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Solar-powered homes sound like a futuristic innovation to many people, however an increasing number of Georgia families are installing solar energy in their homes in some form or another.

Any solar energy investment is be eligible for significant tax incentives for homeowners. Families can get back a good percentage of the cost of installing such a system when it is time to file with the IRS. Investments in solar energy can also increase a home’s resale value, while reducing month-to-month energy costs. Of course, many families also choose “green” installations for environmental reasons such as reducing their carbon footprint. Green installations reduce the use of traditional forms of energy, whether in the cold, winter months or the hottest times of the year.

Regardless of the reasons, there are a variety of safe and effective ways to install solar-powered gadgets in any Atlanta home.

Solar Photovoltaic Energy Generation: Flat Panel Collectors

Photovoltaic energy generation involves the installation of solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity for use in a home. The panels can be mounted on the ground, in a stand-alone structure, or on the side of the home itself. In some advanced installations, it may be possible to view the amount of electricity generated using solar technology versus the amount of power consumed by other conventional sources.

Solar Photovoltaic Energy Generation: Evacuated Tube Collectors

Flat panel technology generally provides a lower cost in Atlanta due to the nature of our climate. In areas without a lot of direct sunlight, an evacuated tube collector may work better. The vacuumed tubes absorb solar energy and act as a thermos to keep heat from escaping into the surrounding area. The solar energy is then channeled to insulated copper tubes, which transfer the captured energy. The copper tubes use condensed liquid–normally a water/glycol mixture–to ensure effective heat transfer.

Solar Thermal Water Heating System

Solar thermal water heating uses the sun’s energy for heating water within a household. Behind HVAC, water heating is typically the second highest energy cost within a home. As part of this system, an installer will add solar collectors on the roof and a storage tank, which heats water prior to its addition to a conventional heating system. Thanks to the solar thermal water heating system, water is supplied to a house’s conventional system at a higher temperature. In most cases, this can be satisfactory all on its own for meeting a family’s hot water needs. The use of the solar thermal water heating system allows a family to rely less on conventional water heating systems.

Flat Plate Solar Thermal System

A flat plate solar thermal system allows a household to store a preset amount of hot water based on the number of occupants in a household. It also involves solar collectors and a storage tank on the roof, but it does not interact with other conventional systems. It is a closed-loop system. The system is typically designed to store one day’s worth of hot water for a household. Because it operates on its own and does not feed into another heating system, it is subject to freezing temperatures during winter months.

Solar Pool Heaters

A solar pool heating system is an easy addition for most households and usually does not require many changes to the pool area. The existing filter pump may be used in some cases. With the installation of solar controls, water is diverted to solar collectors to be heated prior to its movement to the main heater and filter. The solar collectors pre-heat the water, taking strain off the heater currently in use for the pool. The conventional pool heater will only be needed to make up the difference in heat.

Michael Francis is a freelance writer studying at Georgia State University. His work can be found at Examiner.com.