Tag Archive | "solar power"

Ways To Use Solar Energy in Your Home

You already know that you can use the energy from solar panels to power things like your lights or appliances but there are lots of other ways that you can use solar energy around your home too. So if you don’t want the expense and hassle of installing a full solar power system to give you electricity for the entire house you can start with a smaller solar set up to power some of the things around your home. Here are 10 ways to use solar panel energy to operate things besides your lights and appliances:

1. Your outdoor lights.
You can use solar energy to power your garden and walkway lights and other outdoor lights. Solar energy garden lights to light your sidewalk or garden paths are inexpensive and can be purchased in different styles at your local home improvement store. The solar cells on the lights gather energy from the sun and store that electricity in small batteries on the light. At night the battery powers the light. A few years ago only low-powered mood lights were available as solar powered. With recent advances in solar cell and battery technology there are now some powerful flood light available that are solar powered. Solar outdoor lights are a great way to see how solar energy works before you spend thousands of dollars on a solar panel setup.

2. Your pool and hot tub.
Many pools and hot tubs now use solar energy to heat the water. The solar power unit usually assists the electric or gas heating units and even if the whole system isn’t heated by solar power alone, the solar power assist will still save you on your heating bill. If you have an older pool or hot tub that doesn’t have a built in solar energy system you can purchase a solar power kit from a pool supply store that you can use to convert your existing pool or hot tub heater into one that uses solar energy for heating. It will pay for itself in energy savings.

3. Use a solar oven.
As mentioned earlier, the first harnessing of solar energy was to cook food in a specially designed oven that focuses the suns rays to heat food. Originally these small ovens were built for camping but they work great for summer cooking too! Rather than mess with charcoal or propane tanks, solar ovens are cheap and easy to use without all of the waste of conventional cooking techniques. These small ovens can cook food at a temperature up to about 350 degrees and are fully solar powered. A unique system of glass and reflective material absorbs the sun’s heat like a solar PV cell and then magnifies it so that it gets hot enough to cook. Ditch the electric or gas grill and use a solar oven for your backyard cooking.

4. Use “passive heat” storage tubes to increase and store solar energy.
Using these innovative greenhouse fiberglass tubes can really cut down on your heating bills in the winter. These tall fiberglass cylinders are perfect as room accents or room dividers. They look like pillars, but they are hollow. Fill them with water and they will catch and store energy from sunlight which can fill the room with heat. In the winter make sure that they get lots of exposure to bright winter sun and they will help keep your home warm without a huge heating bill.

5. Use solar chargers to charge your MP3 player.
Yes, your cell phone, your laptop and other electronic devices that you use everyday run on batteries. Hopefully you are already using rechargeable batteries to help save cost and reduce toxic waste. There are several solar powered chargers on the market that either charge internal batteries, like in cell phones, or charge C, D, AA, and AAA batteries. These solar rechargers come with different size cords so that you can use it with different items. Using solar power to charge these items you use everyday can take a chunk out of your electric bill each month.

6. Use solar powered appliances.
Maybe it doesn’t make sense to use solar powered appliances in the house when you’re opening and closing the fridge 20 times a day. But there are solar powered refrigerators and freezers that are perfect for food storage. How many people have a second freezer or refrigerator or both in the garage for storing frozen or refrigerated food? Lots of people do. Lots of people also keep a small refrigerator in the home office, in the garage workshop, or on the patio to keep cold drinks and snacks in. Using a solar powered fridge or freezer can save you money and show you how well solar energy works.

7. Heat your water with solar power.
You can install a solar water heater system for a fraction of the cost of a full solar power system. Using a solar water heating system will save you money and give you a great idea of what living with a house powered only by solar energy would be like.

8. Use solar indoor lights.
You can burn up a lot of expensive energy using regular lights. Instead of using overhead lights use solar powered desk and floor lamps to light up your home at night. Like the outdoor lights these indoor lights capture light energy during the day and store it in a small battery. At night the small battery powers the light.

9. Try using solar powered electronics.
Now you can use solar energy to charge your electronics or you can skip straight to solar powered electronics. You can buy solar powered Bluetooth headsets, MP3 players, cell phones and other items that you need to use everyday. You should also have a solar powered radio in the house in case the electricity goes out and you need an emergency radio.

