main

At Home

How does solar power increase your home’s value?

solar-power-and-your-homes-value-thumb2.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

Solar power could be the best way to increase your property’s value, as well as reduce your energy bill.

For many people, their home is their biggest asset and maintaining it properly is crucial to ensure to ensure it holds its value. Maintenance and upgrades of your property can enhance your lifestyle, and hopefully help hold or improve your property’s market value.

Increasing the value of your home makes a lot of sense, but what is the best way to do this? Not all renovations or changes increase the value enough to cover the cost of having it done. This may not matter so much if you intend to stay in the home for many years and will get a lot of pleasure and value out of the renovation yourself.

Take a pool

For instance, a pool costs quite a lot to install and maintain and does not always increase the value of the home because not everyone wants a pool. By having a pool, the selling reach of the home may be limited to exclude seniors, couples with toddlers or others who may not want to bother with a pool. That said, younger couples without children and those with older children are more likely to be attracted to this addition to your property. It is also possible to overvalue the home compared to the neighbouring homes and find that it just won’t sell for the extra money in that location.

What about solar power?

Solar power is one improvement much more likely to improve the value of the home over many other more costly improvements. Why? Everyone needs electricity or some form of power in the home; if the cost of using electricity can be reduced by installing solar power, people will certainly view your home favourably when it’s offered for sale.

Solar assisted hot water systems have been around for many years, so people have become more used to solar power than other alternative forms of energy. There are many more solar panels on the roofs of residences these days than there were even five years ago. Statistics indicate that up to 19% of the Australian population now uses solar of some kind in their homes, whether it is just to assist with water heating, or a complete solar power unit that feeds excess power back into the grid.

The public favours solar panels

Since solar power is viewed so positively by most of the Australian public, it follows that this can be a selling point for the home. Research indicates that the more solar panels there are on the roof, the higher the value of the home – with an estimated increase of almost $6000 dollars per kilowatt of solar power. This indicates a rise of over $29,000 in the retail value of the home for a 5kW installation.

Since the price of electricity is expected to rise in the future, the advantages of having solar power will become even more evident.

Selling quickly is part of the equation

You will probably realise that when you put your home on the market, it is difficult to achieve other goals until it is sold. It is like putting your life on hold until the right buyer comes along and signs on the dotted line. Only then is it possible to move on with your own life and get settled in a new environment. If the home does not sell quickly, it can be very frustrating.

Having solar panels installed on a home can make it sell more quickly. Compared to other homes without solar power, your home could sell up to 20% faster. This too, is part of the value that solar power can add to your home and your life.

Staying with it

Even without selling the home, the advantages of having solar power installed can still be enjoyed. Over the years, the savings made will recoup the cost of the installation and go on to save on the cost of the power bill. So in short, one of the best ways to add value to the home is to install solar power. Not only will the resale value of the home be increased, there will be the benefit of future savings if you don’t sell.

Why public perception matters

Research and surveys indicate that the general public not only favour solar panels, but actually prefer homes with solar installation over those without in many cases. This includes renters, many of whom who would be willing to pay extra rent for a home with solar panels. Therefore, landlords looking to increase the value of their rental homes can benefit from this trend also. Not only can they charge more in rent, but because renters actually prefer solar power, such homes are more likely to be rented out all the time, instead of being left empty while all those interested in renting turn to the homes with solar panels. All landlords will recognise the value in that.

Henry Ruiz, Chief Product Officer of the REA Group states, “Having solar panels installed on your roof represents a valuable investment in your property, as this research shows.”

Hints for using solar power

The savings made when using solar will depend on the location of the home and the power of the solar unit that is installed, as well as the cost of electricity in your area. Here are some useful tips to get the most value from solar power.

  • Since power is produced during daylight, using it during the day is most beneficial. For instance, take showers and do the laundry in daylight hours.
  • Change your water heater to heat up during daylight, rather than the off-peak hours at night many are switched to.
  • Use LED lights or bulbs that save energy in the evenings.
  • Use the air-conditioner to cool the house during the day and switch it off at night.
  • Make sure the pool pump is set to run during the day, not the night.
  • Replace old appliances such as refrigerators that tend to gobble up power.

