Category Solar Power Your Home

Literally Going Green with Landscaping

Who cares about the new trend toward “green consciousness?” We’re talk­ing a green thumb. Landscaping means you’re completely outdoors, and that should be enough to convince any green enthusiast. When you’re landscap­ing, nothing can really break, and you won’t run into parts that don’t fit. You can start off small, with maybe just a new tree planted in a strategic location, or you can rip out any trees, bushes, or plants you don’t like and replace them with ones that support your solar-power habits. Chapter 8 contains all sorts of ideas you can implement.

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Using Just About Every Tool in the Box to Install a Solar Water Heater

If you want to install a solar water heater, you have to be good at plumbing, electrical wiring, solder joints, PV panel installation, copper tube cutting, climbing around on roofs, figuring out what to do when things don’t fit right, and that’s just for starters. You need to understand water pressure and how it can cause pipe weld joints to burst at the worst possible times. You need to understand what happens in cold weather to water that might freeze in an exposed pipe. You need to know how to evacuate closed systems of air and how to burp and drain pipes completely, or else you’ll be sorry.

You need to know how to choose the best kit among a horde of suppliers who have very poor literature and don’t like to answer the phone very often...

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Ten or So Best Do-It-Yourself Projects

In This Chapter

^ Mastering easy projects that you can complete in a day or so ^ Climbing, screwing, pounding, measuring, charging, cooking ^ Tackling challenging projects that will impress your friends

ver since I was a boy, I have loved tools and the damage they can do.

I have learned over and over that nothing ever works the way it’s sup­posed to. I have come to accept the constant companionship of Murphy, who, I have also learned, is an eternal optimist. Nonetheless, I have forged on, tackling bigger and bigger projects, and making bigger and bigger messes of things. Ultimately, if I’m patient and keep a ready supply of bandages handy, I can get things to work somewhat satisfactorily. I love doing projects, especially ones I can design myself...

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Banishing Hot Air With a Solar Attic Vent Fan

If you’ve ever gone into your attic on a hot summer day, you know what real heat is all about. It can get so hot that it’s dangerous. Temperatures over 160°F are not uncommon. All that heat stays up there at night, and it sinks into your house through the insulation in your ceiling. Most homes have pas­sive, natural venting schemes in the attic, but that doesn’t do much to get the hot air out of your house.

A properly designed solar attic vent fan can move a lot of air (see Chapter 13) over the course of a day. The system works hardest when there’s a lot of sun­shine. You don’t need to run expensive electrical power up to the fan, which means you can install one just about anywhere you want.

As a do-it-yourself solar project, it’s ideal because you get to use some PV panels, w...

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Increasing Your Living Space

You can add a solar room onto your home for far less cost than a conven­tional room. You can put in nearly any size you want, and do-it-yourself kits are straightforward and well designed. You can build a solar room out of aluminum or wood, and you can put in however many and whatever size win­dows you want. You can incorporate a concrete floor (for maximum thermal mass), or you can use an existing wooden or synthetic deck.

If you do it right, you can build a solar room without getting a building permit (forego electric power and don’t connect it permanently to your house).

You can build a solar room out of plastic corrugated materials that cost very little. You can grow plants in a greenhouse year round, or if you want to get really exotic you can grow fruits, flowers, or vegetables...

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Putting Up Overhangs to Make Your Home More Comfortable

By using overhangs to shade your southern windows appropriately, you can increase natural warming in the winter and prevent overheating in the summer. You also can improve the natural light in your home by increasing the amount of sunshine you let in during the winter, when you want as much light as possible (it makes you feel warmer, and perception is half the game), and by decreasing it in the summer, when a lot of light makes you feel hot.

Controlling the sun as it shines into your house lets you regulate the tem­perature variations. Nobody likes a home where the temperature swings wildly over the course of a day. And temperature variations tend to make materials swell and shrink, which causes cracking and premature wear...

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Redecorating for Functionality and Appearance

Window blinds make a big difference in the overall look and comfort level of your home. Windows attract a lot of attention (they break up walls, which are monotonous), and they’re a source of natural sunlight. The eye is naturally drawn to a window, particularly a big one in your family room or living room.

The fact is, windows are a major source of heat transfer. In the summer, windows let in too much heat energy by both radiative sunlight and conduc­tive heat movement. In the winter, windows allow a lot of heat to escape by conduction. Your house would be much more energy efficient if it didn’t have any windows at all, but this is absurd. The solution? Put in window blinds that have good insulation and reflective properties.

With the right blinds, you can significantly reduce heat t...

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Lighting Your Yard All Night Long

For little cost, you can put a range of fun and interesting lights around your yard. They charge during the daylight hours and come on at night. They need little sunlight, given the amount of light they put out.

The alternatives are awkward, clumsy, and demanding. Utility powered, low – voltage systems have thick-gauge wires that you need to run around your yard, tripping people and getting chewed up by the dog. And the lengths of runs you can get away with are limited because the wire is so expensive.

Putting in solar lighting is as simple as one, two, three. And if you don’t like the way things look, changing the layout is as simple as four, five, six. Try both static lights and the changing-color decorative lights...

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