10. A solar power generator.
Every home should have a generator in case the power goes out, and using a solar power generator will ensure that you always have power. All you need to do to recharge your solar generator is set it in the sun, so if you were struck by a natural disaster or other emergency that wiped out your power you would have enough energy to power the things you needed for days or even weeks if you had a solar generator available. It’s also a smart idea to keep solar powered flashlights and lanterns in a sunny place just in case of emergency.

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Are Solar Panels Right For You ?

If you’ve been thinking about switching to solar energy you might be having trouble deciding if buying and installing solar panels is the right thing for you. After all, the up front cost to purchase and install solar panels isn’t cheap and for some people the short term costs of investing in solar panels can be a burden. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you decide if solar energy is the right thing for you:

Can you afford the up front cost to buy and install the solar panels?
Most people either add the cost of solar panels into the cost of their new home or use money from the mortgage to pay for the solar panels or take out a home equity loan in order to pay for them. If you’re taking out a loan then you need to go over your finances and figure out if you can really afford the required monthly loan payment. Eventually the solar panels will pay for themselves but the up-front cost is such that at first you might be strapped financially after buying and installing them.

Can you live with the inconvenience?
Solar power is variable. If there is no sun or very little sun on a particular day then you won’t get any power from the solar panels and you may have to use grid electricity or go with reduced power for a time period. Are you willing to put up with little inconveniences to have a greener household?

Is your home set up for solar energy?
Do you have the necessary space requirements and land requirements to support a solar array? If you’re going to choose solar roof shingles do you have the necessary permits for building? Make sure that your home is properly set up for solar panels or solar shingles before you invest in a big purchase of solar panels or solar shingles.

Are you willing to do the maintenance?
Solar panels are low maintenance but they still do require some maintenance. You will need to occasionally clean off the solar panels. They will gather dirt and debris over time and anything that blocks the sunlight from reaching the solar panels will decrease the amount of energy you will receive. If you live in an area which gets snow in the winter that means every snowfall you have to clear of the solar panels. Also, the electrical equipment required to run the electricity from the solar panels into the electrical grid of your home does require some watching. There are stringent requirements for this because of the variability of the energy coming from the solar panels. So, it requires some monitoring.

The Three Main Requirements for Using Solar Power in Your Home
Solar energy will work in almost any home that physically has the space to support an array of solar panels. With the wide selection of solar panels available it’s not that hard to find solar panels that are the right shape and size to fit into any building. Still, there are certain things that your home has to have in order to effectively use solar panels and solar energy. The main things that your home needs in order for solar power to work at your home are:

Enough space to put the solar panel array.
If you don’t have enough land or roof or wall space to put the solar panels on the house then solar energy isn’t going to be effective for you. Depending on the type of solar panel that you choose you might have to have a large solar array in order to generate enough energy to power your home which would make it necessary for you to have some open space. If you live in a crowded city you might not have room for solar panels although solar shingles might be a good option for you. Local building codes may also restrict your options of solar panels. Be sure and check with your local government as to any restrictions they put on the size and location of solar panels on a building.
Since solar shingles go on the roof of the home just like a traditional roof solar shingles make it possible for homeowners that don’t even land to support a lot of solar panels to gather and use solar energy. Some types of solar panels can be installed on your roof without damaging your existing roof shingles but if you decide to install solar panels on your room you should have a professional do the installation to make sure that your roof isn’t damaged during the installation.

Enough sun to make the panels work.
If you live in a climate that is cloudy most of the time or dark a great deal of the time then you will not be able to use solar panels effectively. Unless the solar panels are exposed to direct sunlight for most of the day everyday they will not generate enough energy for you to use. The more sun there is the more power you can generate.
If you live California, Arizona, Florida, or a state where it’s bright and sunny most of the time then solar energy is a great option for you. If you live in a state that sun part of the year and lots of storms or snow the rest of the year then you can still save money using solar energy for some things but you’re better off using grid electricity during the winter.
Another factor is how far north you are. The farther north one is on the planet, the lower the sun is in the sky. This means that the rays of the sun are hitting the solar panel at a more oblique angle so less actual light energy is hitting the solar panel. In northern states like Minnesota or Maine solar panels are going to be less efficient than in southern states like Louisiana and Florida.