Technology

How thin can solar panels get?

solar paper panels
solar paper charging
solar paper comparison
solar paper backpack
solar paper magnets
solar paper lcd

Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Remember when computers were too heavy to lift? Depending on how old you are, maybe not. Either way, now they can fit into a pocket and the weight is barely noticeable. The same thing has happened with solar technology. First presented as heavy solar panels – that needed a lot of muscle to get them onto the roof –we are now at the other end of the spectrum. Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Solar Paper fits into the pages of a book rather like a bookmark, only it’s a bit bigger than most bookmarks at 19x9cm and just 4mm thick. At the top end there is a USB charging port 11mm thick. Each ‘page’ of this solar panel device provides 2.5W of power. At 128gm you can easily stick two or three together and use them to charge up your phone, external battery, camera and other devices. In fact, four solar panels can be joined together to juice a larger device such as a laptop. And don’t worry, the devices are embedded with magnets so you won’t lose them.

Why would we want this?

Solar Paper is ideal for the person on the go who does not have time to take their phone home and wait for it to recharge. You don’t even have to find a power point to plug in your usual phone charger. Solar Paper means you can get power from the sun while you’re walking down the street, enjoying a coffee at an outdoor cafe, waiting to play tennis or riding a horse. It’s also ideal for camping, when there’s often no power available.

The best features

A nifty feature of Solar Paper is that it turns on automatically. Previous models switched off whenever a cloud hid the sun or if you walked through a shadow. They had to be rebooted manually. This could be annoying and frustrating, especially if you were busy and didn’t notice the shadow.

Another feature is the LCD screen that tells you how much power is being delivered at any one time. The advantage of this is that you can easily choose the correct angle of orientation to the sun for the best result. It also helps you understand how different kinds of weather will affect its ability to charge your device.

It’s water resistant, which is handy if a sudden shower strikes when you are out and about, or if your little brother sneaks up with a water pistol. There are also grommet holes, allowing you to attach it to things such as the outside of your backpack. So you can put it to work charging your phone while you are out on the go.

Why is it different to what is already available?

Many devices such as this that are already available don’t work because they’re too small to generate the amount of power needed. Others are too bulky to carry around easily. The new Solar Paper works well on just one panel and you can boost its power by adding up to three more panels, depending on the device you need to use it for most. These panels can still fold over for ease of transport when you are not using them; the magnets ensure that the parts will stay together.

Solar Paper solar panels are easy to carry around due to its compact size and light weight; you’ll hardly notice it. It certainly fills a niche, giving us a product we can trust to do the job we bought it for. And talking of buying – it is very affordable, given the usefulness it provides. You will no longer have to worry about your phone battery running out just when you need it most.

Upgrade by adding more

Three panels are advised for charging a Smartphone; this will be enough to charge it even in cloudy weather. The single panel will charge an external battery, iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy while four will be needed to charge an iPad Air 2.

Being able to decide on the amount of power – and therefore pages – you will need gives added versatility to this device. If you start off with the smaller size and find it is not quite enough, it is a simple matter to upgrade by adding another panel to the original. When the design of anything has obviously been well thought out, the result is something that almost everyone finds practical. Maybe one day something smaller and better will come along, but for now this has filled the niche, admirably ticking all the boxes of size, weight, affordability, ease of use and reliability.

Renewable energy

Attractive renewable energy projects

dubai-smart-palm.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

Alternative energy sources are necessary to reduce our carbon footprint, and some forward thinking people are making renewable energy projects attractive by using art, design and innovation.

While some people seem to think renewable energy projects are intrusive or ugly and not everyone likes the look of black solar panels sitting on their rooftop. Still others consider wind farms to be a blot on the landscape. However, these innovative resources don’t have to be ugly. Thanks to the Climate Council.

How art changes things

Most of us have seen attractive murals transform plain walls into works of art. So why not apply this idea to the bland, white expanse of a wind turbine tower? A community-owned wind-farm project in Daylesford, Victoria – which has around 1900 participants, many of whom are from the area – paid an artist to paint a mural representing nature. Mountain peaks surround the bottom part, while a giant female figure soars up the main part of the wind tower, as an eye-catching picture that graces the landscape. Better still, the money from the power it generates is given to charities.

Other colourful wind turbines can be found in Germany, painted by artist Horst Glasker in a variety of beautiful hues and designs. The brightest one is reminiscent of an old time barber’s pole, but with many glowing colours for the stripes instead of just red and white.

