It is obvious by now that the world’s supply of non-renewable energy, like crude oil and coal, has a limit that will one day be reached. For many of us, this limit may be achieved within our children’s lifetimes. With such a small window of opportunity left open, it is also clear that the only way the world can continue to run its numerous mechanical and electronic gadgetry is to turn to renewable sources of energy. There are several vastly untapped sources of non-renewable energy that can serve as viable replacements to these sources, with solar energy being the most powerful and easily accessible.
Current innovations in the solar energy sector allow for sunlight to be directly, or indirectly, utilized for heating and lighting of homes and larger buildings, heating water, generating electricity, and powering other industrial processes.
Solar energy also plays a role in promoting the availability of other renewable energy sources. For instance, it is necessary for the growth of plant life. Plants are used to create biomass, which can be in turn used to generate electricity and other fuels. It also plays a role in supporting wind energy as the heat produces drives wind strength and direction.
The sun is the single most powerful source and influencer of energy in our solar system and as such, remains the single most viable and long-term source of clean power. Since majority of the planet enjoys exposure of at least 10 hours worth of sunlight, harnessing this power is not difficult if proper investment in the necessary infrastructure and technology is made.
Why we need renewable energy
As mentioned, much of the energy sources we rely heavily on today come from resources that are likely to be depleted soon. In order to provide viable options that will benefit future generations, and allow them the chance to advance technologically, scientifically and mechanically, we need to invest in renewable energy solutions now that will become the norm then.
There is also the environmental impact caused by the continued reliance on no-renewable energy options. From smog to damage to the ozone layer, many of the fuels we rely on are damaging the planet. By switching to cleaner renewable energy solutions like solar power, we are able to ensure a much lower environmental impact that will result in a healthier world for current and future generations.
There is also the opportunity for job creation. In many countries across the world where it has become a priority to invest in renewable sources of energy, tens of thousands of jobs have been created, benefiting. From production of solar inputs to installation and maintenance, you can expect the local economy to benefit hugely where solar energy flourishes.
By reducing our over-reliance on non-renewable energy sources, we are better able as nations to guard our energy security. Diversifying our energy sources, especially into options that can be directly tapped locally without needing to rely on imports is an important way to ensure we do not suffer should diplomatic relations with major oil producing nations become strained.
For many people the words “energy efficient” can seem intimidating, and may even conjure up thoughts of difficulty and confusion, or worries about losing too much time or money to make the needed changes.
Making your home run more efficiently by conserving energy may seem like a daunting task, but it’s something you can do by making some small tweaks to things you’re already doing every day.
Here are some very quick and easy changes you yourself can make around the home each day to decrease the energy you’re using and the money you’re spending each month on your power bill.
Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
Whenever possible, washing your clothes in cold water is a great way to be more energy efficient in your home. Using the cold setting will save the extra energy required to heat up the water, and even making the switch on just a few loads a week can have a positive impact on your energy bill. If you’re hesitant about making the change, try beginning by using cold water to wash your towels, sheets, and dark colored clothing. Your clothes and linens will still be fresh and clean, and you’ll love the savings you experience.
Rinse Your Dishes
Doing a quick soak to remove or loosen any excess or crusted food from pots and pans, and rinsing your other dishes before loading them into the dishwasher can help you save energy as well. Taking this extra step will help ensure the dishwasher can clean and sanitize all your dishes in one cycle, and will save you the time and energy of having to run the dishes through several times to get them spotless and clean.
Using the cool air dry cycle whenever you can is also a great way to save some energy, and you should always strive to wait for a full load before running the dishwasher.
Use Your Curtains
Whether it’s hot or cold outside, you can use your curtains to help save on the highest energy demands in any home-heating and cooling. When it’s hot outside, close the drapes to keep sunlight from heating up the inside of your home more than necessary. When the frigid weather comes about, you can use the sunlight during the day to help warm up the house by opening up the curtains.
Turn Off and Unplug
Leaving lights on, and keeping things around the house plugged in all the time may not seem like a significant use of power, but small uses of energy all about the home consistently will add up quickly. To start using those little things to your advantage, make sure you remember to turn off any lights you’ve been using when you’re leaving the room and no longer need them on. Using lamps equipped with energy efficient bulbs can also help minimize the power used. The bulbs also last much longer, so you’ll save on your utilities and your bulb buying costs.