A way to finance the price of the solar panels.
A solar panel isn’t cheap. A high quality solar panel array plus installation could cost in excess of $20,000. It’s important to make sure that you have worked out a way to afford the cost of buying and installing the solar panels before you go to purchase them. Remember that you don’t have to pay the entire cost of the panels out of pocket in most cases because there are lots of grants and incentives you can get to help cover the cost.

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The Benefits of using Solar Panels in your Home

There are many benefits to the environment when people use solar energy to heat and power their homes. There are also many benefits for homeowners. At first the cost on installing a solar array so that you can solar energy at home might seem very expensive but over time the solar energy panels will more than pay for themselves. Still not sure that solar panels are right for you? Here are just a few of the benefits of switching to solar energy in your home:

Solar panels last a long time – If your solar panel array is installed properly it can last for 20 years or longer. Proper maintenance is required to keep it functioning well but the solar panels themselves shouldn’t need to be replaced for at least 20 years. Solar roof shingles can last even longer depending on the type of climate that you live in.

Solar panels create quiet energy – The heat and electricity generated by solar panels is practically noiseless so you will be making your home a lot quieter to live in when you switch to solar energy.
Solar panels are one of the most low maintenance home improvements – Solar panels do require some maintenance but overall they are pretty easy to take care of. After they are installed if you check them regularly for damage and replace any broken or damaged PVcells you shouldn’t have to do much more maintenance on them.

Solar panels can protect your roof and siding – Since the solar panel array shades the house it means that your roof and siding will last longer because the solar panels will act as a buffer between your home and the elements.

Increased home value – Installing solar panels is really an investment in your home because the resale value of your home will rise significantly once you have solar panels. There is a lot of interest in living in a more environmentally responsible way these days and customers that are looking for new homes are concerned about the impact of their homes on the environment. Having solar power is quite a draw for home buyers.

Solar energy saves money. Even though installing solar panels isn’t cheap once the solar panels start to create energy you will start to see a huge savings in your monthly electric bills and heating bills. You can end up paying next to nothing or even nothing at all for electricity. That is probably the biggest reason that so many homeowners are considering switching to solar energy.

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Types of Solar Panels

Today there are essentially four different types of solar panels that you can purchase easily and use if you want to install solar panels on your home to generate electricity or heat your home. They are Monocrystalline Silicon Panels, Polycrystalline Silicon Panels, String Ribbon Silicon Panels, and Amorphous Silicon Panels.

Monocrystalline Silicon Panels – Monocrystalline (or single-crystal) silicon solar panels have a return electricity rate of anywhere from 14% to 18%. These panels are made from one continuous sheet of silicon that has pieces of metal nailed to the edges to increase the conductivity and to excite the electrons.
Monocrystalline panels are more expensive than some of the other types of solar panels that you can buy but they are also more effective, so in the long run you’re better off buying these panels if you can afford the up front cost.

Polycrystalline Silicon Panels – Polycrystalline (or multi-crystal) silicon panes have an electricity return rate of about 12%-14% so they are less efficient than monocrystalline silicon solar panels. These panels are made up of lots of individual PVcells that have metal conducting materials nailed to the sides that will help excite the electrons and also connect the cells together.

Polycrystalline silicon panels are the cheapest solar panels to produce so they are usually the cheapest for consumers to buy. The maintenance costs of polycrystalline silicon panels is lower than the maintenance cost of monocrystalline solar panels because if one of the cells on a polycrystalline panel is damaged you can have the individual cell replaced without having to replace the entire panel.
String Ribbon Silicon Panels – String ribbon silicon panels are made in a similar way to the polycrystalline silicon panels and have about the same electricity return rate. The difference between string ribbon silicon panels and polycrystalline silicon panels is that the PVcells in a string ribbon panel are made of strips of silicon attached to metal bars that connect the strips to form a cell. Using strips of silicon to form the cell instead of using one solid square of silicon make the production cost of string ribbon silicon panels a bit lower than the production cost of polycrystalline silicon panels.
Amorphous Silicon Panels – Amorphous silicon panels have the lowest electricity return rate of any type of solar panels. Traditionally amorphous silicon solar panels have an electricity return rate of between 5%-6%. That’s because these panels aren’t made with crystalline silicon. They are composed of a piece of semi conductive metal, like copper, with a thin silicon film over the top that is attached to some metal pieces.

