A solar panel is an assembly of solar cells (photo-voltaic cells) mounted in a framework. A system of such panels is known as an array, and installing an array can provide a home with a substantial amount of electric energy if light conditions are sufficient. It should be noted that tropical sun is by no means a requirement for modern solar panels and they are being successfully used by homeowners even at far northern and far southern latitudes.
For residential buildings, the roof-top array is the most common solution, but solar arrays can be ground-mounted as well or mounted on their own bespoke tall structure near the home. A rooftop solar panel system for a residential building will typically be comprised of the solar modules, the mounting system, cables, solar inverters and certain other electrical accessories.
At the time of writing, rooftop solar systems on residential buildings typically have a capacity within the 5 kW – 20 kW range if they are intended to supply electricity for just one household.
Solar shingles are solar panels designed to not just look like but also function as conventional roof shingles. They belong to a group of solar energy systems known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
Examples of commercially available solar shingle solutions:
- Shingle-sixed solid panels that will take the place of a number of traditional shingles in a strip
- Semi-rigid designs comprised of several silicon solar cells sized like traditional shingles
- Thin-film solar cell systems that match traditional shingles and size and flexibility
A wind turbine can provide a home with power by turning the wind´s kinetic energy into electricity. Wind turbines for home use come in a wide range of sizes and designs, including both horizontal and vertical axes.
Really small wind turbines can provide auxiliary power to houseboats, caravans and similar, but are usually not enough to be the main power source for a household. For houses, one or more larger windmills that require a more sturdy installation tend to be a better option. Larger windmills can be obtained with geared power trains, alternating current output capacity and the ability to turn to point into the wind. Wind turbines for home use are typically in the 20 watts to 400 kilowatts range.
Two commonly used materials for wind turbine blades are glass fibre and carbon fibre. A common choice is using glass/epoxy composites that contain up to 75% glass by weight, to get the desired stiffness, tensile strength and compression strength for an affordable price. Compared to glass fibre, carbon fibre has more stiffness, lower density and more tensile strength. It is also up to ten times more expensive than glass fibre.
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Downhole heat exchanger (DHE)
A downhole heat exchanger is used to capture or dissipate heat to or from the ground and can be used for geothermal heating of a building. It is often combined with a geothermal heat pump.
DHE:s have become popular for residential house heating in northern Europe, but are still fairly unknown in the rest of the world.
Two types of downhole heat exchangers
- U-tube DHEIn this type of DHE, there is one or two u-tubes for the carrier fluid. The carrier fluid (normally water) circulates through these. The space around the u-tubes is filled with groundwater or backfilled with thermally conductive grout.
- Open pipe DHEThe water flows downward through a single open pipe, and then returns through a ring-shaped gap located between the pipe and the casing. Compared to the U-tube DHE, this system has better thermal contact. A downside is the increased risk of contamination by groundwater.