Looking for an inexpensive way to get started in solar power, or to educate yourself about solar power? Then you might want to consider investing in a solar power kit.
There are two varieties of solar power kit available on the market today. You can get small complete kits of parts that will teach your children (and you) about solar power and show it in operation, and there are also larger solar power kits which can perform more useful work, and may even become the start of your conversion to using all solar power.
Firstly, the educational kits. These come in a wide range, and are very economically priced, starting at around $15 to $25. They are typically models with motors that have a solar cell to power them – in other words, kits that might be powered by batteries, such as model cars, but these have the solar panel instead. They can give hands-on experience to the young experimenter / scientist, and who knows where that may lead?
The other type of solar power kit is one that could easily form the start of your conversion to solar power. You can buy, relatively inexpensively, a set of parts to enable you to have some small part of your mains electricity supplied by the sun. A typical kit might comprise a solar panel, charge controller to control the output, batteries to store the power, and an inverter to take the battery power and make it into mains power. For around $600, this would produce about one kilowatt-hour of electricity each week – for comparison, your electric bill may be around 1000 kilowatt-hours every month.
While no-one is suggesting that you should buy more and more of these kits until you have a complete 100% power replacement – this would be an expensive way of going solar – you can certainly add to the system to provide more utility to the arrangement. As it stands, it would collect and store enough energy to run a television for 20 hours a week, a laptop computer for 40 hours, or a compact fluorescent light for 80 hours. The inverter capacity, which limits the rate at which the power can be used, would be sufficient for many power tools or handheld kitchen appliances – however, it wouldn’t, for instance, have enough capacity for a microwave.
Once you have used the solar power kit for a time, you may be motivated to go fully solar – at that stage, I’d suggest that the solar power kit would still be useful, as you could move it to the tree house, and give the kids lights and a television!