Solar power has many advantages over other energy sources but how beneficial it is depends on your location. In southern locations, where the sun is quite direct, it can be used quite efficiently to heat, light and produce electricity for an entire home. In the northern locations where the days are shorter in the winter, the radiate heat from sunlight can help supplement the primary heating source.
Energy from the sun is plentiful, free and environmentally-friendly. With enough solar panels, it can generate ample electricity for your power requirements without any CO2 emissions. For heating, passive solar collectors (see: How Does Solar Heating Work?) can be designed into new homes or retrofitted into existing ones. Renovations may be expensive but can reduce heating bills quite drastically. Upgrading with an active solar collector (see: What is Active Solar Heating?) will allow for even more savings from the increased efficiency.
When the sun is hiding behind clouds or isn't shining bright in the sky, solar power is at its weakest. But with a battery backup system, the power can be put in storage for later use. Some installations make use of the stored power as a backup system, only coming on when there's a blackout. With solar charging, the backup system is re-charged everyday and allows electrical systems to keep going for days at a time.
Having your own solar power supply gives you energy independence from the power company and, moreover, from political issues that affect the cost of energy. Energy prices are volatile and react swiftly to comments and tensions from around the world. With solar power and other forms of alternative energy, you could potentially go off-grid; being off-grid means you don't have to worry about conflicts and issues affecting your monthly heating and electrical bills.
Solar power can be as complicated, or simple, as you want. For simple solar garden light installations, individual solar lights can be conveniently placed without the need for complicated outdoor conduit and wiring. Individual units can be placed far from the electrical box, only needing access to full sunlight. Similarly, medium-size solar power systems work great on boats, RVs and camping trailers.
For large household installations, the setup is more complicated and expensive but they are permanent and are will last the lifetime of the house. Weather-tight solar roof tiles can supply clean electricity for the entire house.
Don't forget than many utilities and municipalities support the growth of alternative energy sources. When people start providing for their own electricity, large power-plants owned by the power company don't have to be expanded as frequently. Check with your local authorities for rebates and tax credits for residential solar power systems.
When it comes to the benefits of solar power, you need to weigh your requirements with your investment. The up-front costs to purchase and installation a system can be as large or as small as you like but knowing your power requirements will help you build an appropriate-sized system that will suit your energy needs.