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As fuel costs continue to rise, alternative sources of energy become more attractive to individuals and businesses. For those who are concerned about pollution or about the depletion of natural resources, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power have presented themselves as possible alternatives to oil and coal.

Yet as increasing demand for clean, renewable energy drives a growing market for solar energy products, many people are left wondering what such systems cost and where those costs come from. Sunlight itself is free to everyone, yet the types of technology used to harness the power of sunlight can be costly. If you are interested in purchasing solar power products for your home or business, knowing what you will be paying for can help you make the best investment.

Two of the main types of products that take advantage of solar energy are passive and active solar products. These two types of systems differ in how they are constructed and can also differ greatly in cost. Passive solar technology can be used to heat air or water using the sun’s energy. Unlike an active solar application, passive solar set-ups accomplish their task without the use of additional electrical components, such as fans that need an external electricity supply.

Some solar space heating or water heating systems are active solar heating systems that have various components that require external power sources. Because of their simplicity compared with active systems, passive solar heating systems generally have the lower cost of the two.

In addition to these solar heating systems, there are also solar power systems available. Rather than using the sun’s energy for heating applications, these systems convert solar energy into electricity. These products are often constructed from hundreds of a type of solar energy collection cell called a photovoltaic cell. The name of this type of cell makes reference to the fact that the cell generates electricity from light. As sunlight falls on a photovoltaic cell, the light’s energy is converted into electricity that can then be used to power many kinds of electronic devices.

Because of the complicated technology involved, these kinds of solar power systems can be very expensive. However, the cost savings may eventually more than pay off your initial investment in the solar cells.

When considering what kind of solar heating or power system to install in your home or business, be sure that you are purchasing your equipment from a reputable manufacturer or distributor who will be able to help you with any necessary repairs, periodic upgrades or additional conversion from traditional systems to a solar-powered system.

The best service will often be the most expensive, but you may be able to find grant funding to help offset the costs of equipment or installation. Many states offer grants for conversion to solar power, and doing some research into the grant programs for solar power systems in your area will help you get a sense of the how much financial assistance is available.

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