Remodel Green and Curb Your Energy Costs with Solar Energy

ABEST1 Remodel Green and Curb Your Energy Costs with Solar Energy

Article by Gwen Biasi, Stephanie Manola

Energy prices continue to climb, but the good news is that the cost barrier to using green energy is dropping. People are seeking out alternative energy sources that are abundant, environmentally sound and cost effective. Technology continues to evolve that helps us channel energy from the sun. The sun’s energy can provide space heating, hot water heating and electricity for lights and appliances.

The U.S. is dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas for its energy, and is highly reliant on foreign oil imports. Since fossil fuels are of finite supply, meaning their supplies will ultimately diminish to the point of becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to salvage. Renewable energy resources, however, such as solar energy, are inexhaustible.

Solar RetrofittingSolar retrofits are solar energy applications made for an existing home. Since solar energy is an endless, environmentally friendly energy source, using it lowers utility bills. When retrofitting, the first stage of the project is to make a record as to how energy is currently used in the home so that the right product may be chosen. Next, determine how much sun is available. The amount of solar energy available to a home is largely dependent on the time of year and your home’s location. For example, homes in the northern hemisphere need a southeast to southwest orientation to maximize solar energy. You will also want to assess sun availability by looking at what obstructions there are on the south side of the home, such as trees or taller buildings. Solar energy retrofit options may include the active and passive solar, photovoltaics, wind, and geothermal.

Passive Solar Heating Passive solar is the most cost effective approach to maximizing the use of solar energy for your home. Passive solar heating of homes is simple: it occurs when sunlight passes through a window, and no additional equipment is used to harness the energy. Passive solar applications use building elements such as walls, windows, floor and roof in addition to exterior building elements. Landscaping can control overheating by providing shade, and provide windbreaks for winter winds. Once heat is collected inside, a well-insulated airtight “building envelope” helps prevent heat loss and allows the sun to provide more of the heat needed by the house. Active Solar SystemsActive solar systems use solar collectors and a pump or a fan to distribute the sun’s energy. Active systems are often used for heating water. The collector is a dark color to absorb the sun’s energy and converts it into heat. Some collectors have a glass cover, collecting solar energy all year. Domestic hot water requirements can be met in part by active solar systems. In most cases solar energy will only provide some partial water requirements during the winter, but most of the summer season requirements. In most applications the solar system is used to preheat for water going into a conventional water heater. Outdoor swimming pools can be entirely heated by solar systems, eliminating the need entirely for a supplemental heater.

Photovoltaics (Solar Electricity) Sunlight converted directly to electricity through solar cells is called photovoltaic (PV) energy. Solar cells come in an assortment of sizes and will produce electricity as long as sunlight shines on them. Solar cells used for electrical generation are really just a more sophisticated version of the solar cells used in calculators and other small household electronic devices. PV cells generate direct current (DC), meaning that to use PV generated electricity directly, DC appliances and lights must be used. These are most often used in recreational vehicles. In order to use standard household appliances the power must be converted to alternating current (AC), which is the form supplied by utility companies. So, a solar electric system must be designed to convert the power to AC.

Although prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, and still headed downward, a PV system can still be expensive. They are especially cost effective in remote areas away from power grids, where you might need to generate your own electricity, or in recreational vehicles and boats. If you do decide to install a PV system, an electrical load analysis must be done to determine capacity, paying careful attention to household appliances that require electricity.

Geothermal EnergyGeothermal or ground source heat pumps, take stored solar energy from the soil and bodies of water. They rely on electricity, but provide the equivalent of three times KW heat for every kilowatt delivered. Heat pumps are reversible, supplying cooling and heating, so they can be useful in areas with significant cooling loads.

Think about ConservationWhile you’re deciding what the best options are in solar energy for your home, think about conservation as well. Draft-proof your home and upgrade insulation for optimum energy conservation. A remodeling project is a prime opportunity to undertake those upgrades like wall and ceiling insulation, air sealing, and installing new energy efficient windows. New windows should be high performance windows with low-e glass, gas fill and insulating spacers. You can maximize cooling with roof overhangs that block direct sunlight.

NARI members represent a select group from the approximately 800,000 companies and individuals in the U.S. identifying themselves as professional remodelers.

The remodeling market, projected to be a 1.5 billion industry in the U.S. in 2006, is expected to continue to experience significant growth. It is estimated that more than a million homes per year undergo major renovation or remodeling.

NARI is a professional association whose members voluntarily subscribe to a strict code of ethics. Consumers may wish to search to find a qualified professional who is a member of NARI.Consumers can also call the NARI National hotline at 800-611-NARI and request a free copy of NARI’s brochure, “How to Select a Remodeling Professional,” or visit and click on the homeowner’s guide for more information.

About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry. With more than 7,400 member companies nationwide, the Association — based in Des Plaines, Illinois — is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”TM For membership information, or to locate a local NARI chapter or a remodeling professional, visit NARI’s website at, or contact the national headquarters office at 800-611-NARI.

About the Author

Gwen Biasi- Director of Marketing & Communications, NARIStephanie Manola- Marketing & Communications Assistant, NARI

Since ABest Energy Power provides customized financing as low as 0% and as much as 90% of your costs are covered by limited-time Federal and local rebates, there has never been a better time to go solar. Contact us TODAY for a free Solar Evaluation!

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