystalline solar cells will make a small solar panel that can easily yield about ½ volts. These special energy cells have to be wired in series. You can expect, in the end, to have a full solar panel that should produce about 18 volts of electricity. Not bad for homemade!
These energy cells need to be set in a wood casing or frame, which you can easily make yourself. And if you’ll be placing the solar panel on top of the roof of your house or building, you absolutely have to protect it from rain by adding on a Plexiglas shield over it. The power cells need to be soldered together in a series so the power can be transferred from cell to cell, and then on to the DC-AC inverter.
The drawback of making and installing your own clean energy panels is that you have to study a ton of information before doing anything which you can easily find online or in the library. But after you learn all the ins and outs of the operation, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a totally clean and renewable energy source. Bonus: it’s also free power. The great advantage of using the sun’s energy is that it’s one of the few renewable energy sources available and it does not damage the atmosphere or to our planet.
The Cost Factor
Although many people claim that buying solar panels is expensive, they keep on living in these harsh economic times where they do whatever they can to downgrade their monthly costs. If people survive nowadays in this severe economy context, they will surely survive the purchase of a few solar panels.
And, in some cases, using green energy that offers electricity is not even as expensive as many believe. What you have to do is to search for companies that offer green energy services in your area. In general, there are many companies of this kind, thus the prices they practice are lower because of the competition between them.
There are a few ways to save some pennies and yet benefit from these “expensive” technologies. A good way would be to rent solar panels. The electricity bill will be much lower, even after the first month of using them. The advantage, in this case, is that you won’t be purchasing these solar panels, so you won’t have to spend too much money.
The disadvantage is that those solar panels are not yours, but of the company that rented them to you. However, if you save money on the electricity bill, you will eventually be able to afford to purchase those panels and gaining full ownership.
The government usually offers discounts for those that want to use the benefits provided by the energy captured from the sun, so search for information about the rebates offered by your government. The maximum discount you could get in a situation like this is up to 30% for a photovoltaic system that meets the fire code standards and is used to provide electricity for the beneficiary’s house.
If renting solar panels is not that appealing to you, you can buy used solar panels. Most of them are sold by those companies that also rent them. When a homeowner moves to a different home or returns their rented solar panels for whatever reason, the company that owns them can re-rent them or sell them as “used items”.
The best way to save money on green energy is to build your very own solar panels. The advantage is that if you are a technician specialized in the field, this will basically be a fun DIY project for you. If you aren’t, this can get a little tricky and, since you may need specialized assistance, you can ask for advice from people that have built their own solar panels.
What Is A Solar Light and How Do They Work?
Also known as a solar lamp or lantern, a solar light does what a normal light does, only it draws power from the sun in order to function, while regular lights require electricity. Solar lights can have different components, but they draw their power from batteries that are charged using the power of the sun and have trapped the energy inside.
These lights basically use the photovoltaic effect in order to function. The core of this type of light is solar cells, which are responsible for converting sunlight to electricity. solar cells are those dark panels that you can spot at the top of solar lights.
The solar cell is made with different crystalline silicon layers and chemicals that create layers containing positively-charged spaces and negatively-charged electrons. When sunlight enters the solar cell, it powers up the electrons and pushes them to the spaces with a positive charge.
Then, in order to transfer electricity to the battery, the electron stream is transferred as an electric current by using the wires that are part of the solar cell. As it gets dark outside and there is no more sunlight to harvest, the solar cells halt this conversion process. If your solar light comes with a photoreceptor, it will be able to detect the darkness and automatically turns on the light.
There are two important things to be mentioned here:
- The solar lights have to benefit from plenty of daylight in order for the battery to fully charge. This means that you have to place your lights in a well-lit area, to make sure there aren’t any objects that could cover the solar panel in shadow during the day (like trees, shrubs, house walls, etc.)
- You can’t expect a solar light to have a similar battery power during all seasons. During winter, for example, the days are shorter, which means that your solar panel won’t benefit from the same amount of sun exposure as it does in the summer. Also, keep in mind that snowfall can set on the solar cells, preventing sunlight from reaching them.
