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Southern California and solar solutions

Just as cool temperatures and autumn rain sets in in the northern part of the country, here in Southern California, the sun blazes in cloudless skies, day after day. Ignoring such a plentiful and reliable source of energy might seem like overlooking a pile of cash sitting in the corner, but there are some barriers to installing a functional solar system that homeowners cannot, or are not, willing to overcome.



Deciding on whether to install a solar power system involves understanding your options and deciding on how big an investment you are willing to make in your home. You might be a dedicated conservationist and believe that any reduction in the power you draw off the grid is worth the money spent to reduce greenhouse gases associated with the production of that energy. Or, you might focus on long-term goals, such as improving the resale value of your home. Solar systems can also free you to live in remote areas, completely off the grid. Taking advantage of free information from governmental agencies is a good start, and finding local specialists that can answer specific questions and design a solar solution tailored to your needs is essential.



The most basic type of residential solar energy is a thermal solar system, which collects the sun’s energy to heat water. These systems do not store energy or create electricity, but save you from firing up your furnace to heat water. They are relatively inexpensive systems, ranging between 1,000 and 4,000 dollars.



Solar electric or photovoltaic technology transforms the energy from the sun directly into electricity. The system generates a direct current and a transformer changes it to the alternating current you use in your home. Batteries store any energy you do not use immediately for use at night or on cloudy days. When the amount of electricity you generate exceeds your use, you can opt to sell back the excess to the electric utility company that services your area. Some major manufacturers include SMA (inverter technology), and Mitsubishi, Suntech, and Canadian Solar for the modules themselves. Photovoltaic systems are pricier, averaging around $25,000 for a 3-killowat system.



New solar companies start up every day, and you should research the track record and staying power of each before investing in a system. Energy Efficient Solar, based in Pomona, California, has been in business since 1990.  http://solar.coolerplanet.com/Directory/solar-installer-energy-efficiency-solar.aspx Going solar is a major investment, but there are various incentives and rebates available through governmental agencies. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for up-to-date information. http://www.dsireusa.org



The most energy-efficient homes integrate smart home design into solar systems to maximize passive heating and cooling. Planting deciduous trees on the west side of your property can reduce cooling expenses in summer, while allowing the sun’s rays to heat your home in the winter. 



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