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Pro and Cons of Installing Solar Panels in Your Home

Today everybody is looking for ways to save money on high energy cost as well as go green. One of the ways that people consider is installing solar panels to their home. While these do work very well, they also have some very concrete drawbacks. Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons of today’s solar panels. One of the first pros that are so obvious is that they reduce the strain on the energy consumption and they are a renewable energy source. One thing that makes solar panels such an inviting option is that sunlight is always free, and as far as we know, the sun will come up tomorrow and the next day and continue to do so for a long time. These are very ideal for people who live in a climate that boasts a lot of sunlight.
Another good thing about solar panels is that they will save you money in the long run. It will cut back on your utility bills and if you are especially lucky, you will have to pay nothing to the utility companies at all. This to me is a definite plus.

Solar panels emit no pollution, so this enhances the environment and keeps your home on the green side. Saving the planet should be a huge priority for everybody and this is a keen way to start being more friendly to Mother Nature. And they are pretty much maintenance free. Maybe a rinse off here and there or twice a year hand cleaning.

As if all that were not enough to convince you, there are always the tax breaks that you will receive for having solar paneling installed in your home. In addition to that, some states have a program called “net metering” which essentially turns your meter backwards and you can get a credit on your utilities or sell the extra energy that you have generated to the other companies. Sounds like a great deal to me. The government offers a tax credit of up to $2000. If you go to www.dsireusa.org you can look up the incentives that are offered by state.

Here is a benefit that the whole neighborhood will appreciate. Solar panels are quiet. There are no moving parts or machinery to create noise pollution.

Of course, as in all things good, there are always some drawbacks. The biggest drawback is the initial installation costs. No it is not cheap to have these little bad boys installed and most do-it-yourselfers are not equipped to take on this type of project. They will need to be professionally installed which can cost you a pretty penny, but in the end it will pay for itself over and over.

As mentioned before, sun is an important factor, so if you live in a climate that does not receive a lot of sunlight, this might not benefit you as much. Solar panels depend on sunlight to create the energy to supply to the home, so if you have a short day, a cloudy day, you will have to rely on another source of energy after you have used up the stored energy. This will also determine the amount of panels you will need to install. This also holds true for the nighttime hours when there is no sun out. I don’t think they’ve invented a moon powered panel as of yet.

This may not be as important to some people as others, but solar panels across your roof or located in your yard may not be so pleasing to the eye or the curb appeal. This could be a drawback for some, but will the benefits outweigh them.

Sometimes things happen, especially nature, and you will need to replace a broken or faulty panel which can add to your costs. Maintaining the panels increases the productivity and is an important factor.

Winter weather can also be a burden for some home owners as well. Take for instance a heavy snow storm that temporarily covers your panels. During this instance the panels are not soaking in any of the rays from the sun, therefore reducing your efficiency. Hopefully at this point you will have banked a sufficient amount of net energy to hold you over.

Either way, however you look at it solar panels are a good thing. If you can afford them, than go ahead and indulge in this modern convenience and enjoy the future savings to come. You can also rest easily knowing that you are doing your part in protecting and preserving the environment.

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How to Install a Solar Heater in Your Pool

One of the most logical uses of solar energy is to heat a home swimming pool, since sunshine and swimming weather are so closely linked. The simplest and least expensive way to warm an unheated pool with sunrays, or to ease the load on a gas or electric pool heater, is to cover the water with a transparent plastic blan­ket, commonly made of heavy, double-thickness polyethylene.
By preventing evaporation (which can account for up to 55 percent of a pool’s heat loss) while still permitting sunlight to warm the wa­ter, a plastic cover can raise the tempera­ture of a pool by as much as 10° F. on a sunny day. Used in conjunction with a conventional heater, a pool blanket can pay for itself over a single season in re­duced energy bills.

But full-fledged solar systems, available from solar equipment-dealers and from some pool-supply stores, are even more effective. Most pools are heated to around 80° F; in warm weather, a solar system can do the job unaided by a stan­dard gas or electric heater. In cooler weather it can save considerable energy by preheating the water before it passes into the conventional heater.

Because the basic plumbing necessary to circulate the water through the solar collector panels is already included in the pool’s filter system, a solar heating loop need only tap into the existing pipes- usually at a point just beyond the filter but before the conventional heater, if any.

