Energy Efficiency

Solar Power for Your Home :: Consider Living Off the Grid

What once was cost prohibitive and unrealistic for the average homeowner is no longer so—solar power for your home is more affordable than ever before, and with other natural resources rising in price and shrinking in supply, now's a fine time to consider your solar options.

solar power cityWhy is solar power for your home worth considering? The sun is our planet’s cleanest and most renewable energy source, and once you have the means to harness its power, the power itself is free; free and efficient. According to the Department of Energy, employing solar energy over traditional power can drastically reduce your energy costs over time—by 50% or more in some cases. A solar water heater, for example, can lighten the electric load of your water heater by 2,500 kilowatt hours annually, which prevents 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s equal to not driving your car for four months. Solar energy has always been attractive for its minimal environmental effects, but now it’s also attractively affordable. Residential systems installed between Jan 1, 2009 and Dec 31, 2016 are eligible for federal, state, and local tax credits equal to 30% of the system’s cost. If you haven’t considered your solar options before, there’s no better time than now.

Be realistic when considering solar power for your home. Solar power is clearly an environmentally responsible and highly efficient option, but it’s not the right option for everyone. An important factor in determining if solar power is right for your home is your home’s location. Photovoltaic (PV) systems (systems that convert solar energy into electricity) are only worth installing if they’ll have exposure to direct sunlight for at least five hours a day, the more the better. *To estimate the energy production and cost of a PV system for your home, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s NREL PVWatts Caluculator.

Your costs vs. potential savings is something else to consider when deciding whether to spring for solar power for your home. In an ideal situation, with tax incentives that cut the initial cost, plentiful sunshine for the panels, and high local utility rates, you could stand to benefit greatly from installing a solar power system so find the best and largest solar companies in california for your sweat home or the business purposes. Under such circumstances, a PV system could pay for itself within about five years. However, if you live in an area with little sunshine, consistent cloud cover, and local utility rates that aren’t too terribly high, you stand to gain very little from such a system. In any case, it’s smart to first take little steps to improve your home’s energy efficiency before resorting to solar panels—a tube of caulk and a few rolls of fiberglass insulation cost a whole lot less, and installing solar panels is no small endeavor. When traveling, you would be taking a FAA approved car seat on a plane.

solar diagramThink solar power’s right for your home? Know your options.

  • Solar PV panels – Though pricey upfront, if you live in a sunny climate, especially a cold and sunny climate, solar panels offer savings on utility bills that are well worth it. You have the option of either a standalone system or a grid-tied system. Though more costly upfront, a standalone system is likely a more cost-effective option for more remote homes that are far from power lines and would therefore be difficult  to tie into the power grid. Grid-tied systems are best for older homes that don’t offer many opportunities for making energy efficient design changes, and they are also more likely to receive federal rebates.
  • Indoor solar lighting – Using large windows and skylights to bring sunlight into your home is a great way to save on daytime energy costs. With proper placement, indoor solar lighting can eliminate your need for electric lighting during the day.
  • Outdoor solar lighting – Using outdoor solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity to be stored in batteries for use at night works well in conjunction with indoor solar lighting.
  • Solar water heaters – Solar-thermal energy is a cheaper alternative to PV energy and can drastically lower the average household’s water-heating costs. Also, solar water heaters have a life expectancy of 20 years or more, double that of conventional storage tank water heaters.

Solar power could be GREAT for your home, but it’s not great for everyone. When considering solar power, be realistic—know the limits of your location and your budget, and consult a professional before making your final decision (you can find certified PV installation professionals in your area here). If in the end it looks like living "off the grid" is a viable option, now's the time to go for it.

DIY: How to Install Weather Stripping

christmas door

As we mentioned in last week's post, Top 10 Tips for Home Maintenence This Fall, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase your home's energy efficiency and reduce your utility bill is to properly seal your windows and doors before winter gets into full swing. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to install weather stripping around YOUR door.