The cost of theme parks

While everyone loves theme parks, the cost of power for rides and other attractions is enormous. In the US – theme park heaven – Disneyworld in Florida realised they can save on the cost of the power needed to run their many attractions by installing a near-by solar plant with 48,000 solar panels. This could get really ugly, except for Mickey Mouse coming to the rescue. The plan for this solar farm reportedly goes in circles – three of them, in fact. These represent the famous mouse head and ears, thus fitting in aptly to the Disneyland setting. Disney has signed a 15 year lease to purchase the energy from it for their theme park.

Since a project completed way back in 1998 saved them 46 million kwh in power, it’s obvious that they use a great deal of this commodity.  In fact, theme parks the world over could surely follow their lead and save on their costs as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Innovative design in shape

It’s not only colour that transforms drab objects, but shape. Solar panels don’t have to be rectangular shapes on the roof of the house. In Dubai, innovative design means that solar installations look rather like palm trees. Not only can visitors enjoy the shade while resting on the bench below, they can also charge their phone or get a Wi-Fi connection from these truly ‘smart’ trees. Since it is claimed that mobile phones will charge much more quickly when plugged into the smart trees, no one should be able to complain about their devices’ batteries running out of juice. Visitors to Dubai who have not heard about this innovation may be forgiven for staring at locals who plug their devices into a man-made tree.

Another amazing design in wind power technology is the wind turbine designed to look like a street tree. Instead of a windmill type attachment with three long blades at the top, each branch of the tree contains a smallish green device meant to represent the leaves of the tree. These ‘leaves’ have tiny blades that can turn no matter what direction the wind comes from and can take advantage of even a small breath of wind. And being so small, the blades turn silently. This approximately 9 metre high, wind turbine tree is found in north-west France but will soon be installed in Paris. Even though it isn’t very shady for a street tree, it’s successful for its intended purpose; to generate power.

Innovation doesn’t stop there

Another design innovation of a different type is the solar powered garage built especially for the owners of an electric car. It makes enough electricity to power the car and contains the charging station, thus saves using power generated by fossil fuels to recharge. Who knew a garage could be so clever, as well as looking good to boot?

Solar design innovation hasn’t stopped at cars. A solar plane recently proved it could fly both day and night on solar power, without using a drop of other fuel! While it can only carry one person – and the wings are longer than a Boeing 747 – it’s a jumping off point for further research and improvement. As far as looks are concerned, its design is slender and graceful due to a long wingspan. Those wings contain 17,000 solar cells, which are used not only to power the motors, but also to charge the lithium batteries that provide power during the night hours.

Go to sea on solar

Similarly, sea-going vessels can also use solar power to reach their destinations. The largest solar powered catamaran ever built has circumnavigated the world using only solar power generated from the 512 square metres of solar panels installed on its deck, which give it a wing-like appearance that is far from unattractive. These panels also power the two batteries below deck that weigh almost 10 tonne each.

People have used wind power for many years to power sea-going craft of various kinds.  When the wind stops, however, so do the boats – unless the tide carries them forward. It’s important to have another source of energy that can be used once the wind is no longer a viable source and that’s when solar power comes into its own.

These amazingly innovative designs are the forerunners of what is sure to come in solar and wind power. Every invention has a starting point. The ordinary car could never have come to fruition without the invention of the wheel – not to mention all those other small components that are so essential to keep it running. So it is with alternative sources of energy.  The good news is it’s the ordinary person, as well as designers and artists who think outside the box, that are working to save our world from the often ugly inventions that are nevertheless so very useful.

Renewable energy

Solar power and the clouds

solar-PV-power-thumb.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

The solar PV (photovoltaic) revolution has made solar energy an increasingly powerful force in the energy arena. Solar PV panels help us harvest radiant energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy, which can be used immediately, stored in batteries for later use, or fed back into the electricity grid.

Do solar PV panels still work in cloudy or cooler weather?

While solar PV panels don’t generate as much electricity in cloudy conditions as during bright, sunny days, they still do their job, just at a reduced rate. Depending on your specific panels and the amount of cloud cover, solar panels can still produce 10-25% of their rated capacity.

Many people wrongly assume that solar PV panels don’t work in cold or cloudy places, but solar still excels, even in some of the world’s least sunny places. Germany, which ranks relatively low on the sunny scale, is recognised as a world leader in solar energy generation, with solar accounting for an estimated 7 per cent of the country’s net electricity generation in 2014.

