Class #2 – Why You Should Consider Going Solar

In this class, I’ll talk a bit about solar energy. Let’s start, shall we?

So, have you seen those solar panels on people’s houses and wondered how much they’re saving in energy costs? The answer could be: Quite a bit. When you live in a climate that gets quite a bit of sunlight, you might as well take advantage of solar power to reduce your energy bill.

Benefits of Solar Power

You can do the equivalent of renting solar panels. The high up-front cost of solar power might scare away some people. However, if you don’t want to buy them outright, you can see if companies like SolarCity operate in your area. What these companies do is install solar panels on your rooftop and sell you the power at a cheaper rate than the electric company can.

You might get tax credits for installing solar panels. The federal government or your state might offer tax credits for qualifying solar panel installations. California, for instance, offers the California Solar Initiative to provide rebates for the installation of solar panels. Be sure to check with your local tax preparer for details.

Some states and municipalities require solar panels for a certain percentage of new homes. Lancaster, California became one of the first cities to require that all new single-family homes have solar panels as part of a drive to make the city the solar capital of the world. So if the contractor you hire insists that solar power is a requirement in the city where you’re building a new home, don’t promptly dismiss it as a non-issue even though it might mean additional cost. Look it up if you don’t believe him.

Solar power conserves natural resources. Solar power is regarded as a renewable resource because the sun is constantly shining on some part of the planet. When you install solar power on your home, you are reducing your dependence on fossil fuels and taking advantage of the sun as a cost-effective energy source.

Solar power can save you money in the long run. Solar panels have increased in efficiency and reduced in price since they were first invented. That means they’re not very expensive to install on the roof of your house and they can more efficiently harvest the sun’s power.

Solar panels can increase the value of your home. Many home buyers look for ways that they can keep their utility costs down. Solar panels are an obvious way to impress these buyers because it says that its owner cared about maintaining the home in a way that’s eco-friendly and keeps energy costs down.

Solar power can reduce or eliminate your reliance on power companies. Many solar panels installations work by sending power out to the power grid, thus causing your power meter to “spin backward” and register the power being added to the grid as a credit to your account. However, they can also be set up so that you can have your connection to the grid deactivated and send the power to batteries instead. This is good for you when your neighbors have to haul out their gas-powered generators during a blackout and you’re still generating solar power.

There’s a way to receive financial incentives for producing solar power. This might surprise some people, but a cryptocurrency called Solarcoin was created specifically to hand out rewards for creating solar power. Besides that, if you produce surplus power that you don’t use but provide to the power grid, you may be eligible to receive payment from the local electric company.

How Solar Energy Works
How Solar Energy Works

Negatives of Solar Power

City and state building codes might restrict solar panel installations. Florida might seem like an obvious state to install solar panels on every home, but state regulations make it difficult, if not impossible, to use solar power for residential buildings.

Solar power does have an up-front cost. Most solar power rentals will absorb the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels as an investment in exchange for the benefit of selling you solar power. However, if you buy your panels, you’ll also need to hire a contractor to install them.

Solar panels can lose their efficiency if they aren’t kept clean. Dirt and debris can accumulate on the solar panels, reducing their efficiency. That means getting up on the roof on a regular basis to clean them off. While you’re doing that, be sure to inspect them for any signs of damage that might effect their performance.

Is solar power right for you? It can be if you own a home, you’ve already done everything you can to make your house energy-efficient, and you want to further reduce your utility bills. Solar power is a popular way to take advantage of inexpensive “green” energy and reduce your environmental footprint.

What’s Next?

Thanks for attending this class on my blog. The next one will be about energy-efficient homes and I am in the process of making final edits before it gets published in few days or so. Stay tuned!

ps. If you’ve missed my first class, here it is.

Class #1: Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems for New Homes

ecohomeWhen considering heating and cooling systems for new homes, it might be easy to go with a standard HVAC system. Before you commit to this, though, consider the fact that the HVAC system is a major factor in how high your utility bills are going to be. Choosing the wrong kind of system for the home can cause you to waste money unnecessarily.

A geothermal heating and cooling system can change that by taking advantage of the fact that, below a certain level, the temperature of the ground never changes very much even when you live in a region that freezes in the winter and gets hot in the summer. It pipes water between your home, a heat pump and the ground to improve the efficiency of keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Compare this to a standard HVAC that pipes in air from the surrounding atmosphere to keep your home warm or cool. Heating or cooling this outside air with a standard HVAC system is much less efficient, especially on days when you really need it.

Benefits of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

They’re eco-friendly. Geothermal heating and cooling can reduce the energy used for heating and cooling by as much as 70%. Because geothermal heating and cooling systems are more efficient, they reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to keep your home warm or cool. They basically make use of the laws of thermodynamics to either shed or absorb the required amount of heat, so they reduce the environmental impact of one of the major energy users in your home.

They’re cost-effective. If you’ve been wanting a new home but you’re also concerned about how much you would be paying for electricity, a geothermal system can keep that monthly bill under control. A typical geothermal system can pay for itself in energy savings within 2 to 5 years. A standard HVAC is an energy hog, but because the geothermal system is taking advantage of what the ground naturally has, it can achieve efficiencies of 400% to 600%. It’s not violating thermodynamic laws; it’s just pulling heat energy directly out of the ground instead of burning fossil fuels to keep your house warm during the winter. That saves you money on your monthly heating and cooling bill.

They’re easy to maintain. While geothermal heating and cooling systems do require regular maintenance to continue running efficiently, the technician is often called unnecessarily because the homeowner was not very familiar with their needs. Many maintenance issues can be solved with something as simple as keeping the filters clean, checking the fuse box, checking the grilles and supply registers to make sure they’re open and not obstructed, and making sure the thermostat is on the right setting.

They’re reliable. Geothermal heating and cooling systems have a long life span when they’re properly maintained and can reliably heat or cool your home simply because they’re piping the heat directly to or from the ground.

They’re tax-deductible. Many people hesitate to install a geothermal heating and cooling system because they think the up-front cost is too high. However, you can get tax deductions that make the price more palatable. Be sure to check the tax deductions you can get on your state and federal taxes.

They’re among the most highly recommended heating and cooling systems. 95% of owners of a home with geothermal heating and cooling would recommend it to others because they like the reliability and the savings on their utility bills.

image credit: http://www.nfecoop.com/content/what-geothermal (click to enlarge)
image credit: http://www.nfecoop.com/content/what-geothermal (click to enlarge)

Are There Any Drawbacks to a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System?

Not very many, though you do want to check with your city building code to see what say about geothermal heating and cooling systems. Some contractors may also not be very familiar with geothermal heating and cooling systems because they’re not very common yet. Installing any new heating and cooling system is not going to be cheap even when you can get tax deductions for a geothermal system. In the long run, though, the pros outweigh the cons because you won’t be spending as much on your monthly utility bills.

It’s easiest to install a geothermal heating and cooling system when building a new house, but you may also have options if you need to replace an existing HVAC system. If you’re looking to build a new house or replace a heating and cooling system in an existing house, ask the contractor if he’s familiar with geothermal systems because this can save you money and be friendlier on the environment in the long run.

To the next class!