These panels are very cheap to produce but when you’re buying solar panels for home use you need to consider the long term efficiency of the type of panel that you’re buying. Unfortunately, though cheap to begin with they do not produce much energy, therefore amorphous silicon panels are not going to be cost effective in the long run.

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Solar Energy in the USA

Even though the use of solar energy in the United States is relatively new, people in other countries have been using solar energy for a long time. Right now Germany is the biggest producer of solar energy, followed closely by Australia.

Interest in solar power around the world increased during the Oil Embargo of 1973 and the resulting oil crisis that dragged through much of the 1970’s. During that time the countries that had the richest deposits of oil in the Middle East refused to ship oil to the United States, Western Europe, and any country that had supported Israel. Faced with huge oil shortages and angry consumers businesses quickly began developing solar energy technology that had been abandoned when oil was cheap and plentiful.

Why have other countries adopted the use of solar energy so much quicker than the United States? The simplest answer to that question is cost. After the end of the Oil Embargo the United States developed strong ties with the OPEC countries that led to a large reduction in oil prices.

For decades the United States has enjoyed some of the cheapest fossil fuel prices of any developed nation because of the existence of fossil fuel deposits like coal and natural gas in the United States and good relationships with other countries like OPEC that have huge natural supplies of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel prices in the United States are rising and consumers are shocked at how much they have to pay for gas and electricity that is coming from fossil fuels but for many countries around the world the costs that United States citizens pay is still much lower than the cost of gas and electricity in their countries that must import 90% or more of their fossil fuel products.

Now the focus is on solar energy around the world because the world is running out of fossil fuels, and the environment is changing at an alarming rate due to pollution from the use of fossil fuels and the destruction of the earth to get fossil fuels. Scientists, politicians, and homeowners that want to live in an environmentally responsible way while saving money on their energy costs are all trying to find ways to make solar energy more practical and more affordable for everyday citizens.

For homeowners around the world solar energy is quickly becoming a cheap alternative to costly fossil fuel energy. Since the cost of living is increasing fast homeowners need to find cheaper ways to power their homes. In addition, being able to generate your own solar power gives homeowners greater independence.

Since the United States has enjoyed low fuel prices and an abundance of sources for fuel traditionally using solar energy has never been something that was really popular. But with fossil fuel costs rising at an alarming rate and many people concerned about being able to afford to heat their homes or afford electricity combined with a growing awareness of the environmental problems caused by the use of fossil fuels it’s becoming a lot more popular, even trendy, to use solar energy.

The Utility Solar Assessment Study, a recent scientific study about solar energy use in the United States, predicts that by 2025 10% of all the electricity in the United States will come from solar energy.
This is because solar panels are being made more efficiently and in greater numbers which is bringing the cost of using solar energy down to a point where most home owners can afford to use solar energy. Also, the Federal government and almost every state are offering homeowner tax rebates, grants, and other financial incentives to encourage them to install solar panels in their homes. Especially in states that are known for constant sunshine like California and Florida solar energy is becoming just as cheap as fossil fuel energy.

The study also predicts that by 2015 the cost of solar energy in most major cities will be on par with the cost of fossil fuel energy even with the set up and installation costs of buying solar panels. By 2025 it will be cheaper and more efficient to use solar power to power most appliances and homes than it will be to use fossil fuel based energy.

Solar power is becoming more and more common so people are getting used to solar power as a viable option. One of the most popular uses for solar panels today is in garden lights. These are small lamps that light a yard, walkway, or light up a tree or wall. Rather than run electrical cords across the ground or bury them in the ground, which is expensive, if the garden light is powered by a solar panel, it can be placed anywhere and does not have to be wired. These lights are of course only on at night but their solar panels gather energy from the sun during the day and store it in a battery. Throughout the night the light runs off the battery’s electrical energy.

