The more electricity you use, the more you pay for it. And in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent upon tech devices, something’s gotta give. Luckily, there’s a way to save money on those bills and help the environment, all at the same time. You just need to capture those intense rays of sunshine and use them for free energy. There are many ways you can harvest energy from the sun. Some methods are free and have been in use for thousands of years. Others require an investment in technology, but in some cases you can even make money by capturing free energy from the sun and selling it!
1. Solar panels
A few years ago, it would have been unusual to spot a house with solar panels on the roof, but now solar panels seem to be popping up in neighborhoods all over. If you have a south-facing roof (or west-facing) and get lots of sunny days in your area, installing solar panels to generate electricity can be a smart investment. The cost of solar panels has dropped in recent years, and with major players such as Tesla starting to produce solar panels, further price drops and improvements in capability may lie ahead. If your solar panels generate more electricity than you use, in many states you can sell this extra energy to the utility company and make money through net metering programs.
Cost: Thousands of dollars up front, depending on square footage installed.
Potential savings: About a thousand dollars per year, depending on your location.
DIY? No, solar panels typically require professional installation.
2. Passive solar heating
This method of harvesting energy from the sun is not new and does not require any special technology. My house has a solarium with south-facing windows to allow sunlight to flood in during winter months. The solarium walls capture the warmth and radiate it back into the house, providing free heating. Any south-facing windows you have in your house will work to provide heating benefits in winter. Open curtains on your south-facing windows on winter days to let light and heat in. Close curtains at night during winter and when the sun is shining in during the summer.
Cost: Free if you have south-facing windows.
Potential savings: Hundreds of dollars per year.
DIY? No, look for south-facing windows when choosing or building a house.
3. Solar water heater
Heating water requires a lot of energy, so why not capture some of that free energy from the sun instead of running up your electric or gas bill? A solar water heater circulates water through an insulated collector using a water tank that is painted black to maximize heat collection. This hot water can be used directly or can be fed into a traditional water heater to save energy.