Living in the heart of Chicago, and with winter just around the corner, energy conservation during the cold season hasn't been far from my mind. My ultimate goal? To reduce my footprint as well as my energy bill.
Thinking about this inspired me to investigate solar panels for my apartment. Not only would they ease the sting of another high energy bill, but I would also be doing something beneficial for the environment.
My search for information yielded several ideas, concerns and estimated costs for installing small solar panels for apartments. Much of the information I found was in the form of first-hand accounts of inspired renters, like me.
A lot of the research that goes into determining what options will work best relates back to your particular living situation. What your energy consumption is, the possible locations of your solar panel and the size of the panel and the battery are all things to consider. An entry on Atmoz
explained their estimated electric usage considering all major appliances and consistently running electronics such as clocks.
Once your estimated energy consumption is determined, you can decide what appliances can be powered by the sun and what kind of equipment you'll need. Usually the amount of energy collected from the panels will not be enough to eliminate your use of grid energy entirely, but using solar energy to operate a couple objects in your apartment is a solid first step toward a greener lifestyle.
Location, location, location
A big factor in whether a solar panel will work in your apartment is where the panel will be placed. Another blog entry entitled "My Solar Apartment
" described how the author had some problems charging his Powerpack if there wasn't ample direct sunlight. As he explained, it took only hours for his Powerpack to charge when the panels were placed on the roof, but it took days to charge when the panels were moved on top of his A/C unit which was partically covered in shade during midday.
In order to get the best results from your solar panel, it should be free from shade. This means that there may be times of the day where your solar panel may not be in direct sunlight, will not store ample amounts of energy, and may leave your battery or Powerpack without enough energy.
The best place to install solar panels is of course on the roof of your building, but if you do not have access to the roof, some smaller panels that attach to railings or decks are slowly making their way into the market. This even includes solar sheets that snap together
so they are easily collapsible.
Cost vs. benefit
A common question when it comes to apartment solar panels is if the time, money and effort spent are worth it. The initial investment could cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and the return could be minimal. For my situation, I think the high cost is worth it, but you have decide for yourself.
What is guaranteed, however, is that by switching one or two items off of grid energy, you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint in some way. For some, that is reason enough to give it a try. As technology advances, there will be more effective and less expensive options out there, hopefully encouraging urbanites everywhere to give solar a try.