Thursday, March 18, 2010

Becoming Energy Efficient

Reading the news about global warming and environmental responsibility has had us becoming more tuned into the topic. My husband and I have toyed with the idea of going solar for years now, but didn't do anything until recently.

It all began a few years back, when we attended the Decathalon in Washington, D.C. where several colleges participated in a week long contest on energy efficiency. They would be judged on homes they built that were off the grid and energy efficient. We walked through the different homes, and were amazed at how well designed they were to maximize efficiency and use the least amount of energy. There were windows selectively placed to bring in sun during the day. There were walls made of certain materials to absorb the heat and emit it in the evenings. There were energy efficient appliances. Of course, they were tiny little homes, enough for one or two people. Not at all like the gigantic mansions that have sprung up in the last decade during the housing boom. Nevertheless, after that experience, we were starry eyed and hopeful about replicating some of the ideas in our own home. We even visited homes in the Washington, D.C. area that had solar panels and solar water heaters. We talked with the homeowners. Then reality hit. The more we studied the idea of switching to solar, the more we realized that it was a very expensive idea, to say the least. We just were not ready then.

Now fast forward to 2010. Several things have happened since then. The housing market collapsed, bringing down prices in several areas related to housing, including solar. The price of solar a few years ago has since then dropped a hefty 25% in our area. Also, there are tax credits at the Federal level as well as incentives given by states and the utility companies (RECs). Now, suddenly, the cost doesn't seem so high. So we took the plunge and decided to go solar. We spoke to a solar expert recently and I am proud to say have finally begun the process. In a few weeks, we should be up and running. We have decided to go with crystalline solar panels with microinverters. The microinverters are fabulous. Each panel gets a microinverter, thus, each panel will be independent of the others. I understand that this is a parallel arrangement as opposed to the serial setup. This means that if one panel goes or is under some shade (from a tree), it does not affect the others as in serial setup. Also, this means we will not have the inverter in our home, which might be a source of EMF.

The advantages of going solar have made it a win-win situation. First of all, we will be helping the environment by using less electricity manufactured by power plants, etc. Second, we will be saving on rising utility bills. Third,
the utility company in our area will be paying us for generating electricity via solar. Fourth, we have read that the future of cars will be electric cars, which will require juicing up the car for it to run, thus solar makes a lot of sense. So we're really excited about becoming part of the solar generation!

Let me know if you have any comments on energy efficient ideas.

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