The term Solar Power is used to describe a number of methods of harvesting energy from the sun.

Renewable energies such as Solar Power are increasing in popularity as fossil fuels deplete and awareness of green house gases increase.

Solar Power for residential and commercial use can be split into two main categories, solar electric power that uses arrays of photovoltaic cells to convert solar energy into electricity, and solar thermal energy where the sun’s energy is used to heat water which is then stored in a tank for later use or to power a central heating system.

Photovoltaic cells consist of multiple layers of a semi conducting material. When the photovoltaic cells are exposed to light an electric field is created across the layers, causing electricity to flow. The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity. Therefore solar cells are more efficient the warmer the climate

Solar thermal energy is a relatively simple process where water is either pumped into solar panels or flows via thermal energy and, as it passes through the internal pipe, is heated and then stored in a tank ready for use. Punmped systems can store the heated water in a tank external to the panel. Passive systems generally have the tank attached to the top of the solar panel. The water heated by the solar panel will stay hot for around 24 hours.

In both cases solar panels are usually fitted to the roof of the premises and work during daylight hours, however with a new house being built from the ground-up it may be possible to integrate them more seamlessly into the house.

Solar Power collectors can heat water on a very cloudy day. Its a common misconception that solar panels only work in direct sunlight. While Solar Power will not usually run a complete central heating system and will generally provide about 75% of a properties electricity, you can expect a solar powered hot water system to provide all your hot water.

A Solar Power heating system is an efficient way to harvest the power of the sun into a useably form for your home. You can expect to cut your gas bill by approximately 50 percent by installing such a system.

That will result in a huge saving on your heating bill! The Solar Power heating works by using solar panels positioned on the roof of the home. For maximum efficiency the panels should be on southeast to southwest facing roof and should not be obstructed by objects such as trees or buildings. For new builds, special roof tiles can be use which have same properties as solar panels but are less obvious visually.

A typical installation in the USA would only require 2m² to 4m² of roof space so will certainly not be an eye sore. In any case a modern Solar Power heating system uses discreet panels which are available in a variety of colours in order to blend in as much as possible with existing roofing. There are three main components to a domestic Solar Power heating system, solar panels, heat transfer system and hot water tank.

The typical cost of a professionally installed Solar Power heating system would be $4000-$6000 installed. If you have some DIY skills you can do the majority of the work yourself with a DIY kit. If you intend to go down the DIY route check with the local authority that grant are available. The maintenance of a Solar Power heating system generally consists of annual check by the property owner and a more detailed check by a professional installer every 5 years.