Question I want to use high-efficiency solar cell panels to produce free electricity. I have heard that electric utility companies buy any excess electricity I generate. What type of system is best for me? - E.S.
Answer -- Electricity-generating solar cells (called photovoltaics or PV systems) produce electricity when the sun shines on them. No sound, pollution or waste is produced. With no moving parts, they are nearly maintenance free.
There is a wide range of sizes and complexity of PV systems for homes. Small systems provide enough electricity for a light, a radio and a power tool in a backyard shed or cabin.Large whole-house systems can handle most of your electrical needs, except for high consumption appliances like an electric water heater or air conditioner. Most often, it is best to stay connected to your electric utility service lines.
When the solar cells are producing more electricity than needed, your utility company may buy the excess electricity. The amount that they buy is deducted from your monthly electric bill. Special switches and meters are used to control the switching and to record electricity output.
To improve the electricity output by up to 25 percent, mount the PV panels on a sun-tracking rack. This follows the sun throughout the day to keep the panels facing it. One simple design, made by Zomeworks, uses the sun's heat to expand fluids that rotate the rack. No electric motors are needed.
A PV system is simple. Many tiny solar cells are wired together in durable panels. The output is in direct current (d.c.). This can be transformed, with an inverter, into 120-volt alternating current to operate standard home appliances. Excess electricity output is usually stored in batteries.
You can buy special tools, refrigerators, lights, etc. that operate on the lower-voltage direct current coming from the PV panels or batteries. This eliminates the need for an expensive inverter; however, it will not operate your standard 120-volt appliances.
Small, lightweight PV systems are also effective on campers and boats for lighting and a radio or TV. Very tiny solar cell panels can be used to keep car and truck batteries at peak charge.
Always do a cost-payback analysis before investing in a PV system. Major PV suppliers, like Siemens Solar and Photocomm, can assist you with this.
Write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 877 listing of manufacturers of complete PV systems and sun-tracking racks, descriptions of five cabin-size to whole-house-size systems, d.c. appliances, prices, and a sunshine chart for the U.S. Please include $2 and a self-addressed envelope. Write to James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244
Question -- I am doing some repair work to my windows and storm windows. The storms do not seal well. Should I caulk and weatherstrip them tightly? - E.G.
Answer -- No. You should not caulk your storm windows or seal them with a gasket. The primary purpose of storm windows is to protect your primary windows from the direct force of the wind and bad weather. If they are tightly sealed, moisture gets trapped in between, causing fogging.
You may notice small holes at the bottom of the storm windows. These are called weep holes, and they should not be sealed. Any moisture that condenses during colder weather will dissipate through these holes. A small but necessary amount of air circulates through them too.