Increasingly, roadside signs are powered by solar panels. Because of the cost and complication of running electrical wires to remote areas, the signs have solar panels installed which make electricity from the sun. Solar panels are especially useful for portable construction signs. Because they don’t have to be plugged in they can be placed anywhere and get their energy from the sun. Many calculators are now powered by solar panels rather than batteries. Again, they don’t have to be plugged in and as long as there is any light, even artificial light, and the solar panels can generate enough electricity to power the calculator.

As applications of solar power are increasingly becoming a part of our society, people are giving solar panels a second look. With costs decreasing and efficiency increasing, homeowners and developers are considering using solar panels more than ever.

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The History of Solar Panels

Photovoltaic power was first discovered by a French scientist, Antoine Becquerel, in 1839. Many scientists that followed experimented with solar power and tried to build a device that would capture the sun’s energy and redirect it but they were not able to find a way to make a working PV cell. The solar cell was first successfully made by the scientist, Charles Fritts, in 1882. Since they didn’t have the same types of materials that we have today the first working solar cell was made of thin sheets of Selenium, a mineral, that were then coated with gold.

Even though the use of solar panels for generating electricity and heat seems like a relatively new development it’s actually been widely used to generate power since the early 1900’s. Photos from that period show a series of parabola shaped “sun catchers” that would harness the power of the sun and focus it on water tanks. Once the water was heated it made steam which was used to power farm machinery. The solar heated water created enough steam to power 55 horsepower machinery which was cutting edge at the time.

Then, in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, businesses found that they could use the sun’s energy to heat water which created steam to power the machines in the factories. At that time solar energy was considered the wave of the future and a lot of companies began developing better ways to use the sun’s energy until after WWI when fossil fuels became more attractive to companies and farm owners to run their machinery.

The first working silicon solar cell didn’t come along until 1941 when an employee at a Bell laboratory, Russell Ohl, patented his design for a silicon based PV cell. In 1954, Bell labs mass produced the first crystal silicon solar cell. The Bell PVcell converted 4% of the sun’s energy into electricity a rate that was considered the cutting edge in energy technology.

Scientists continued to reinvent and rework the design of the original silicon PVcell and were eventually able to produce a solar cell that was capable of putting out a 20% return electricity rate. In the 1980’s solar cell technology was being used almost exclusively for space travel.

The use of solar power in space is a natural given that spacecraft can’t burn fossil fuels in the vacuum of space and in space the rays of the sun are not reduced by the Earth’s atmosphere and clouds. In the late 1990’s as awareness grew in the science community about the effects of global warming and the need for renewable energy sources scientists continued to refine the silicon PV cell until by early 2000 they were able to make a solar cell with 24% electricity return.
In just 7 years scientists were again able to increase the electricity return of the silicon solar cell using space age materials. By 2007, modern silicon PVsolar cells were operating with a 28% electricity return. As scientists continue to make better solar cells it will become more common and more cost effective for homeowners to use solar cells and solar panels to power their homes.

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Beginners Guide to Solar Power

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products. There has been a vast increase in the interest of businesses and everyday people in finding ways to live in a more environmentally responsible way and to find alternate fuel sources.

It’s not always easy to find ways to be more environmentally responsible and still meet all the obligations of everyday life. For example, many people would like the chance to ride a bike to work everyday or walk instead of having to drive a car but for many of those people that’s just not a feasible option.

Taking public transportation is a better alternative than driving to work everyday but that isn’t much in your control. Whether or not you can take public transportation really depends on where you live and how much of a public transportation system there is in place in that city. It’s not unusual for a large city to have a public transportation system that doesn’t function well in reaching its population or a smaller city not to have any public transportation available at all.

So what are some options that are out there for people who want to live in a more environmentally-friendly way but still have to deal with certain day-to-day realities that don’t always allow them to make the choices they’d like to make? One of them is using solar energy to help heat and power your home. Solar energy is a completely renewable energy source that will save you money on your heating and electricity costs as well as save environmental resources.

