“Indoor air quality” and “solar power” are two terms most people don’t use in the same sentence. If you’re like most home and business owners, you think renewable energy begins and ends outside on the roof. But if you’re a certified green interior designer, you know a home’s interior is the perfect place for solar-powered furnishings, fixtures and décor with healthful benefits. Yes, form follows function and equals healthy living.
What is Solar Energy?
Understanding the various aspects of solar power helps you grasp its complexities. You’ll appreciate solar energy’s less-equals-more functionality that literally helps you breathe easier.
So what’s the difference between fossil fuel energy and solar power? Fossil fuel methods use coal or oil. When they are burned, they release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and result in global warming or an interference in the ecosystem.
Solar energy is power fueled by the sun. The simple concept is the foundation of the solar panel market that was valued at $146.08 billion in 2021.
The Transformation Process
Solar panels contain a mass of solar or photovoltaic (PV) cells that are made of silicon semi-conductors that absorb sunlight to produce an electric current. Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, discovered this process in 1839.
According to EnergySage, “Most of the solar panel options currently available fit in one of the three types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline) and thin-film.” Crystalline panels are the most expensive and have the highest level of effectiveness. Thin-film panels are used for unusual roof designs and have the lowest efficiency ratings.
The cell count determines the size, weight and cost. Although most people believe the more silicon cells are contained inside a panel, the higher wattage and power output will be produced. But this is not always true. Rather, the efficiency of solar cells determine the power level. So the choice of panel should be based on the type of installation.
Benefits of Solar Panels
Solar energy has many advantages. End-of-life panels can be recycled by recovering precious materials. Solar modules are comprised of 76% glass, 10% plastic and 8% aluminum. The remainder is silicon and metal.
As you can imagine, the biggest benefit for home and business owners are lower energy bills. Experts say you can save thousands during the life span of the panel.
North Carolina (NC) is ranked fourth in installed solar capacity nationwide. Wilmington has 127,128 residents. About 4% of homeowners have installed solar panels. The average cost of a solar panel in NC is $2.63 per watt versus the national average of $2.66.
Factors Driving the Demand for Solar Panels
The Solar Energies Industry Association says solar is a popular alternative energy resource. As demand has grown, the price for solar energy systems has dropped by 60% during the last 10 years.
Robert Parker, senior product manager & commercial project developer, Cape Fear Solar Systems (CFSS), said, “We are seeing growing interest in general, but more specifically home and business owners are taking advantage of battery storage to harness control of their energy usage and savings.”
Batteries for solar panels are made of either lead acid (cheapest option with shortest lifespan), lithium ion or salt water. They typically last for 10 years and are covered by a warranty. CFSS offers a 25-year warranty for the solar panels they install.
Predictably, COVID-19 affected the operations of CFSS. Parker said, “Like many businesses, we are dealing with material delays and shortages. Our relationships with our distribution partners have been critical in keeping our operations flowing and we are lucky to have those channels.”
Technological Advancements of Solar Energy
Solar panels outside your home interconnect with the solar energy inside your home. With the capabilities of solar panels always improving, more electricity is available in a limited area.
In 2015, a mass production method that was previously used for printing was applied to the manufacturing of innovative and aesthetically pleasing solar panels. The organic modules provide new design capacities inside and outside your home. So small devices and sensors can be placed on machines, walls, and windows.
Furthermore, lighting evokes a feeling and mood. It must be a part of your furnishings and your home’s overall interior design.
Researchers have discovered invisible solar harvesting technologies referred to as transparent luminescent solar concentrator (LSC). These devices can be applied to windows, walls and floors.
Interior Design Trends 2022
So how will green interior designers use solar-fueled designs? Innovative creations continue to evolve with advances in technology. Vogue reported that high-tech homes are in demand.
The coronavirus has affected everyone’s expectations. One room must have dual purposes. So the kitchen becomes a conference room and the space under the stairs becomes a quaint office. With devices mounted on a wall and powered by solar, productivity continues. A LSC adjusts the lighting accordingly.
Lastly, vintage and sustainable accents are popular now. A newly painted table, re-upholstered couch or anything refurbished looks chic. This reductionist approach means less of a footprint.
Go Green Practices Support Good Health
There’s a connection between health and well-being and environmentally-friendly design. The electricity from solar panels produces weak electromagnetic fields. Solar panels require very little water and help with water conservation. Also, renewable energy improves public health by reducing premature mortality.
A clean climate saves lives. Representatives from Climate Control, said, “An Environmental Protection Agency study…found that by the end of the century, 57,000 fewer Americans will die each year from poor air quality if the worst effects of climate change were averted.”
Reducing indoor pollutants caused by smoke, toxic chemicals and pet dander is the core of health-focused interior design. An ultraviolet light source fueled by renewable energy inactivates viruses and bacteria. Eco-friendly fire places and stoves use electric, not wood.
Solar design and green interior design are based on sustainability principles. Both of these specializations offer practicality and aesthetics. So when they merge, your home becomes a beautiful and health-affirming haven.
I’ve been thinking about the cost/benefit of installing solar panels at my home. I just wish they were more attractive or less noticeable.
I’m right there with you! A couple of small homes in my neighborhood have them and they are a huge eyesore.