Making the Most Out of Solar Energy
Home Improvement

Making the Most Out of Solar Energy

Making use of solar energy is an excellent way to reduce carbon footprints and reduce electricity bills at the same time.

Troy Helming is a clean energy industrialist, an author, a speaker for clean energy conferences who has founded several companies that generated about $30 billion of economic impact since inception. He served as the founder and the 1st CEO of TradeWind Energy (1996 to 2004), and Pristine Sun, which he founded in 2009 and which is still going to this day, has helped the development, build, operate and/or maintain hundreds of community solar and/ or wind energy power plants. Consequently, his many years of service within the solar and wind industry have earned him numerous achievements, certifications, and awards.

Through his many efforts, the American public is now more open to clean energy. If you have a solar system in your home, you are already enjoying the benefits that come as a result. However, are you sure that you are making the most out of your solar system?

Since the penetration of residential solar power, many people are unaware of how they can efficiently utilize their solar power system. Fortunately, we have gathered several ways to help you figure out how to enjoy the optimal benefits to enhance your solar power experience to optimize your monthly budget. With input from @SolarNinjaTroy, we hope this article will help guide you in your journey to a more substantial lifestyle that includes solar. “That journey,” says Helming, “starts with saving energy where possible. The good news is you don’t have to change your lifestyle! Check it out.”

LED Lights Installation

One of the major costs of your household appliances comes from lighting. In fact, obsolete light bulbs use about only 10% of the electricity they consume to generate light. 90% is wasted in the form of heat! This is due to the tungsten-based filament, which tends to produce less light and more heat. This is a terribly inefficient method to create light, plus this waste heat adds substantially to cooling loads imposed on air conditioning systems.

In contrast, modern LED lights utilize almost all the electricity to create light- this can be noticed from the cool effect they tend to radiate, in a wide range of color spectrums available. And since LEDs do not heat up much and are essentially semi-conductors with no filament to burn out, they have a far longer lifespan…up to 30 years. They will never burn out – just get slightly dimmer over time. Moreover, these LED lights are surprisingly affordable.

Replace Old & Gas-Fired Appliances!

Old appliances can be energy hogs. Old refrigerators, air-conditioning units, water heaters, and ovens that are not EnergyStar rated or otherwise efficient can cost you hundreds of dollars per year or more in wasted energy. Depending on how the appliance is, replacing it before its final end-of-life could offer your payback of 2-5 years in energy savings.

If you are using natural gas or another non-electric fuel source for heating your home, oven, stove, and/or clothes dryer, you may be in for a surprise.

First, you are inhaling toxic air pollution from burning these fuels, even the ‘cleanest’ of them, natural gas, has been shown to exacerbate asthma and other lung conditions.

Next, you are exposing your household to dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning risks that could literally kill your children if the ventilation system fails.

The cost of fossil fuels is highly volatile, making it difficult to predict household energy costs due to the wild swings in price these fuels subject us to.

As incandescent light bulbs, using fuel like natural gas, propane, or heating oil is terribly inefficient. For example, a natural gas stove uses only about 40% of the energy content of the fuel is used for heat, compared to 84% for electric induction cooktops (source). That’s a lot of wasted energy that you’re paying for, most of which is unburned gas and byproducts that enter the lungs of your family in the kitchen. “ I do most of the cooking in our home, and switching to an induction cooktop was one of the best things I did to both improve the air quality in our home for my wife (she has asthma) and speed up the time it takes to cook everything,” says Helming.

Finally, the cost savings can be substantial. Electricity, being far more efficient, gets the heating job done using less energy. And if your solar system is sized appropriately to accommodate a switch to electric appliances, you can heat your home, cook, clean, and wash using essentially free sunshine (after the cost of paying for your solar systems, which generally takes about 5-8 years in most areas)!

Cleaning Solar Panels

Solar panels woke the best when their maximum surface area is exposed to the sun’s rays. However, since these panels are kept outside, they can easily get dirty from environmental elements, such as mold, bird dropping, pollen, soot from diesel and gasoline engines (drive on sunshine by switching to an electric vehicle!), or dirt, which diminishes their efficiency to function. Soiling of solar panels can reduce their output by up to 40% or more if left uncleaned for more than a year, depending on local climate, especially cleansing rainfall.

Make sure that you are checking your panels from time to time to inspect whether if they are coated with light-blocking particulates or not. This way, you will know when it is time to clean your panels with water or compressed air and enhance your solar power system to its maximum potential. Moreover, you can clean these panels yourself – but we advise getting a professional to clean them efficiently at least twice a year unless they are easily and safely accessible.