Solar panels have been proven to operate more efficiently in lower temperatures because when solar panels are colder, they are able to better conduct electricity.

The reason that summer is still the best overall season for solar output is because the months of December, January and February tend to have more sunny days and fewer cloudy days, and have longer daylight hours.

Saving money with rooftop solar PV panels in Australia

If you are interested in using solar power to save money on your electricity bill, you need to consider the amount of sunshine you get over an entire year, rather than on any particular day.

When you feed solar power back into the electricity grid, your electricity company will look at what you’ve produced over a full year to calculate how much to pay you.

Even if you aren’t generating enough energy to feed back into the grid, harnessing solar energy to power your own home or business will still reduce your electricity bill.

Estimate your potential annual savings on your electricity bill with this solar savings calculator or find out how to go solar with Momentum Energy.

Sustainable design

Ecocapsules off the grid

self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-21
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-111
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-91
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-71
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-51
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-41
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-31
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-81

Ecocapsules allow off the grid living in comfort and convenience, with in-built solar power and wind power generation facilities.

Not everyone likes camping out due to the discomfort, hassle and plain inconvenience that is inherent in living in a tent, cooking over an open fire and having to pack and unpack every time you move. Ecocapsules may change their minds. These tiny homes away from home have everything you could need for comfort and convenience; a kitchenette, dining facilities, a shower, a toilet and a double bed. They even have room for storage.

Living off the grid

Better still, you can live off the grid due to built-in solar panels with a 2.6m2 power rating and a wind turbine that generates 750 watts and feeds a 4200 Wh battery bank.

The capsules have also been designed to catch and store rainwater which is then filtered so it’s suitable for human consumption. The grey water – from the shower and washing up – is recycled to flush the toilet in those models that don’t have a composting toilet.

Uses for the ecocapsule

These amazing capsules of technology allow people to live off the grid for up to a year. They weren’t originally made just for campers. In fact, they may be too expensive for that, seeing many people go camping as a way to take a cheap holiday. However, the capsule is so handy and even (dare we say it) cute, that many people may just want one for leisure and pleasure. They have many other uses though.

  • They can be used in remote locations for research facility accommodation to save building housing. Instant good accommodation means that essential research can go ahead without delay in waiting for accommodation.
  • They can be used for emergency housing, whether the emergency springs from a tornado, flood or other causes.
  • They can be used for a humanitarian action unit, offering clean and comfortable accommodation to those who need it.
  • Tourist lodge accommodation in eco-sensitive areas. Using this type of accommodation means there is no need to disturb wildlife or flora by taking electricity into the area. And no need for plumbing or other buildings to go up.

Where the ecocapsule can be used

The ecocapsule has been well-designed with insulated walls, making it suitable for use in very hot or very cold climates. It can be used in remote locations where there is no access to power, as it generates its own with the wind turbine and solar panels.

However, rainfall is needed to keep up the water supply, so perhaps in the middle of the desert would not be the best place to live in it. With that being said, the latest water-saving and recycling techniques have been put into place. The units now use a composting toilet instead of the flushing one. Nice architects based in Bratislava are still looking for another solution since composting toilets do have a few disadvantages.

This miniature caravan look-alike that is full of modern technology can sit on top of a high-rise building just as comfortably as on the top of a mountain, or on the beach. It can be installed in the jungle, by a river or on the side of a road, in a park or on private property. This ecocapsule can be used just about anywhere accommodation is required. Speaking of eco-technology, passive cooling is also used by having a window that opens in each side so the breezes can waft through, right across the double bed.

Just how big is an ecocapsule?

It looks tiny, but that is partly due to the design.  In fact, it offers 8 square metres of living space, with half of the double bed folding to create a walkway, or a place to sit at the table. There is storage at each end, with one being accessible from outside. Even more storage space is utilised by the netting shelf above the bed, ideal for clothing and bedding. Windows and the door lift up, also saving room, just in case space at its destination is at a premium.

So how does it get to its destination?

The ecocapsules will fit into a container for shipping, should they need to be deployed overseas, or they can be towed in a trailer to their destination. As yet, there are none with wheels that can be towed like a caravan, but these are in the planning stages. The addition of wheels is sure to increase their applications as they can then be towed behind the family car. It may be just the thing to fit into a tiny, suburban backyard when Nan and Pop visit the kids for the holidays if they don’t have a spare room available. With everything you could possibly need for a nice, long stay, why waste money booking into holiday accommodation? All you will need is sun, wind and water to manage very nicely in this tiny home for two.

