A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Business: Navigating the Maze of Solar Options, Incentives, and Installers by Stephen and Rebekah Hren covers a lot of territory for a small book (152 pages). This husband and wife team both work in the renewable energy field, with Rebekah installing PV systems and Stephen designing and building passive and active solar heated homes.
The introduction goes into the history of the use of solar energy and analyzes why one would want to employ it. The first chapters discuss the variety of ways that solar energy can be employed architecturally. Panels that produce thermal water and those that produce electricity are differentiated and space heating options are discussed. The pros and cons of these various systems are explored, both in terms of how appropriate they might be for your site and for your pocketbook.
Some care is taken to help you evaluate what your “solar window” might be, that is how much potential solar energy is available at your particular site. Then the other part of the equation is how much energy do you actually need, or use?
The cost of the various possibilities is explored. Is it really going to pay back what you invest in it? What is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to buying solar energy equipment? Can you get some help from the Federal government or state and local jurisdictions to defray the costs? If the answers to these questions are not in the book, it is suggested where you can find out.
Many of the intricacies of what is required for the various types of solar electric systems are carefully explained. So whether you want a simple grid-tied system, or a more complex battery backup or off-grid, stand-alone system, the book will help you understand what will be needed.
Similarly, hot water systems are described in enough detail to have a pretty good idea of what is involved, and what would work best in your situation. There are a number of diagrams to help you visualize all of this. Even swimming pool heaters are discussed.
Heating your house with the sun can be done with some major remodeling to introduce passive solar concepts, or it can be done with simpler solar air heating units that just attach to the side or roof of your house. Or there is the possibility of placing solar thermal panels on your roof, and then directing that heat into your house through radiators or hydronic tubes in the floor. There is a long chapter that discusses all of these options.
Once you have decided what route to take in using solar energy for your situation, you will probably need to hire some expert help implementing your plan. One chapter is devoted to finding a good contractor at this stage. Since you have read up on everything that is involved you will be much better prepared to ask the right questions and evaluate your options.
The last chapters talk about other simple technologies that employ solar energy, such as a solar clothes dryer (a clothesline) and various types of solar cookers, as well as daylighting with light tubes.
This inexpensive book is well worth its price in giving you an overview of what can be done with the sun to help you live cleaner and more economically.