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Saving Energy by Going Solar

By Home Ideas Editor, Tammy Crosby

With the rising cost of energy, there’s never been a better time to incorporate solar into your home design. If you’re building a new home make sure to consult with your designer and builder to review your house plan for solar potential. If you’re looking to integrate solar energy into your current home you should get a home assessment from a licensed solar contractor.

Remember you can always start small with solar panels. Solar panels are modular so extra panels can be added over time. Many larger manufacturers offer solar leasing programs for little or no money down. And don’t forget to check out all the incentive and rebate programs available. Thanks to the federal tax credit program you’ll get back 30 percent of installation costs.

Solar water heating system

The SolPak® Series by Rheem® is the company's first all-inclusive active solar water heating system. Nicknamed "solar in a box" it comes complete with a heat exchanger tank, collector panels, a controller, multi-speed pump, thermal expansion tank and other essential items. An 80-gallon unit retails for $3250.

By incorporating passive solar design into your home you can easily optimize the power of the sun. This means proper site orientation, proper window placement, adding overhangs, awnings and porches to protect your home from overheating, building with high thermal materials like brick, stone, concrete and tile and daylighting (using natural light to illuminate interior spaces).

Our designers and architects have put together a list of some innovative, affordable solar products that are easy to install, affordable and highly efficient.

Solar shingles

The DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle is a complete solar solution that makes it easy to create and monitor your electricity. The system takes efficiency to a whole new level with an inverter that converts the Direct Current (DC) into Alternating Current (AC) to power your home and a monitoring system that delivers real-time readouts showing how much energy your system is creating and how much your home is using.

POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingles are a hot new innovation from Dow Chemical Company that can be installed just like traditional asphalt shingles but with the added benefit of generating electricity to help lower your utility cost. What’s great about these photovoltaic shingles is that they double as your rooftop so you enjoy the savings of an all-in-one roofing and solar system. These shingles are currently available in Colorado, California and Texas. Check their website regularly as they continue to add to new markets across the US by clicking here.

You don't have to cover your roof with expensive solar panels to reap the benefits of sunlight. There are many affordable alternatives available that will light your home and help reduce your electric bill like tubular skylights (also known as solar tubes), which are great for lighting small living spaces.

solar tubular skylights

For about the cost of a nice light fixture ($250-$400) Natural Light® Tubular Skylights can illuminate an equivalent of up to 300 to 1,450 watts of incandescent lighting depending on the model. The low profile unit blends seamlessly into the roofline and the flashing can be custom painted to match the roof color. Accessories include dimmer kits and bathroom vent systems.

Another inexpensive way to utilize the power of the sun to light up your outdoor living space and create a secure walkway is using solar outdoor lights. You can find solar path lights for around $10; affordable accent lights such as post lights and hanging lanterns for less than $100, as well as simple solar floodlight kits for around $25.

Solar-powered attic fans are a great way to ventilate the attic without any operational costs. Depending on the size of your attic, you may need more than one fan to get the maximum cooling effect. Just like tubular skylights, the panels for solar attic fans panels must be installed in an area that receives direct sunlight. For the best results, be sure that you have adequate insulation in your attic.

Solar powered attic fans

Solar Star® offers two room mounted attic fans: the RM 1200 for small attic spaces and low slope roofs and RM 1600 for steep pitched roofs and large attic spaces. MSRP: $449 to $569.


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