Photovoltaic (solar) panels, either mounted to a roof or tracking system, produce electricity. Roof mounted systems have few moving parts and can last 40 years or more. They function by using crystalline silicon in series that react to the energy (photons) of the sun to generate DC electricity. That electricity is converted to AC by an inverter and put into the electrical grid, or it can be left DC and stored in batteries. PEA Builders mounts a double meter socket on almost every home so it is ready for solar installation, whether immediately or in the future. Most utilities allow you to sell the extra electricity back into the grid, sometimes at a higher rate. This product continues to increase in efficiency while decreasing in cost.
Collecting passive solar heat can be accomplished in a number of different ways. Proper orientation of the dwelling to the sun is first and foremost. The best way to accomplish this is to place the main living areas along the long axis within 15 degrees of South. The house can then be tuned to act as a solar collector with either “Direct” or “Indirect” passive solar.
– Isolated solar gain can be accomplished with attached sunrooms that act like micro-climates, collecting heat that can then be circulated into the main living area mechanically or through natural convection.
– Direct solar gain draws the sun’s heat in through “high solar heat gain” windows and distributes that energy into a room to heat the air. A concrete floor can act as a collector (thermal mass) for collecting and storing heat.
Careful design & planning is critical so that windows, shading and thermal mass all be sized correctly to avoid overheating or overshading.
The large bubbled collectors of the late 70’s are gone. The new solar thermal collectors are sleek and resemble photovoltaic panels. With a properly sized system, 80% or more of domestic hot water and heating needs can be met. A glycol mixture of water runs thru a series of copper tubes directly absorbing heat from the sun and transferring it to a holding tank for use as heat or hot water. This system only makes cost effective sense with certain lot characteristics.