Solar energy – without it our planet and ecosystems would not function, but are we as humans taking full advantage of it?

Most people have heard of solar energy these days, but many have not genuinely considered the idea of installing it in their home. Environmental considerations apart, there are lots of good reasons for at least considering to convert to such a renewable energy resource.

From a purely selfish perspective, the attraction in solar energy is the long-term saving on electricity and energy costs and maintenance costs/time. However, people are still often put off by either lack of knowledge or the perceived high costs of the initial installation. Whilst it is true that the initial installation can be relatively expensive, over the long term there will definitely be a saving on money. Obviously this is dependent on you owning your own home and having the intention to stay there in at least the medium-term. However, even if you decide to move home, the installation of renewable solar energy could be an attraction that increases the value of your home, or stops it declining as much during a housing price bust.

Solar energy works by harnessing the light energy from the sun, and therefore is a renewable resource that can be used anywhere in the world. Although some locations obviously get a more light than others, or are subject to seasonal differences, no location is excluded from receiving solar energy

In terms of creating an energy source for your property, the sun's radiation is simply captured by special panels that can either transfer it to heat water, or transform it directly into electricity. Therefore, so long as you have sunlight, then you have your own electricity or heating supply, totally independent of corporate utility companies if you so wish. Indeed, you can often sell any surplus electricity back to an energy company, providing you with an extra income stream.

Whilst there are ways that you can cut your use of electricity by simply being efficient and less-wasteful, solar energy is more of a long-term solution that means that you hardly even have to worry about how much electricity you are using. There are many people who are not too concerned with their actual bills, but would like to be more energy efficient for environmental management reasons. With solar energy, this environmental concern is minimised to the production and delivery costs of the facility. Moreover, as solar energy systems tend not to have mechanical or moving parts, there is no need to worry about replacing them in the short-term.

For me, the most important cost saving associated with solar energy is as follows. We are living in a period of volatile prices for energy resources (oil etc). Over time, these will probably be subject to normal price inflation, and there is also the possibility of sudden sharp price hikes, dependent on the politics/wars of the rest of the world. With solar energy, this risk is nullified. You pay the initial installation costs and that's it! Electricity prices could quadruple over night and you still only have that initial cost to worry about!

So if you own your own home, why not think about if solar energy is the way forward for you? At least do some more research and work out the short-term costs and long-term gains. There is even the possibility that your government may be offering financial incentives, so the cost may not even be as high as you think!

A switch to solar energy (either partially or totally) is a switch to greater independence, and that can't be a bad thing right?