Can You Run a House on Solar Power?

solar panels on roof of house
(Image credit: getty images)

The sun delivers more energy to the earth in an hour than the world uses in a year, according to the US Government’s Department of Energy. An extraordinary statistic, but perhaps misleading in that the amount of energy actually available will vary with where you are in the world, the season, the time of day and the technology available to harvest it. Nonetheless, surely it should be possible to run a new home entirely on power from solar panels?

Solar energy arrives here in the form of light and heat. We use technology to capture, magnify and convert it into useful purposes. As far as a house is concerned, there are three ways to do that:

Tim Pullen

Tim is an expert in sustainable building methods and energy efficiency in residential homes and writes on the subject for magazines and national newspapers. He is the author of The Sustainable Building Bible, Simply Sustainable Homes and Anaerobic Digestion - Making Biogas - Making Energy: The Earthscan Expert Guide.

His interest in renewable energy and sustainability was first inspired by visits to the Royal Festival Hall heat pump and the Edmonton heat-from-waste projects. In 1979

this initial burst of enthusiasm lead to him trying (and failing) to build a biogas digester to convert pig manure into fuel, at a Kent oast-house, his first conversion project.

Moving in 2002 to a small-holding in South Wales, providing as it did access to a wider range of natural resources, fanned his enthusiasm for sustainability. He went on to install renewable technology at the property, including biomass boiler and wind turbine.

He formally ran energy efficiency consultancy WeatherWorks and was a speaker and expert at the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows across the country.