Upgrading a home to solar energy can seem like a daunting prospect. In terms of scale, many who have already gone through the process equate it to adding a room to their house. And as many of us know, remodeling projects can be an annoying hassle. Plus, legislators are always tweaking the rules and regulations governing the energy market. So it can be hard to know if the benefits you heard about last year still apply today. In spite of the effort it takes, the benefits of going solar pay tremendous financial dividends for decades to come. That’s not to mention the significant positive impact on the environment.
Prior to working at Blue Raven Solar, I worked at McKinsey & Company as a management consultant. McKinsey has a long and rich tradition around its mission and values. Shortly after I joined the firm, I remember learning that mission statements and value statements are not two ways of saying the same thing. They serve very different purposes. A company mission statement describes “why” an organization exists. A good mission statement captures why employees should come to work every day. Company values, on the other hand, describe “how” an organization should go about accomplishing its mission. Values are the guardrails or “instruction booklet” that guides decisions and behavior along the way.
Once you have solar installed, it is easy to keep up your solar panels. Serious cleaning usually isn’t necessary because most of the time, normal weather patterns take care of any dust buildup that might reduce solar energy output. But, as all of us know, in some years the normal weather patterns turn out to be anything but normal. On rare occasions, a conspiracy of unseasonable weather patterns can result in an efficiency-sapping layer of grime that needs to be properly cleaned off.
Most of the time though, owning a rooftop solar array takes almost no effort at all. And to keep it that way, here are some very routine maintenance and inspection tips to follow that will help ensure the panel’s optimal performance.
Summertime is just starting, which means soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the great outdoors. Too bad summer also means higher utility bills. Maybe you already know what a great long-term investment switching to solar energy is, both in terms of saving money on utility bills and cutting your reliance on fossil fuels. But, if you’re not yet ready to go solar, or if you already made the switch but still want to improve your home’s energy efficiency, here are some tips that will help keep your bills bearable in the summer heat.
1. LED Light Bulbs
LED light bulbs are becoming more prevalent in American homes, mainly because they are the very definition of energy efficiency. LEDs use only about 10 percent of the energy as an incandescent bulb. Plus, they produce light at an efficiency rate of around 200 lumens per watt.
Although fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are cheaper than LEDs to purchase, they last only 10-25 percent as long at best. Longer life, higher output, and less energy use make LEDs worth the slight increase in the purchase price. And you can find them at pretty much any hardware store or grocery store.
2. Smart Thermostats
A smart thermostat is a programmable, internet-connected climate control gadget that brings 21st-Century mobile communication technology to your furnace and air conditioner. But they’re not just for gadget geeks. Smart thermostats combine sensing, data processing, and in some cases artificial intelligence, with wireless communication technologies to optimize your comfort preferences while cutting back your monthly energy use automatically.
With a range of control options like digital touchscreens, mobile apps, and integration with voice assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, smart thermostats make operating your climate control system way more effortless. And because the controls integrate with a smart thermostat app on your phone, you can still make manual adjustments to your home’s climate settings, as needed, any time, from anywhere.
Over time, caulking and weather-stripping around windows deteriorate and begin letting outside air pass through. Windows that aren’t properly curtained or shuttered allow radiant heat to build up indoors. Both of these conditions will spike your heating and cooling bills, especially during the hottest and coldest months of the year—just when your energy use is already going up.
In fact, according to energy.gov, 25-30 percent of the energy you use balancing the temperature in your home comes from heat gained and lost through windows. That’s enough to totally negate the benefits of other efficiency upgrades around the house. Replacing outdated windows is a fine choice, but you can improve their efficiency without replacing them outright. Replacing old caulking and weather-stripping and applying window treatments like blinds, curtains, insulated shades, and window films will dramatically cut the amount of energy wasted by windows.
To learn more different window treatment options, go here.
If you have uninsulated walls or an uninsulated attic, it’s probably having an impact on your home’s energy efficiency. Even if your walls and attic are insulated, unless your home was designed to hit a specific energy efficiency target, adding more insulation will improve things.
