5 Ways to Switch to Solar

Go green at home with these solar powered tips.

Install Solar Panels

GO LOGIC, original photo on Houzz

Panels are often the first thing to come to mind when homeowners consider switching to solar for their energy needs. These panels reduce your home's carbon footprint, save you money on electricity, and sometimes even exempt you from some state and local taxes. But that doesn't make them an easy project. Here are a few do's and don'ts to consider:

  • Do hire a licensed professional who works with solar panels made in the U.S. That way the warranty will still protect you if the manufacturer goes out of business.
  • Do install an inverter with at least a 10-year warranty and panels with a 20- to 25-year warranty.
  • Do weigh the pros and cons of leasing versus buying panels.
  • Do research local permits and codes.
  • Don't use a pro who outsources installation.

Convert Your Water Heater

Arkin Tilt Architects, original photo on Houzz

When it comes to solar water heaters there are both direct and indirect systems available. An indirect circulation system may offer the best bang for your buck. Such a system uses a special fluid in the solar thermal panel that heats up, passes through a heat exchanger, and transfers the heat to potable water. Indirect systems are generally more resistant to freezing temperatures than direct systems, preventing pipe corrosion, and carrying more heat.

If you're on the fence about which system would be better for your home, hire a specialty plumber who can provide referrals and a portfolio before work begins. After installation, you can expect to see monthly bills drop 50 to 80 percent.

Look to the Light

SURROUNDS Landscape Architecture + Construction, original photo on Houzz

If you're not ready to make any major installations, there are plenty of other opportunities to go green at home. Outdoor lighting is one example. You can illuminate walkways with solar path lights or give your porch a welcoming glow with ambient solar lights. You can even test out solar spotlights for some increased security.

You can still enjoy eco-friendly outdoor lighting even if you live in a shaded setting. Contact a landscape lighting professional to install a remote photovoltaic panel in a sunnier part of your property. Also, be aware that in most cases, the higher the price, the brighter the light.

See (and Feel) the Difference Solar Tubes Can Make

Lindus Construction/Midwest LeafGuard, original photo on Houzz

You can also look to your interior for eco-friendly lighting opportunities. Solar tubes, not to be confused with skylights, are roof-to-ceiling columns that let in sunlight. You won't get a sky-blue view, but you will feel the difference as they regulate solar heat fluctuation better than skylights. This before-and-after picture of an entryway is evidence that sunlit spaces can actually be brighter than electrically lighted rooms. You could even supplement these tubes with LED light sources for day-to-night transitions.

Consider a Greener Charging Station

Touch of Eco Solar Window Charger, original photo on Houzz

If you rent or are planning to move soon, some of these solar solutions may not make sense for you. But here's a simple idea that anyone can take advantage of. Charging stations are in homes everywhere as electronic devices have become integral to our lives. Go one step greener with an eco-friendly station like this charger. It has a battery in its base and attaches to any window, where it is charged by the sun. You plug your devices into the USB port and charge away — outlet-free and even on the go.

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