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Home Management: 5 Hot Uses for Solar Energy

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The sun can be our worst enemy or our best friend, depending on whether we're driving westbound in traffic at sunset or enjoying a day at the beach (complete with sunscreen, of course!). You can use the sun's rays for everything, from heating your home to making sun tea to powering all your electric appliances for free with a solar PV installation. As fall approaches and the days get shorter, here are five ways you can start appreciating Mr. Sun more and create some great “teaching moments” for your kids, too.

Bright sun in a blue sky with tall trees

How You Can Use Solar Energy in Your Home

1. Heat your pool while you still can.

Take advantage of end-of-season clearance sales and pick up a solar pool cover to warm your pool's water and stretch swimming season out for a few more weeks. If you're a lucky mom who lives in a year-round warm climate, this is a must-have investment for early morning swims.

2. Build a solar-powered toy.

Pick up a kit to build a solar-powered toy robot (built from a soft drink can, of all things) for less than $20. Or go all out and build a solar-powered car. What an eco-friendly way to impress classmates during the first show-and-tell session of the year!

3. Make sun tea.

It's healthy, delicious, and easy to make. Start with a clean, clear glass container, and fill it with water. Add one tea bag for each cup of water, plus one additional tea bag. (Two if you like your tea strong.) Let it steep in the sun for two hours, sweeten with your choice of sweetener, and enjoy.

4. Harness the use of “passive solar” to heat and cool your home and lower your electric bills.

On chilly but sunny fall mornings, opening window blinds on south-facing windows may provide all the heat and light you need. Natural sunlight in the morning will also help wake the whole family up in a good mood to start the day. On the other hand, on hot summer mornings (or during that dreaded “Indian summer” in mid-to-late September), keep shades closed to keep your home cooler.

5. Get the wheels rolling on a solar PV installation.

Any time is good for a solar PV installation to lower your electric bills and teach your kids about how renewable energy can reduce our country's dependency on fossil fuels.

Solar panels work well in the summer because the long days provide lots of opportunities for harnessing the sun's power. But in the winter, solar panels are super-efficient in spite of the shorter days, because the clear, bright skies let lots of the sun's rays shine through.

Whenever you begin shopping for a solar installer, give yourself time to make the right choice, and expect the permit process to take a few months. The bright side? The solar PV installation itself only takes a few days, and you'll see a big difference in your electric bills right away. What a brilliant way to start the school year!

 Do you use solar energy in your home? Do you feel like it has been beneficial?

Raina Brett Russo For Raina Brett Russo, also known as “Solar Mom,” taking care of the environment is a necessity, not an option. Having grown up in Israel, a place where conservation is required and solar hot water heating is the norm, Raina knows the importance of solar energy. She is fortunate that her work as co-founder and president of EcoOutfitters.net, an information-rich online portal that bridges homeowners and businesses with qualified renewable energy installers, allows her to be involved in the solar industry’s growth.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.
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