In the past using solar energy was not really something that most people could use at home because the technology was still being developed. In recent years the investment by government and industry into developing solar power technology has made using solar power much more affordable and feasible. Today homeowners and apartment and commercial building developers are able to use solar energy and help the environment while saving money.

Using solar energy as a main power source is still relatively new in the United States but other countries have been relying on solar power for a large amount of their energy needs for years. These countries have proven that with the right equipment and technology it is possible to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources. Because solar energy produces no greenhouse gases, using solar power helps the environment.

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Home Solar Power Kits

Americans today have a greater understanding about how their world works, and what we need to do to preserve the place we call home. Many Americans and people around the world are switching to the “Green Alternative.” Home solar power kits have been tremendously successful with a huge uptake throughout the world. Solar panels are the main component in any home solar kit. The process is a unique one, but it gets the job done. The solar panels collect sunlight throughout the day and convert that light energy into electricity for home use.

Many states in the U.S. have taken the initiative to go green such as California, Arizona, Colorado, New York, Florida, Nevada, etc… Yes, these states do have the most sunshine of any others, but one can utilize solar energy anywhere, and here’s why. Solar energy can make consumers fully energy efficient. They can also be used as a backup in case of a natural disaster or a failed power line. One of the most popular reasons is simply because solar panels protect against future price increases. One can even sell your unused energy back to the company. What a terrific deal, right?

As of now, Germany is the world leader in solar technologies. In 2009 alone, Germany installed more than 3,806 megawatts of PV solar energy capacity. PV stands for a “photo-voltaic cell, which is a specialized semiconductor diode that converts visible light into direct current.” The country of Spain comes in second,  Japan in third, and The United States in fourth with 1,650 MW of power. Boulder City, Nevada has the largest photo-voltaic plant in the country, and it has one million solar panels that power 17,000 homes in California. This is how massive an impact solar panels have in the nation today. President Barack Obama spoke in Boulder City and explained how it is his plan to develop every available source of American-made energy there is. This will give American new jobs and a new source of green earth friendly power.

More reasons why Americans are looking into home solar kits are because it supports national interests and businesses. This all goes in hand with decreasing the United States dependence on foreign energy and investing in photo-voltaic components that are being manufactured in the U.S. Sunlight is necessary for solar, but even cloudy areas are excellent for solar energy. It certainly does not matter where someone lives in the world; solar power will always be an enormous advantage. A home solar kit usually utilizes approximately 100 square feet of your homes roof space but it can vary from 100-300 square feet depending on the size of the house. If your roof just is not quite made for solar panels do not worry, there are alternative choices such as ground mounted solar panels. Most solar power systems can last a home anywhere from 25-30 years. This is a fantastic way to become fully energy efficient, and save your wallet from a good beating!

As of February 2013, the cost of a standard home solar system will run about $9,000 before the 30% federal tax credit and rebates offered by each state or energy company. The initial cost of a solar power system is undeniably expensive, but the rewards with pay off big time. SolarWorld is one specific home solar company and also the nation’s largest solar supplier. This company offers free consultations and has 3 easy plans. Zero down, low down plan, and the pre-pay plan. All of their plans include solar energy production, solar monitoring, maintenance and repairs, and insurance coverage for the solar system. This is just one of many companies who have made it easy and affordable to install home solar panels for thousands of Americans across the country. This proves that the solar industry is taking off with the United States on the verge of “solar outbreak.”

There are many different types of solar power kits and kit accessories. For example, a Coleman 55-Watt Solar Back-Up Kit will run a buyer about $288.00 plus tax. The Coleman 18 Watt Solar Charging Kit cost about $100.00 plus tax. Solar Panel kits can get as costly as a Grape Solar 3,000-Watt Mono-crystalline PV Grid-Tied Solar Power Kit, which will cost about $7,500 plus tax. These different alternatives can all be ordered online at different websites such as www.homedepot.com and or www.lowes.com. These local and national companies all make it possible for the local consumer to get their hands on this fabulous new concept of energy conservation. There are many ways to start with solar technology, and there are more opportunities than ever before. It all starts with a little research, dedication, and the willingness to give home solar power kits a chance to change your mind about America’s new reusable energy.

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