Drive on Sunshine!

One of the fastest ways to save tons of money for your family budget is to drive an electric vehicle (“EV”). Mr. Helming strongly encourages everyone to sell or trade-in their car for an EV and put solar on your roof or yard. Some of the benefits include:

No to very low maintenance costs. A typical gas mobile has over 2,000 to 3,000 moving parts, many of which will inevitably break down over time. An EV has < 30 moving parts. No oil to change, no transmission, sparks plums, timing bels, starter, radiator, or any other of the other parts that fail regularly. EVs can save you thousands of dollars per year (hundreds per month) on avoided maintenance costs!

Remember, you are causing literal high-powered explosions hundreds or thousands of times per minute inside an internal combustion engine. It is a complicated, dangerous ad that has not changed much in > 100 years. Of course, there are going to be maintenance issues that become increasingly costly the more you drive a fossil-fuel power vehicle.

Lung health! The emissions coming out of your tailpipe will literally kill you, and your family, if they inhale too much of it. Not to mention the lung-damaging soot and particulates that cannot be avoided when driving or riding in any vehicle with an internal combustion engine. How is that a good idea?

No fuel costs! As Troy Helming points out, before his family switched to electric vehicles, they had a popular SUV and a popular luxury 4-door sedan. They were spending about $500 per month on fuel. That cost went to about $80 per month of increased electricity costs before they put solar on the roof, and then to zero after the solar was installed!

Total savings for a typical US household can be $8,000 to $10,000 per year in avoided fuel & maintenance costs. Those savings mean buying an EV that can pay for itself in a few years on saving alone!

And due to how few moving parts there are and how long modern batteries and electric motors last, the EV can last 12-20 years or more with possibly one batter change-out in year 15 or so.

Invest in Ceiling Fans or Oscillating Room Fans

It has been reported by the Department of Energy that air conditioning and heating can, on average, take up to around 48% of your house budget. Hence, the HVAC system ends up taking most of the produced energy from your solar panels.

Now ceiling fans won’t exactly give your room an extremely cool or hot environment- but they are certainly efficient in ensuring that they improve the air circulation and make your room more comfortable. Additionally, you won’t have to consume extensive solar power in the process.

Get a Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Thermostat

This one purchase, for a few hundred dollars, such as the Google Nest thermostat, can bring immediate savings to your household and improve your quality of life. The savings can be hundreds of dollars per year or more, or even more, if your local utility has time-of-day electric rates (check your bill!). And, you can enjoy a home that is just the right temperature when your family gets home from work or school as it pre-heats or pre-cools your home.

Sign Up For Demand Response and/or Energy Services to Earn Income!

Companies like Ohm Connect and others allow you to put a smart-plug on your appliances (if they are not already smart-enabled as part of the Internet of Things or IoT), including any battery energy storage (such as Tesla’s Powerwall), and earn income during peak times when the grid needs a little relief. These are easy programs that use apps on your phone and/or text messages to turn down your freezer, air conditioner, furnace, water heater, or other appliances just a little bit during the key grid peaking events.

And they can pre-cool or pre-heat before that peak event arrives (which is usually in the evening like 7-8 pm local time) to make sure the appliances are not needed – or only minimally needed – during that peak window of time.

Services like this are proliferating, and will enable forward-thinking households, especially those with solar, batteries, and smart appliances (or smart plugs) to earn extra income without affecting their quality of life!

Zombie Apocalypse!

Yup, Mr. Helming shares his thoughts on this benefit of home solar and batteries on his social media accounts assembled and reprinted (with his permission) here.

For those with solar and a backup battery, you will be well-prepared for a zombie apocalypse.

You will also be prepared (translation: energy independence) for a power outage due to any number of reasons – and there are a lot of them:

  • Fallen tree or branch due to wood rot or gust of wind;
  • A vehicular accident that knocks down a power pole (all power lines are underground, but utility companies stubbornly refuse to do so!);
  • Severe storms;
  1. Ice-storm
  2. Hurricane, Tornado, or other wind storms;
  • Forest fire (either caused by a downed power line, or a public safety power shutoff imposed on an area intentionally by an electric utility during days of severe fire risk and moderate winds like what is seen regularly no in the western United States);
  • Terrorist or vandalism events;
  • Acts of war, including an EMP (electro-magnetic pulses), used to deliberately disable the electric grid;
  • Solar flares or a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection), both of which are more common than most people realize; and/or
  • Rodents: guess what the most common reason is for power outages…
  • Squirrels!
  • Save your family from evil squirrels: get solar, a home battery and an EV!

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