A one-way check valve prevents wa­ter from draining back into the filter from the elevated collectors, and a manual or thermostatically-controlled gate valve al­lows pool water to bypass the solar heat­er on cloudy days, or whenever the pool has heated up sufficiently. The existing swimming-pool pump will often be pow­erful enough to circulate water through the panels, but the panel manufacturer or dealer may recommend that you retro­fit a larger pump.

Solar collector panels for pool heat­ing are simpler and lighter than the ones that are designed for hot-water sys­tems, requiring no insulation or glazing. Many are copper; others are merely 3-by-8-foot sheets of molded plastic, honey­combed with channels through which the water circulates.

The panels must be mounted on a roof and oriented toward the sun in the same manner as other solar collectors. If near­by south-facing roof surfaces do not pro­vide the proper angle, you can secure the panels to an inclined roof rack, but covered with %-inch plywood (the lightweight pool panels will sag in the middle if they are not supported). In many cases, however, the simplest way to mount the collectors is to build a nearby cabana-style shelter with its roof oriented due south and pitched at an angle equal­ing your latitude.

To heat the water adequately, you will need collector panels with a total surface area equal to half the area of your pool. To ease installation, use schedule-40 PVC pipe and, whenever possible, PVC valves and fittings to make the plumbing con­nections. Buy the type of pipe that is specifically labeled for outdoor use; the plastic is formulated with a stabilizer that enables it to withstand prolonged expo­sure to sunlight. The PVC pipe ordinarily used for indoor plumbing degrades rap­idly in the sun and must be painted if it is used outside the house. You can buy pipe, fittings, and any other hardware not included with the panels, at plumbing and home-improvement stores.

Resources:

http://www.poolgear.com/instructions-inground-solar-heater.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Install-Solar-Panels-to-Heat-a-Pool

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Robotikits: Educational Solar Powered Robots Anyone Can Build

Robotikits is a build it yourself educational Robot Mini Solar Kit. In 1980, OWI, Inc. supported a need for robotic education and created robot kits that could be used with school curriculums.
The Frightened Grasshopper is part of the Mini Solar Kits Family. Also included in this family are the Super Solar Race Car, the Walking King Crab, the Attacking Inch Worm, and the Happy Hopping Frog. Each one is solar powered and prices range from $10.95 – $13.95. The Frightened Grasshopper is priced at $10.95. In 2007 the Frightened Grasshopper won the Creative Toy Award and was given the seal of excellence by Creative Child Magazine.

The Mini Solar Robot Kits are part of the Jr. Science Series and are recommended for ages 10 and up. Although the recommended age for interest in robotics really can’t be set for today’s creative mind you can use this age recommendation as a guide. My children are five and eight and they want to start collecting the whole family since we assembled and enjoyed the Frightened Grasshopper and his antics. OWI, Inc. has a beginning Jr. Science Series and they excel to an Advanced experience level for those who have soldering skills.

There are only six assembly instructions to follow and they are very easy, you’ll have your Frightened Grasshopper assembled in just a few minutes. The enclosed instructions have pictures showing each step and which part you’ll need to assemble next. Building a robot has never been easier. Once your Frightened Grasshopper is assembled find some sunlight and what your kid(s) jump with excitement. The solar panel on the grasshoppers back causes the activity of solar energy. You can also show them how the sun is powering the robot; use your hand to shade the area above the grasshopper. Your shadow will cause the grasshopper to stop, move away and let the sun hit the solar panel and the grasshopper will start again. This can also be a great tool to teach children about how solar energy is harnessed.

Since this is a solar powered toy it will cause your children to spend some time outside, this will give parents or teachers a chance to watch from a distance as creative minds start to wonder. If you place the Frightened Grasshopper in your hand it will tickle you because of the movement it makes. Make sure the child or children do not drop it so that it won’t break. If you put the solar robot in sand it will dig little holes with its legs. Keep the solar panel on its back as clean as you can, simply wipe it off with a dry cloth.

There is warranty information enclosed in case any of the parts do not work correctly. Be sure to keep your receipt or if it was a gift you might want to obtain that information. The warranty is good for 30 days. You can also join their club that information is obtained by reading the instructions enclosed.