Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Active solar, how it works in the Clayton i-house, or any house

For those of you unfamiliar with solar energy. There are two primary types associated with houses; passive and active. This post is on solar panels, an active system, since they come as an option on the i-house.

Solar energy is in a special category of "renewable energy," since using it, doesn't take away from the source. Think of solar panels as an investment in energy, as well as a way to assume environmental responsibility.

The first two videos are very short, the second two long. The longer ones might be interesting, even if you have no plans to buy the i-house, and just want to learn all about how different home solar systems are set up.

Watch the second two in full screen, or you won’t be able to see what they are posting on an overhead projector. So, after starting the video, click on the box-in-a-box icon, one of the icons in the lower right hand corner. (Press the Esc key on your computer to exit full screen mode when you are done.)

I chose these among several I watched. Too many videos are aimed at hawking a specific product.

I like the first video especially, because you can watch it once or twice, and really understand the simple principle of how a solar panel converts the sun’s photons into electricity.

How Solar Energy Panels Work (Very Short, simple, understandable explanation of very basic way a solar panel works.)

Solar 101 (Short, more basics, includes more about systems)

My own Solar System (One hour, beginning is terrible, but gets better . A Google executive lectures about his own home system.)

Learn about Solar Energy (One hour, similar to above but makes some things clear)

Just a reminder that my old blog posts, including the one before this one which has a nice video, can be accessed at the right, under BLOG ARCHIVE.


  1. In regard to the solar panels, here's something that I can't figure out: in all of the i-house videos the Clayton people insist that the i-house is so efficient that it only uses about one dollar a day in energy. That's about $360 a year.
    Now the solar panels cost about $13,400. Double that if you get two sets instead of one. So even if they cut the energy needs of the i-house in half, it would still take over 140 years to break even on that deal. Which means that the solar panels should pay for themselves just about the time your great-great-great-great grandchildren are graduating from Star Fleet Academy.
    Or am I missing something?

  2. I'd like to echo the above commenter's basic question.

    Are the solar panels even close to being economically sensible? What's a loosey-goosey ballpark estimate of how much energy these panels could produce in one month, vs. how much an average i-house would use?

    How many years could it take before the $13,400 solar panels break even?

  3. For either 2KW or 4KW, my calculations show 44 years, except I am not taking two things into consideration.

    1. The rising price of electricity.
    2. That panels only have a life of 30 years!

    Unless they invent a fusion-fission reactor that delivers .05-a-kWh (current rates are .07 to .11/kWh), or some kind of new solar panel that is 50% efficient and cheaper, the price of electricity is likely to go up considerably.

    That can shrink that 44 years down to 10 to 15 or so, and remember that after 10 to 15, you'll be coasting on free electricity from the panels. So, it is possible to do better than breaking even.

    I will add to my post tomorrow, showing my calculations. I will also try to explain kWh, and what a panel produces. A 2K panel produces 8kWh/day on average. An average family might use 33kWh/day. 1000kWh/month at .10/Kwh = monthly electric bill of $100.

    Solar panels become a good deal when a government steps in, and offers a big incentive, like the rebate they had in Australia for a while. People may want to wait to add the solar panel option to their i-house for that reason. As such things don't tend to be retroactive when they are offered.

    The biggest payoff is psychological/ecological. A person using solar panels is putting that much less crap into the atmosphere, if you have coal burning plants as we do here.

    From the blogs I've read, that aren't sponsored by companies who make the equipment, using solar panels can be very satisfying. I would like to do it myself, if I could afford it.

    Remember though, just living in a smaller, more energy efficient house like the i-house, goes a long way, without the solar panels.


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