Energy efficiency is, in a nutshell, using less power to accomplish the same tasks. Solar power systems increase the net efficiency of a home by replacing some, or all, of the electricity acquired from the utility company with a renewable resource. It makes sense to combine one of these systems with other ways to maximize the reduction in energy usage.
There are a variety of methods used to increase the energy efficiency of a home, ranging from practicing conservation habits to home improvements. Turning off electronics when a room is vacant, and structural improvements like sealing (caulking) and insulating the home are a good start. When installing solar power, it makes sense to combine it with other pieces of efficient equipment, like special light bulbs, to ensure that everything can be powered by the panels. When retrofitting a house to increase its energy efficiency, these methods can reduce the time it takes for the project to pay for itself. Furthermore, tax rebates are often available through utility companies to help increase the efficiency of the building. If rebates are not offered for using alternative resources, it is typically possible to receive a non-prescriptive (or custom) rebate based on how much is being saved (or provided by the solar power system rather than the utility company).
For people who are unsure about what measures to take, a professional energy auditor can provide a list of suggestions. Audits are offered by a number of utility companies and through not-for-profit organizations and energy consulting companies. When planning to take advantage of any utility rebate program, it is best to look into relevant regulations before making any purchases, as occasionally, audits are required or rebates must be pre-approved.
With the emergence of the smart grid and electronic metering, there are many advantages to having solar panels for electricity, such as switching to stored electricity during hours when the utility companies may charge higher rates. In some places, it is possible to sell excess electricity produced by the system back to the utility company. In order to produce this excess, ratcheting up the energy efficiency in all areas of the home is highly advisable.
Although a panel is only capable of producing when there is sunlight, the system is often installed in a grid-tied system so electricity can also be supplied by a utility company. Often, backup batteries are installed as well, so that electricity harvested during the day can be used at night or on cloudy days. This battery backup is an essential component when choosing to stay off the grid and making the panels the primary source of electricity.
Solar technology has made large strides in recent years, and it is now available in a number of different configurations. Although the amount of solar power that can be supplied to a building varies depending on the size, shape and orientation of a roof, and the number of solar cells that can be installed, there is no doubt that one of these setups can offset utility bills and increase energy efficiency.