Solar energy is underrated. It is a great source of electricity and energy, but few Americans use it. Solar panels produce no pollution and can dramatically cut electric bills. One house in Columbia, Conn., takes solar energy to the extreme.
Built in 1979 this solar envelope house uses an all-encompassing air pocket to insulate the house and solar energy to heat it. After purchasing “thirty-two photo voltaic solar panels for the south roof of the house, the home owners immediately saw their monthly [electric] bill drop from a couple hundred dollars a month to bills that range from $5 to $35.”
The downside to solar panels is that they are only 40 percent efficient (this means that only 40 percent of the sunlight that hits the panel is converted into electricity). But, to put this in perspective, “thermal efficiency, the amount of energy from combustion converted to mechanical work, is only about 26 percent.” This would include fuels that to create energy by burning such as gasoline. Also, according to the ecogeek blog there is a new type of solar panel that is 80 percent efficient.
Although the panels are expensive, they do cut back electricity costs and are usually worth the money in the long-run.
The owners of the solar envelope house paid owners paid $52,000 for their panels, “but a hefty state refund and a rebate from the federal government meant the out of pocket expense was less than half that amount. They expect to make their money back in less than ten years.”