Installing new, high-quality insulation can lower your home’s heating and cooling costs as well as keep out air drafts around the windows and floorboards. Insulation can likewise keep out moisture that can cause mold growth and make the air in your house colder or hotter than usual.
There are many different types of insulation on the market. Which one best suits you is a question of budget, house size, and recommended R-values for your location.
For tips on adding insulation to an existing home, go here.
5. Service Your Air Conditioning
After an entire winter of sitting dormant through regular cycles of nighttime freezing and daytime thawing, your air conditioner can fall into disrepair. Come spring, it’s common to find cracked and leaky hoses, loose connections, and corroded wiring in and around your AC unit. Structural problems will lead to loss of refrigerant to the point that when you turn on the unit, the air will blow room temperature air instead of refrigerated air.
A well-functioning air conditioner reduces indoor humidity, which lowers the indoor heat index, which reduces the need for further air conditioning. That is to say, when working properly, AC makes the room feel comfortable with less cooling overall. On the other hand, bad AC will pump humid, room temperature air into a room and never create a comfortable environment
By servicing your AC system at the beginning of the warm season, you will save anywhere from five to 15 percent on cooling costs. And if your Air Conditioner is more than 10 years old, it might be better to replace the old one with a new, energy-efficient unit.
As energy.gov explains, current energy efficient air conditioners use 30-50 percent less energy to produce the same cooling as units made in the 1970s.
Upgrading the energy efficiency of your home could lower your utility bills by as much as 30 percent and it can be done without a major retrofit project. Whatever measures you’re able to take, the cost will get repaid in the form of a drier, more comfortable, and better-ventilated environment, a 25-30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and increased property value.
If you’re wondering whether residential solar falls within your reach, a good place to start would be a comparison of the three most common purchasing options available:
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in which a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property and then the customer purchases power from the developer.
Solar lease in which a complete package of solar equipment gets installed on a customer’s roof at little or no upfront cost and then the customer pays a monthly lease on the equipment.
Solar purchase in which a customer pays out-of-pocket or acquires financing for the outright purchase and installation of solar equipment which they operate from that day forward.
Over the past decade, residential solar energy has grown 75-fold in the U.S. We’re in the middle of a major shift in the way people power their homes. Maybe you’re considering making the switch yourself? If so, here are a few things you should know.
Just because solar panels are made in a uniform rectangle shape, doesn’t mean there’s a uniform formula for designing a solar array. In fact, it’s kind of red flag if they do that without asking some specific questions first. Because every home is different, and every family generates a unique set of specific needs, installing a solar energy system to meet those needs reliably throughout the year calls for a completely custom design.
If we’re talking about cost, the one simplistic statement we can honestly make is that cost is a function of system size. Period. And size depends on too many factors to generalize. So, the first factor we consider in every custom design proposal we create is how much energy you consume.
And we’ve noticed how, for a lot of homeowners, the sheer number of options available today sometimes leaves them in a state of analysis paralysis. We get it.
With so many participants in the residential solar marketplace knocking on doors, blasting social media ads, and shouting out answers anyplace they can find a forum, it can be tough for people new to the conversation to even know what the questions are. So, let’s get into one of the questions we hope people are asking.
What makes a good solar installation company?
In our opinion, these are the traits that make the biggest difference.
The exact number of solar panels needed to power your home will largely depend on four key factors:
Average energy usage
Peak sunlight hours in your area
Power output and efficiency of your solar panels
Structural characteristics of your roof
The most accurate estimate will come from a professional installer who can evaluate all the pertinent information, calculate the optimal number of solar panels needed, and recommend an appropriate solar energy system to meet your needs. Now let’s consider the details of those four factors one-at-at-time.
Despite solar energy becoming more accessible and a more common method for powering American homes, there are still plenty of people out there who believe the misconception that solar panels only work in parts of the country where the weather is sunny and agreeable year-round. Solar energy is far more adaptable than some people think, especially when it comes to production in variable weather. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, solar can serve you year-round. So, in the interest of giving solar energy the credit it deserves, let’s run through a few questions about how the weather affects solar energy production.