Leaving items plugged into the outlets can also increase energy demands in the home. Even if they are not on or in use, household things such as toasters, phone chargers, lamps, or AC adapter cords can draw power, so simply unplug them when you’re not using them.
Keep Your Home Clean
The most energy is needed (and wasted) in the heating and cooling of your home. Dirt and grime caught in the filters and vents are the biggest culprits in decreasing the efficiency of home heating and cooling appliances such as AC units, heaters, and fireplaces.
Keeping your home itself clean will help reduce your energy costs by minimizing the dirt and dust that is in the air. Heating and cooling appliances will not only run more efficiently, but they will be cycling clean air through your home as well. Any time the seasons change, it’s a good idea to deep clean your home, and hiring a professional, local maid service can save your personal time and energy, and start you off on the right path to a clean and energy efficient new season.
Power conservation is an important aspect of any household, with rising energy costs and concerns over carbon footprints, many families are switching to energy saving lightbulbs and other methods to reduce their overall energy usage and costs from month to month.
For a house running off of solar energy this is even more important. While a carefully implemented solar panel system can sustain a home’s energy usage, we will need to be careful that we don’t have any “power sinks” that drain the majority of our electrical power for no good reason. This could cause power interruption or a resort to back-up generator or municipal power sources. This defeats the purpose of having a solar panel installation in the first place.
Home appliances can be the source of many of these “power sinks”. Today we will talk about switching and/or removing some home appliances throughout the home to make way for better, more energy friendly options.
Let’s start small, and work our way up:
1. Toasters and Toaster Ovens
A trend you will see in this article is that essentially any appliance that works to turn electrical power into heat is going to be very wasteful. With the exception of microwave ovens (which don’t actually turn electrical into thermal energy but instead generate microwave activity, technically a different process) pretty much all electrical ovens, heaters and dryers are going to be very wasteful when it comes to electrical energy.
Most electrical energy is created using fossil fuels (with the exception of solar/wind power, but that’s another story). So in order to reduce the electrical footprint of your home, you should go straight to the source for your heat energy, i.e. gas powered. Most clothes dryers already run on a gas connection, as well as ovens and stoves, but for some reason we (i.e. humans) have taken it on ourselves to turn these perfectly good appliances into energy sinks by powering them with electricity.
Electrical stoves, toasters and toaster ovens and clothes dryers can just as easily be powered by a gas connection (granted, of course, that one has a gas hookup). So if you are using any of these products and are seeing high energy bills, consider either cutting down on their usage or resorting to a gas-powered equivalent.
PROTIP: Have you ever tried toasting bread on a stove-top? It works fine. Try it sometime.
2. Space Heaters
Anyone who has resorted to an electrical space heater and seen the aftermath on their electrical bill knows what I’m about to say is the truth. Space heaters are probably the most inneficient use of energy ever concieved. Turning electrical powered into brute heat energy and expecting to warm a room (even a small room) is as wasteful a process as they come.
What’s the solution? Well, it’s simple. Don’t use them. At all. They are not only pretty terrible at actually heating things but they are incredibly expensing to power. If you are finding yourself in dire need of extra heat, you probably need to address either your window/wall/door insulation, and your overall heating system. Take care of those problems and you won’t need a space heater.
3. Washing Machines and Clothes Dryers
As I mentioned before, most clothes dryers and washing machines come with gas connections for their heating capabilities. However some are purely powered by electricty. Double check yours and see what you have hooked up. If you are running on pure electric your bill will be through-the-room.
90% of the energy consumption of a washer/dryer unit is from the dryer, so if your dryer is running on electric, you need to change that stat. Do some research, check out some washer/dryer reviews for specifications, power capabilities, load capacity, etc. Knowing what your appliances use is essential for managing your home energy usage.
In particular look for the Energy Star label on appliances. Most of them come with this nowadays, but it never hurts to look and be sure.
The sun is the earth’s original source of light and power. Innovation is man’s. Combined, these two have created solar energy and power. Harnessing the sun sparks an amazing amount of energy, and adding solar panels as a power source in your home is a great idea for your pocketbook as well as the planet.
