Philadelphia heats up in the summer with temperatures well into the 80s, and sometimes soaring into the 90s, for days on end. Couple that with our high humidity, and the desire to crank up the air conditioner can become irresistible. Unfortunately, like the rising cost of everything from groceries to gasoline, electric bills keep mounting, despite our best efforts. In attempts to lower those bills, we try not to turn up the air conditioner too high, rely heavily on ceiling fans, turn off lights upon leaving rooms and replace incandescent light bulbs for longer lasting compact fluorescent ones. Still, electric bills keep going up.
The ultimate solution: putting solar energy to work in our homes. Such technology has been in use for more than 50 years, powering such things as satellites, calculators and watches, and it’s finally becoming popular among Philadelphian homeowners. Not only does it reduce costs, but this renewable, self-sustaining form of energy also helps limit our dependency on fossil fuels, thus helping to reduce greenhouse gases. Plus, it adds to the value of a home.
To put it simply, the sun’s energy is harnessed in solar (sun) cells, which are also known as photovoltaic cells. These are assembled into modules which convert light (photons) into electricity (voltage), hence the name “photovoltaic.” The cells are usually placed on a south-facing roof. However, they can also be located on a pole or on the ground.
Solar Hot Water Heater Systems
Nowadays, there are also solar hot water heater systems which are said to be about three times better at producing solar energy than the photovoltaic types. Maintenance is low and the savings are great, with the potential to lower water heating costs by as much as 60 to 70 percent. There are several types or solar water heater systems, but for the Philadelphia area, a closed loop or drainback system is recommended because of the hard freezes we experience in the winter.
Solar Pool Heaters
If you happen to own a backyard pool, consider a solar pool heater. These boast lower operating costs than the typical gas or heat pump types. The water is filtered and circulated in a solar collector where it is warmed by the sun and then pumped back into the pool.
Several solar energy companies serve the greater Philadelphia area offering their expertise and advice, thus assuring that customers make the best and most cost-effective choices, as they move toward more energy independence.
Mercury Solar System
5270 Oakwood Blvd.
Mays Landing, NJ 08330
This is one of the most respected and largest solar companies on the east coast. Known for both its expertise in the field and praise-worthy customer service, Mercury Solar Systems has already completed some 2,000 residential and commercial solar projects.
Solar Terrain, LLC
2929 Poplar St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Serving the greater Philadelphia metro area, Solar Terrain prides itself on the quality of its work, which, in turn, makes it a stand out in the field. A free and thorough home analysis ensures a cost-effective system that efficiently meets an owner’s energy needs.
80 Pechins Mill Road
Collegeville, PA 19426
Hailed as Pennsylvania’s “original solar company,” Sunpower Builders has been in the solar energy business since 1972 and has already installed more than 100 systems in both homes and commercial properties.The company is also known for its passive designs of solar houses.
Related: Solar Panels Will Power Green Retirement Community
Related: Payback from Federal Center Solar Project to Take Decades
For more great tricks, tips and advice about your home, visit CBSPhiladelphia.com/YourHome.
Carol Josel, a Blue Bell, PA resident, is a learning specialist, author of three books, and examiner.com contributor. Her work can be found here.