Here Comes the Sun

Just as oil prices were skyrocketing this winter, University of Florida researchers announced they had used off-the-shelf supplies to build a house that runs entirely on solar power

06-01-2000 // NWF Staff

Just as oil prices were skyrocketing this winter, University of Florida researchers announced they had used off-the-shelf supplies to build a house that runs entirely on solar power. All the appliances in the house--including computers, lights and even the air conditioner--are powered by the sun´s heat, which is captured by 24 solar panels. The experimental house does not feature a kitchen, but the scientists say the system could power a refrigerator too. The stove, however, would have to run off natural gas. So would a clothes dryer.

Solar power was once considered too expensive for the average homeowner, but prices have dropped to the point that it is almost a break-even proposition compared to paying for the alternatives, says energy extension specialist Wendell Porter of the school´s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He sees solar power as a viable way to supplement other sources. "People up north might use a system like this to provide backup lighting and refrigeration," he says. "You could put in a smaller and less expensive system than you would use to run an entire house."

Of course some solar-power aficionados already are doing just that. One Maine family with a roof made of solar panels spent less than $20 on electricity last January, the region´s coldest winter month.

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