October 10, 2011

Save Energy and Money Before Installing Solar Power

So you want to install solar PV or solar thermal in your home? You can save money on your system by conserving energy first. The smaller your energy needs, the smaller your system will need to be. (photo ©nan fischer)


First, do a detailed review of your energy usage. Get together a year’s utility bills, and average out your monthly usage for each utility. Note how many BTUs you use, as well as how much water.

Alternatively, you can hire a Certified Energy Rater to do this for you. The benefit to this is that once your data is in her software, your results can be adjusted as you do upgrades. You will also get recommendations on how to increase your energy efficiency and the ROI on each item. Check RESNET to find a rater.

Read the list below, and add a few items at a time to your lifestyle. It’s not possible to do this all at once, so don’t try! Conserve gradually, and it’ll be less shocking and more pleasant.

Check your bills again in 3-6 months. Continue conserving, until your bills are low and you don’t feel you are sacrificing your lifestyle. Get a quote for a solar system from a certified professional, and ask for advice. Maybe s/he will have more ways for you to conserve energy and save money. My solar installer suggested I bring in natural gas from an adjoining neighborhood. This saved me a bundle, and was nothing I would have considered!

Ways to Conserve Energy

Make your home tighter.
– Insulate your ceiling and subfloor.
– Insulate your ductwork.
– Caulk around all windows and doors.
– Weatherstrip exterior doors.
– Replace single pane and older double pane windows with energy efficient windows.
– Window coverings keep heat in during winter and out during summer.

– Unplug small appliances when not in use.
– Replace old appliances with Energy Star appliances.
– Turn off lights in rooms that aren’t being used.
– Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs.
– Put electronics on power strips that are turned off when not in use.

Heating and cooling (HVAC)
– Turn down your thermostat in winter and up in summer.
– Upgrade to an energy efficient furnace.
– Replace air conditioning and heating filters as recommended.
– Plant shade trees on the south and west sides of your home.

– Turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater.
– Put an insulating blanket on your hot water heater.
– Use low-flow faucets.
– Take 5-minute showers.
– Replace old toilets with low-flush or dual flush.
– Install an on-demand (tankless) water heater.
– Buy a front-loading washing machine.
– Wash clothes in cold water.
– Hang your clothes on a clothesline or racks.
– Catch rainwater for irrigating.
– Install drip irrigation.
– Landscape with native plants and grasses.

Save money twice – first by cutting back on your energy use, second by installing a smaller solar system.

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Nan Fischer  |  Contribution: 800