Technology

Solar windows for sustainable power

Current-Window_Marjan-van-Aubel-thumb.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

Solar stained-glass window marries design with sustainable science

A London-based Dutch designer has combined art, science, chemistry and solar know-how to bring beauty and energy to buildings via a power-producing stained-glass window.

Marjan van Aubel has teamed up with scientists, designers and manufacturers to create a window using coloured glass and dye-sensitised solar cells.

The window can charge small electrical devices via USB ports incorporated into its frame or ledge, and is aptly titled “Current Window”.

Mimicking photosynthesis

It all works by putting titanium dioxide particles on a piece of transparent glass that is then dyed. The dyeing allows the titanium dioxide to better absorb sunlight.

Like photosynthesis – how plants convert sunlight into energy – the dyed solar glass uses the properties of colour to harness light to create energy.

When light falls on the pattern of blue, orange, and pink dye-sensitised solar cells, electrons stored in the titanium dioxide are released, creating an electrical current.

Unlike traditional solar cells that require direct sunlight to generate a current, van Aubel’s designs can charge even in diffused light.

The solar cells are packed between two panes of toughened glass and connected to a battery. The window can sustainably generate up to 25 watts per day, and the battery provides power in low light conditions.

Not just for homes

The first “Current Window” will be installed in a London home later in 2015.

Van Aubel’s window will not only suit home-owners looking for renewable energy, but will also offer significant sustainable energy benefits when installed in schools, hospitals, libraries and offices, which can harness free, sustainable power from their larger window areas.

See de zeen magazine for more information.

Technology

In-flight solar power to remove ‘battery anxiety’

solar-eclipe-window-shades-thumbnail.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

Solar-powered window shades will soon be able to charge our personal electronic devices mid-flight. Recharging your tablet, phone or laptop could be as easy as plugging into the window shade near your seat.

You know what I mean, that sinking feeling when you realise your phone or other device is about to blank out – just as you board your plane. You know you should have charged everything in the terminal, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Travellers will be pleased to know the problem is on the way to being solved. A winning mix of renewable energy technology, sunlight and solar cells is being developed by engineers at B/E Aerospace.

The 2015 Crystal Cabin Award – an international award for aircraft cabin products and concepts – went to B/E Aerospace for a design called the Solar Eclipse, which could soon recharge our personal electronic devices in-flight via the power of sunlight.

The Solar Eclipse is a solar-powered window shade with USB power outlets. With the growing availability of Wi-Fi service on aircraft and/or wireless entertainment offered by airlines, being able to recharge while flying to their destination will be a blessing for battery-anxious passengers.

Just plug in and play

Recharging your tablet, phone or laptop could be as easy as plugging into the window shade near your seat.

“The Solar Eclipse brings DC power directly to passengers where no power exists,” B/E Aerospace told the judges of the Crystal Cabin Awards. The Solar Eclipse won the top prize in the Greener Cabin category.

“Super-efficient thin film solar cells integrated into the window shade convert the high-solar irradiation available at altitude into 8-44 watts of energy,” the judges were told.

As a result, B/E Aerospace says Solar Eclipse prevents passengers from suffering through what it calls ‘battery anxiety.’

Simple to install

The beauty of Solar Eclipse is that it’s simple for technicians to install. It requires no change to the rest of the cabin components, making it a quick power supply option for airlines to choose.

It also weighs only slightly more than an ordinary window shade at 29-50 grams. B/E Aerospace says the Solar Eclipse will actually “generate more energy than the extra fuel required” to carry it, meaning that “on a single 737 making six 1000 nautical mile trips every day, the Solar Eclipse would yield a savings of around USD$22,000, fuel savings of over 27,633 litres per year, and reduce 69,853 kilograms of CO2 emissions.

The main challenge of the Solar Eclipse for both airlines and passengers is deciding who benefits from all this free power.

Passengers seated near a Solar Eclipse window could choose share with the rest of the row. Airlines could also choose to charge more for the window seat, leading to the rise of a new elite class in the Economy section.

Check out the Wall Street Journal’s Solar Eclipse video.

The possibilities are endless for the airline industry, plus many others.