Benefits of Solar Lights
Naturally, a lot of the benefits of solar panels that we mentioned in the first part of this article are transmitted to the use of solar lights as well:
- Using these kinds of lights means that you can decrease your total costs with your electricity bill. You might think at first that it’s not worth investing in solar lights, but you will have a great return on investment when you calculate the costs in the end.
- These lights don’t use any wires. They are typically made from a set of lights that are connected directly to a small solar panel. Everything goes on a stake that you can stick into the ground, but most of them come with the necessary accessories for wall-mounting as well.
- Solar lights can be used in a variety of different setups and scenarios. You can use lights for landscaping in your own yard. Turn on at night in order to illuminate the garden/yard, the driveway, the front or back porch, the entrance to the garage, or right outside the tool shed. They can also be used for street lighting, in which case a solar panel is attached directly to the pole and stores energy during the day. This helps the local city hall have money and power with street illumination during the night.
- Another great advantage of using solar lights is that they are really low-maintenance. You will have to clean them a couple of times during the year, especially during autumn and winter, when falling leaves and snow can block the solar panel. When there’s debris sitting on the solar cell, the sun’s rays will no longer be able to reach it, which means that the lights won’t harness the sun’s energy.
- They can make your dream landscape come to life. If you take pride in how your front yard looks, solar lights will showcase your plants/shrubs/flowers/trees even in the nighttime.
- They are eco-friendly. And this is often an underestimated benefit. As we’ve mentioned time and time again, switching to solar power is one of the best ways of reducing carbon footprint and making sure we use natural resources to our interest and the interest of the planet we inhabit. You will be using an unlimited resource, which means that as long as there will be sun shining, you can make energy out of it. They use a wide spectrum and wavelength of light, direct from a natural renewable source.
- In terms of maintenance, they’re fairly easy to keep and fix. But if you want to know more about how to fix solar lights, we’ve got the perfect info for you! The same goes for learning how to install solar lights.
Different Types of Solar Lights
As you can imagine, there is more than just one type of solar light out there. These are classified taking into account their destination, their design, or the purpose their serve:
- Solar string lights are great for decoration purposes. They are literally lights hanging from a string and can be used outdoors and indoors as well. They can be hung in trees or shrubs, but can also decorate gazebos, archways, or entrances.
- Solar deck lights are LEDs available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They are mostly used on walls, decks, stairs, or patios, and provide a very intimate type of lighting without having to trip over wires.
- Solar post lights aren’t just useful, they are also good-looking. These lighting posts can now harvest and absorb the sun’s power and give you more light so that you can cover more space with just a single light source.
- Solar lanterns are extremely popular, but they also have plenty of different subcategories. They can be used for camping, outdoor activities, or just installed in the yard.
- Solar wall lights can be mounted directly on the wall and are great for illuminating house entrances, sidewalls of your home, or even garage or shed entrances.
- Solar step lights are very stylish and can be placed directly at the ends of each step of a staircase. They have a very modern vibe to them and can be used both outdoors and indoors.
- Solar lawn lights are perfect for showcasing your beautiful flowers, as the ambiance created by lights that blend in with differently colored flowers is breathtaking.
- Solar emergency lights are great for using when there’s a power outage. They usually have built-in power banks, and plenty of lumens to keep you covered in pitch-black darkness.
Now that every eco-responsible person is looking for ways to be greener these days, more people are considering means to protect the planet and lead a better life thanks to the natural resources that nature has to offer. One of these wonders is the sun, which is not only useful at lighting and heating up the environment, but it can also be converted into electricity thanks to the existence of a photovoltaic cell.
A few years ago, hardly anyone was sure what these solar panels were all about and the ones that did know, would not even dream of owning them for their personal use. Things have changed quite a lot in the past years and solar panels are “the next best thing” that homeowners can install and benefit from.
Solar lights use the power of solar panels that have performed energy conversion of the sun’s radiation into power that can run lights. Basically, the concept behind solar lights is to harvest the energy of the sun using solar cells, which store electricity inside the battery and use it when it’s dark outside in order to light up the garden, driveway, the front porch, or whatever place you can think of. If you have really high-quality lights, you can leave them outside to charge during the day and then move them indoors to light up a room. So, what are the drawbacks of solar tube lighting? That’s a topic for another time, but you can check it out for yourself.