But, solar panels are only effective as a power source when installed safely and correctly.
Here are 3 practical safety tips to consider as you go solar.
Know what to expect from the inspection-and be prepared.
In order to make the switch to solar power, you’ll be required to obtain a city permit (just as with any new construction or renovation project). Make sure you’re ready by paying attention to these things.
Your electrical service meter: Installing a solar power system might require you to upsize in order to handle the increased electrical power flowing between the panels and the utility company.
Your Local Fireman: In the event of a fire, there needs to be space on the roof around the panels where firemen can walk.
Become familiar with the supplies you’ll need, and know what will work for your home.
The first thing you’ll want to determine is how many solar panels you’ll need. In order to decide, you will need to analyze your current usage or energy. You can do this my requesting a history from your utility company. If your electrician is competent, they’ll have software that will factor in your existing usage, local weather, and roof slant to compute the number of panels you’ll need to properly power your home.
Next, think about the set-up of your home. The best placement for solar panels is south or west facing, with no shade. This might not be how your home is positioned, but there are other options you can consider such as ground mounted systems or tilt facing panels.
Know when to ask for help
There is a lot to consider when adding a solar power system to your home, and it can become quite costly and dangerous if you’re a novice and attempting to do it yourself. If you’re not 100% certain you know what you’re doing then we strongly recommend hiring a local electrician to do this for you, and even if you are 100% confident it never hurts to get a professional electrician to take a look when you’re finished and sign off on it so that you can sleep easy.
For more tips and tricks on solar panel installation safety we suggest subscribing to this twitter feed.
Over 80% of solar installations are made on rooftops thanks to several factors that make this location ideal. Panels placed on the roof are able to capture the most amount of sunlight on most properties, and it is an unused out of the way location that rarely interferes with landscaping or other home design features. When making roof solar installations, it is a good idea to consider several factors so as to avoid damaging the value of the property and creating more expense.
Life of the roof – it often takes several years for property owners to recover the cost expended on installing solar systems. Many of the current systems are estimated to last about 20 years. It is important to ensure that the roof on which these installations are made will last just as long. Those that do not consider this factor may end up paying much more to disassemble the solar system and reassemble it should the roof require replacement. If you are installing a new roof to accommodate solar power installations, consider solar shingles for your rooftop.
Shading – some properties tend to have tall trees or taller neighboring buildings that may interfere with the amount of sunlight that will land on the panels. The amount of direct sun exposure matters greatly, so ensure that you pick a roof position that allows for maximum exposure for as much of the day as possible. If sunlight is sparse, consider investing in photo-voltaic cells that have the best absorption rate, even under low light conditions. On very shaded houses it may not be worth investing in solar at all. Solar panels have become very popular among property management firms to cut down electricity costs on flat-roofed apartment buildings. This is an ideal place for them as the roof is usually above the tops of trees and will have little to no obstructions.
Maintenance – it is not just the installation of solar panels that matters. Solar systems have a long life that is best promoted when maintenance is adhered to. It is necessary to regularly check on such issues as plants growing around the panels, and water drains being clogged. The roof design should allow for easy access to the panels so that property owners or property managers can easily inspect and carry out maintenance work that will prolong the life of their solar systems.
Rooftop solar installations, whether panels or shingles, are popular, but for some homeowners, they may interfere with the aesthetic feel of the property. If you prefer to not change how the home has been designed, and have extra space to work with, then consider a pole-mounted solar panel. Flush mounts are another option that while they are installed on the roof, offer the least amount of interference with the existing roofing installed thanks to the fewer contact points created.
Summer is one of the most expensive seasons for homeowners thanks to the efforts that must be made to make living spaces tolerable. Air conditioners and other cooling appliances can be quite expensive to run and will often break down due to overheating. Many try their level best to put into practice strategies that will limit the amount of money that will be spent on the electricity needed to power these appliances. For many homeowners however, the best way to slash these costs and enjoy a boost in property values is to invest in solar air conditioning. There are typically two types of solar conditioning units.
The most common in both North America and Asia is the absorption chiller AC units. These units make use of a component referred to as the solar absorption chiller that absorbs thermal heat from the sun’s rays through a heat transfer fluid (HTF). When the fluid passes through the solar absorption chiller, the heat energy is used to power it and supply the desired solar air conditioning. This type of solar AC is simply designed and is often cheaper to run than those powered by electricity. They do however make use of small amounts of electricity to power such components as the fan motors and pumps push the HTF through the chiller.
