The surprisingly low cost of going solar
Electricity bills are rising. Power use is an eternal issue. Maybeyou’re curious about solar power, but think converting your house istoo big — and too expensive — a job.
Electricity bills are rising. Power use is an eternal issue. Maybe you’re curious about solar power, but think converting your house is too big — and too expensive — a job.
Not so, says Michael Boxwell, author of The Solar Electricity Handbook.
“The best way is to start small, and build up,” Boxwell says. “I’ve got a house that gets very little direct sunlight. So putting a solar panel system in, that costs tens of thousands of dollars, would be crazy. But putting in enough solar power just to run the lighting in the house: that’s easy. Get started with something like that. And if you like it, you can put more panels in and power more things.”
The actual cost can be surprisingly low.
“I spent about $150-$200, and I’ve got a basic system. I’m doing a little bit to reduce my carbon footprint, and in case there’s a power failure, I’ve still got lights on.”
Not only will every solar panel reduce your energy bill and footprint, Boxwell says the very act of generating your own power greatly increases your green awareness, as well.
“When you generate your own power, your much more aware of what you’re using. You become aware that your television and your computer are taking power if they are left on. You start becoming a lot more energy-conscious if you’ve got a couple of solar panels on the roof.”
And if you want to go entirely solar — get your house off the electrical grid completely — it’s not as difficult as you think.
“It’s not a big job,” Boxwell says, reassuringly. “If you’re comfortable with do-it-yourself and electrics, you could probably do it in two or three days. But you do need a house where you’ve got a clear view of the sun year-round. You need a south-facing roof or other surface where you can put a large number of panels.”
Perhaps the best news? The price of solar technology is plummeting.
“The glass they use for the solar panels is the same glass they use for flat-screen TVs. Because those have become widespread in the past few years, the cost of actually manufacturing this glass comes right down. They’re even now able to make solar panels by printing silicon onto sheets of plastic. It’s going to be so cheap you’ll have solar panels on the back of cellphones, so they self-charge.”