Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Solar Energy System in Your New Green Home (Part 1)

Are you building an energy efficient home? Bonin Architects & Associates can incorporate a solar energy system into most any home, whether it is conventional construction, structural insulated panel, timber frame, or post and beam. Here are the several ways to use solar energy in your new green home:

1) Heat the space of your home (passive solar design and/or an active solar heating system);
2) Generate electricity (Photovoltaic);
3) Heat water for your home or swimming pool;
4) Light both the inside and outside of your home

Some of the listed methods may be complicated or involve initial first cost investments, but are well worth the investment -- and you don’t have to live in sunny Arizona to reap the benefits. We'll talk about the basics on the first two ways use you can incorporate a solar energy system into your new green home -- heating the space of the home and generating electricity. (These are basic descriptions – look to future blogs for in-depth descriptions of these various solar energy systems.)
1. Passive & Active solar design to heat the space in your home:
Passive Solar design:
Passive solar doesn’t require electrical or mechanical equipment. The basic laws of nature make heat move from warmer materials to cooler ones until there is no longer a temperature difference between the two. A passive solar design makes use of this principal by utilizing the solar-facing windows (south, in the northern hemisphere). When sunlight comes into contact with a building, the building materials can do one of three things: reflect, transmit, or absorb the solar radiation. The heat produced by the sun also causes air movement, convection, in these spaces. These predictable responses lead to specific design elements, material choices and placements that provide heating and cooling effects in your home.

Active solar heating systems:
There are two basic kinds of active solar heating systems – one based on liquid and the other on air. Both collect and absorb solar radiation and then transfer the heat directly to the interior space of the home or to a storage system. Air-based systems heat air in an “air collector”. Liquid systems heat either water or an antifreeze solution in a “hydronic” collector and are most often used with a storage system. Liquid systems are great for radiant heating systems, boilers with hot water radiators, and heat pumps and coolers. Both systems may also supplement forced air systems.

2. Solar energy can generate electricity for your home:

Solar energy can be converted to electricity in a Photovoltaic system. Photovoltaic panels consist of silicon cells which have both a positive and negative layer. When sunlight is absorbed, electrons in these layers become free and travel through the wire as electricity. Using both direct and scattered sunlight to create electricity, the amount of power generated typically depends on how much of the sun’s energy reaches it along with the size and efficiency of the collectors.

Some advantages of photovoltaic systems are:
a. Bulky mechanical generator systems are unnecessary
because conversion from sunlight to electricity is direct;

b. PV systems can be installed quickly and in any size required or allowed. PV systems do not require water for system cooling and do not generate any by-products, therefore, environmental impact is minimal.

The American Solar Energy Society, the Solar Electric Power Association, Energy Matters LLC, and the U.S. Department of Energy have solar estimators to calculate the price, savings, and system size of solar energy systems in your area. All you need to do is enter your location and some information from your utility bill. Check it out today!

Jackie Lampiasi, Marketing Director
Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC

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