The other option is direct current (DC) powered solar air conditioners. These units differ from alternating current (AC) powered air conditioners in the manner current is converted. With the commonly used inverted solar panels, current is converted twice. The initial DC power generated in the panels is inverted to AC and then back to DC upon entering the air conditioning unit. AC powered units are more expensive to run as they require panels to deliver the same amount of power as DC powered units.
DC powered air conditioners skip this conversion and directly deliver DC power to the unit, thereby reducing power loss and lowering running costs. With special components designed to better handle voltage fluctuations, DC powered units are able to run dependably. Inverters are eliminated from the design of these types of air conditioning units. Many manufacturers also make use of improved compressors and fan motors that help cut down on energy consumption during the startup process. In fact, normal air conditioners can consume five times as much power during the startup process as DC powered solar conditioning units.
Another feature that makes DC powered units popular is that when they achieve the set point, they switch to a low power mode that keeps the unit running, rather than have it switch off and on again when temperatures rise again. By continuing to run on low energy, more power is saved as compared to the multiple times a larger amount of power is consumed with multiple startups.
Depending on your budget, it is a good idea to consult with your electrician on which choice of solar conditioning unit will work best for your residential or commercial property. Whichever option you choose, investing in a solar powered cooling system will definitely lower your utility bills, and allow you to quickly recoup your investment.
For the majority of households, the electricity bill is the most expensive regular expense to cover. What many do not however realize, there are plenty of simple ways in which this utility bill can be drastically reduced.
Water heating costs make up almost 20% of most households utility bills. By lowering the temperature on your water heater’s thermostat from the default 140 degrees to 120 degrees, you can save as much as 10% on your electric bill. This is a simple change that most people barely feel once implemented. Lowering the thermostat on your air conditioner during hot months and raising it on your heating system during cold months by a few degrees can also have a similar effect.
Cooking at night during summer is another cost saving strategy. When you run cooking appliances during hot days, cooling appliances have to work harder due to the increased heat, adding to your electric bill and their wear and tear. Cooking when it is cooler in the evenings is a better approach. You can reheat during the day, or prepare light salads and barbecue outdoors.
Fixing leaks is also an important cost saver. This refers to leaks within the structure of the home that may allow for cool air to escape during hot months and cold air to penetrate during cold months. Check everything from your roof installation to widow frames to ensure you are not wasting money running heating and cooling appliances that are unable to maintain the temperature in your home efficiently. Also, check for water leaks that may be leading to the waste of valuable hot water.
Investing in an electric fan is also a good idea. During cooler times of the day, you can opt to make use of just electric fans that can provide a comforting breeze. They can also help to improve on the efficient running of air conditioners by helping to better circulate cooled air.
For those who also enjoy long term planning, it is worthwhile planting deciduous trees around the home. As the trees grow, they will help provide shade during hot months that will reduce your need for the air conditioner. During winter, they will shed leaves, allowing sunlight to penetrate into the home and warm the air.
Upgrade your appliances. From heating and cooling systems to refrigerators and stoves, it is a good idea to upgrade the electronics in your home. The selection of energy star rated appliances found today, run far more efficiently than option that were available several years ago. The older the devices you have consuming power in your home, the more urgently you need to make a switch. A little online research or a consultation with a qualified electrician can help you to pick out which appliances you need to improve upon.
Ultimately, the most effective way to cut your electric bill is to invest in solar power. When you consult a qualified electrician, you will find that buying and installing solar panels can be fairly expensive, but you will more than recover your investment over the life of your system. Not to mention, this type of investment does help to add value to a property. There are also new technologies being continually introduced into the market that are making solar power components more affordable than ever before.
This is such a magical time of year in Colorado and on SEI's campus. I couldn't resist this photo on my walk home today. A magical sunset on top of an incredible week. We have 24 students from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, UK, Canada, Puerto Rico, Domican Republic, Cameroon and ten states taking our PV301L, our battery based hands-on training. Happy Wednesday everyone and may the sun continue to inspire you. ...