The biggest challenge to getting started with solar is simply choosing! Each of us have individual solar goals, we each have our own aesthetic tastes, every home is different and we all live in different climates. There are lots of great, easily built "cookie cutter" design options to choose from for solar panels, but the biggest challenge can be making the choice. You'll also have to decide on the size of your panel(s) and how you are going to use the collected heat. It is really easy to get caught up in trying to build the ultimate collector / system and never build anything.
This was so very true for me. There were many times I almost gave in to analysis paralysis in trying to decide what I wanted to do. That, in combination with my misplaced fear that any of this was somehow hard, nearly kept me from some really fun and very worthwhile solar projects.
As you plan your project, when you reach points of indecision that refuse to become clear, flip a coin, ask for opinions or do whatever you do to make your decision and resolve to keep moving forward, even if things still seem a little unclear. It is amazing how everything seems to come into focus when you actually start building your project.
Building solar hot air or hot water systems can be very easy if you choose an easily constructed design option. My hot air collector is simply aluminum downspouts painted black under glazing. My hot water collector is just pex tubing under aluminum fins under glazing.
The sun makes stuff hot. It makes stuff REALLY hot when painted black under glazing. All we are doing is retrieving that heat. If you keep the simplicity of what we are doing in mind, the whole process loses its intimidation.
Keep in mind:
- Anything you build will work infinitely better than nothing!
- Many of these designs are very easy to build.
- What you are doing isn't cast in stone. You can always modify your project later (which is part of the fun)
- Keep in mind that a large percentage of your cost and effort will be the frame and glazing, which will remain the same whatever you put inside it. If something doesn't work out, you will just be modifying the internals of the collector, not starting from scratch.
- Don't look at the money you are spending as just an expense. Look at it as purchasing a ticket to have fun with a new hobby. This really is fun!
- This isn't an expensive hobby. Most of us aren't breaking the bank building solar collectors and once they are up and running they will pay us back many times over!
- Relax and enjoy this!