Products you'll need:

  • Vinyl-reinforced aluminum weather seals for the top, left, and right sides of your doorframe. You can usually buy them together as a kit.
  • Compression foam weather stripping.
  • Door sweep.

Tools you'll need:

tools

  • Hacksaw to cut through aluminum
  • Utility knife to cut through vinyl
  • Tape measure to make sure everything is cut to size and will create a tight fit
  • Drill driver or hammer–depends on the weather seals and door sweep you buy

The How-To's

  1. Remove any old weather seals and stripping from the doorstop (this includes seals mounted to the doorstop itself, as well as any foam weather stripping between the seals and doorstop).
  2. Measure the top of the doorstop. Cut the top weather seal to fit (use a hacksaw to cut the aluminum, and a utility knife to make a clean cut on the vinyl). With the door closed and latched, fit the vinyl-reinforced aluminum seal along the top of the doorstop so that it sits flat against the door.
  3. Before screwing or nailing in the top seal, attach a strip of compression foam weatherstripping to the back of the seal. This will ensure that no cold air sneaks in behind it.
  4. Once the top seal is installed, open the door to measure for the side seals. Measure from the threshold up to the top weather seal you've just installed. Once again,when cutting the seals to size use a hacksaw to cut the aluminum and a utility knife to cut the vinyl.
  5. Just as with the top seal, fit each side seal with the door closed and latched, checking that it fits properly and sits flat against the door. Attach strips of compression foam weatherstripping to the backs of these seals as well, mount them, then attach to the doorstop.
  6. Remove your old door sweep if you have one, and measure the bottom of the door so that you can cut your new door sweep to size. Attach the sweep to the inside of your door with only two screws first and check to see that the door opens and closes properly without getting caught on the floor or rug. Make any necessary adjustments, and complete the installation.

Now your door is airtight and ready to keep you and your family safe from the cold winter winds (and your wallet safe from unnecessary energy costs)!

Easy & Effective Energy Conservation Tips for Your Home

October is National Energy Awareness Month—an effort by the White House to emphasize just how central energy conservation is to our national prosperity, security, and environmental well-being. Local governments, organizations, and businesses across the country are rolling out special events and promotions in the spirit of conservation, but for each and every one of us, energy conservation starts at home.

We sifted through many-an-article on energy conservation tricks and tips and selected a few we thought you’d find most useful. They’re relatively easy, inexpensive, and will make an incredible difference in the environmental impact of your home, and your home’s impact on your wallet.

  • Replace regular, incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs (CFLs). It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again… replace those bulbs! Compared to old-school bulbs, CFLs use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer, and cost only $1 more on average. Start with the most commonly-used room in your home and work your way through the rest in time. Many local power companies are offering free CFLs to their customers this month—check with your provider. One of the only downsides to CFLs is that they can be irksome to dispose of, but Home Depot will recycle them for you for free (see here).

  • Unplug those electronics. If you’re going to be away from your computer, television, or other favorite gadget for an extended period of time, turn it OFF instead of putting it in “sleep” mode. It takes precious energy for our electronics to dream. Also unplug things like phone and laptop chargers when not in use—they use energy even when not attached to your gadgets. Another tip? Use power strips in areas full of electronics (offices, entertainment centers, etc.). This makes it easy to power down a room full of equipment with a flick of a switch.

  • Reduce your water heater temperature. A good temperature range that will save you money while still allowing for those hot showers you love is 110-120. (Here are some video tutorials for adjusting your gas or electric water heater repair videos from hughesairco.com arizona).

  • Be thoughtful about how you heat your home. If no one is home during the day, set your thermostat back or even OFF. Many thermostats are programmable and can be set to kick in a half hour before you get home. Also, make use of the sun’s natural heat. Close the drapes on cold, dark days and open them on sunny ones. It’s easy and effective.

Also be sure to check out our previous post on fall home maintenance, and pay special attention to tips 3, 4, and 10 for a few bonus energy saving tips.