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Energy Efficient Tips For Incorporating Solar Energy In Your Home

Posted on Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 8:52 pm by Solar Energy USA

This home incorporated a combo of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and solar powered attic fans

When incorporating solar energy into your home, the main decision is to create energy so that you become less dependent on nonrenewable fuel sources. Even though solar is the single most comprehensive solution to help achieve this goal, it’s important to create a plan that helps reduce energy consumption initially.

Energy reduction is usually less expensive than energy production and often needs to be dealt with first. The saying goes that energy conserved is equal to energy produced. We can understand this concept better if we think of a simple analogy like upgrading your refrigerator to be more energy efficient. Your new fridge will require less power to run, which translates to less energy that you have to purchase from your power company.

The first step to reduce your energy usage is to understand your energy consumption in the form of how you are billed by your power company. Power companies bill their customers by the kilowatt hours, or kWh. A 100 watt light bulb that is on for 10 hours equals 1,000 watts of energy used which is equal to 1 kWh. Most power companies have tiered pricing schedules so your cost per kWh gets more expensive as you use more power (total kWh consumption). By reducing your energy usage through simple efficiency measures you may be able to drop your total kWh consumption into a lower tier with a lower cost per kWh.

The next step is to analyze your historical power consumption. This can be done online if your power bill doesn’t show a full 1 year of historic usage. When looking over your monthly power usage, be sure you understand the seasonality of power consumption and prices associated with busier times. Spring and fall are lower power usage seasons, while winter and summer are higher due to heat and air conditioning. Be sure to measure power by kWh, not the dollar amount of your bill, because price per kWh will increase over time while consumption usage in kWh should remain relatively constant from year to year (unless of course you purchase a new appliance in which case your kWh usage will increase).

Once you understand your home’s power consumption you can then get started with some simple efficiency measures to decrease your overall power consumption. Focus on low cost inside the home improvements like lights, insulation, and sealing cracks or exposures within the home where air can escape or come in (windows, doors, etc.).

You can measure energy usage with lights by looking at the total number of lights you use, the wattage strength of each (40 watts, 65 watts, etc.), and the number of hours each light is kept running. Again, a 100 watt light bulb that is on for 10 hours a day equals 1,000 watts or 1 kWh. Exterior lights that are on also need to be changed to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) because CFLs use lower wattage and have longer life expectancies.

Consider changing out windows if they are older and inefficient. Newer, more efficient windows are double paned and filled with argon gas to help restrict too much sunlight (and heat) from entering your home and increasing the temperature. More efficient windows can decrease your energy consumption by as much as 30% as a direct result of running your air conditioner less.

Adding proper insulation as well as attic ventilation is another way to decrease your consumption. Our solar powered attic fans go on top of your roof and help remove the hot air from your attic. They turn on when they reach 75 degrees, cycling on and off multiples times per hour to keep your attic cool. Traditional electric attic fans are no longer allowed when building a new home because they have been determined to be fire hazards.


Solar powered attic fan

After all of these steps are taken you can then get into energy production. There are two types of solar energy systems that produce energy – Photovolatic (PV) and thermal (hot water). PV solar energy production is probably more common to most people. PV solar panels are the traditional rectangular solar panels that absorb DC energy from the sun. The DC energy can then be inverted to AC and used within your home to power your appliances and other things that require energy. Solar thermal systems work by absorbing heat from the sun and transferring that heat through a series of tubes into your home’s water tank.


Solar thermal (hot water) system

Depending on what drives you to save energy, whether it is financial, environmental, or in quest of energy independence, education and awareness are key factors that will help you make smarter choices. Learning about your own energy consumption and deciding where to make the biggest impact with your dollars is what will ultimately help you achieve your goals.