According to Greek mythology, the sun god Apollo drives his chariot across the skies each day, from one horizon to the other, distributing daylight from dawn to dusk. If you have dreamed of harnessing the sun, modern technology is steadily making the process more attainable, streamlining and simplifying equipment to meet the somewhat more pedestrian needs of mere mortals.
Items you will need:
- Thermal mass
- Solar panel
- Charge controller
- DC-powered appliances
- AC-powered appliances
- Stand-alone solar gadgets
Multiply the heating power of full sun through the south-facing windows in your home by adding thermal mass -- heat-absorbing materials such as natural stone or masonry -- to floors and walls. For more aggressive passive solar collection, construct a trombe wall within a windowed area, made of masonry or sometimes incorporating large water containers, that absorbs heat from the sun all day and releases it gradually after sundown to continue heating the indoors overnight. As the warm air in the room dissipates, heat held within the trombe wall replaces it to keep the temperature from dropping. The website of the Whole Building Design Guide reports that sun-tempering -- modest levels of passive solar heating -- can lower "building auxiliary heating requirements from 5% to 25% at little or no incremental first cost." (See References 1.)
Drive the sun's power directly to the source of your energy needs. Set up a solar panel facing south in a location that is free of obstructions which would block sunlight during any part of the day. Have an electrician wire the panel to a charge controller device inside your home, and connect the controller to DC lights or appliances. DC, or direct current, is the type of electricity that results when the sun's rays hit the crystals of your solar panels. To power your AC, or alternating current, equipment, add an inverter to your solar power system that converts DC to AC, and have your electrician connect the AC feed to your household breaker box. Add a battery storage array to store some of your sun power for later use. (See References 2.)
Take the sun's power wherever you go with small solar-powered gadgets that allow you to collect a little sunshine for mobile use. Hand-held video cameras and laptop computers are now available with built-in solar collectors. Solar-rechargeable cell phones and MP3 players free you from reliance on electric plug-ins, giving you greater room to roam.
Lynne Haley Rose has written extensively for Internet publications on topics in business, finance, fitness and renewable energy. Her poetry has been honored by the Washington Poets Association and published in "Poetry Northwest," "Willow Springs" and online at Fogged Clarity. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Gonzaga University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Eastern Washington University.
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