How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can have too many solar panels on your roof. With conventional net metering, your utility will not reimburse you at the end of the year if you produce more power than you consume. For example, last year my electric bill was -$46.86. Our roof has a 6kw solar system on it, but because we installed a new thermostat, LEDs and new windows, we generated a net credit with our utility last year. So I’m replacing my LEDs with old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs so I can use more power and get closer to a zero bill this year. The number of panels you need is based on two factors: the available space on your roof and the size of your electric bill.

A good installer will not take advantage of you by installing modules where there is a lot of shade or a poor north-facing orientation on a steep roof. Along the same lines, your installer should analyze your current electric bill and recommend the number of solar panels that will get you close to a zero bill.

Once you know these two boundary conditions – the number of panels that fit on your roof and the number of panels that you need to zero out your bill – you can see what size system fits in with your budget and method of financing. At the same time your installer should step you through the options for different levels of solar panel efficiency, module electronics (optimizers or microinverters), and changes in your future use of electricity (such as an EV or energy conservation measures). For more about determining the optimum size of your solar power system, Listen Up to this week’s episode of The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.

New LED Lightbulbs are Cheap

New LED Lightbulbs are Cheap

Looking for those last minute, inexpensive and romantic holiday gifts? Well, two out of three ain’t bad with the new crop of LED bulbs. You can help make a dent in the 15% of U.S. residential electrical usage that is used for lighting. Prices have declined so quickly on LED bulbs that they are no longer a novelty. Without a doubt, replacing the incandescent bulbs in your home or business is the most cost effective way to reduce your energy costs.

In year’s past LEDs were also limited to standard screw-in bulbs. Now LED bulbs are available for virtually every light fixture. Moreover, LED bulbs come in color temperatures (soft white, daylight, etc.) that match incandescents. Plus, many of the newer LEDs can be used with dimmers (although sometimes not at the lowest setting).

Not only are LEDs more efficient, but they also have a much longer lifespan than incandescents and fluorescent bulbs. But the concept of planned obsolescence has kicked in with LEDs; I’ve noticed that the lifespan of LED bulbs has declined from 22 years to 11 years — but still much longer than the typical 1-3 year lifespan of incandescents.

This combination of long life, lower costs, good color temperature, dimming and bulbs for every fixture make LEDs the light source of choice for just about every application. Except for the hazards of climbing a chair or ladder to replace your bulbs, there is almost no reason to delay changing out your incandescents for LEDs. For more about our transition to LED lighting, please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.

Are LEDs the Best Bulbs to Get?

Things have been changing pretty quickly in the light bulb business. In the course of a few short years, Edison’s filament bulbs have become illegal, marginally more efficient halogen bulbs have become the default choice in hardware stores, twisty compact fluorescents (CFL) have pretty much had their day in the sun, and specialty LED bulbs are now inexpensive and available in virtually every shape, size and color.

When I researched residential lighting a few years ago my conclusion was to go with CFLs because they had the lowest operating costs – but you had to tolerate their slow start up and poor colors. Since then LED bulbs have plummeted in price. Moreover, one can buy LEDs that fit virtually every fixture and claim to work in dimmers. So now it’s almost a no-brainer to go with LEDs.

Nevertheless, there are still challenges with LED bulbs. Although they all indicate a 22.6 year lifespan, I have had a number of them burn out already. Not all are as dimmable as they claim. Some of the bulbs are too bulky or weirdly shaped to fit in existing features. And the color of the light is sometimes not as warm as conventional bulbs (which are no longer available). Please Listen Up to this Week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as we survey the real-world advantages and disadvantages of the current crop of LED bulbs.


New Year’s Energy Resolutions

If only all our New Year’s Resolution were this easy. Luckily, saving energy is easier than losing weight after gorging over the holidays. And the best part is that you’ll see results fast!

Energy and fuel costs are lower than they have been in years: gasoline is about $2/gallon, natural gas hasn’t been this inexpensive since 1999, and electricity costs are in the range of $0.10/kwh when generated by solar or wind. But even though these energy prices are relatively low, we live a much more energy-intensive lifestyle — so unfortunately, we all consume more energy per person than any previous generation. To get your New Year started right, here are ten tips for saving energy in your home in 2016.

1. If it’s raining, turn off your outdoor watering system.
2. Drive a stake through the heart of your vampire electric loads by unplugging unnecessary devices.
3. Replace all of your incandescent bulbs with LEDs, including your outdoor lights and holiday lights.
4. Make sure you have a seven day or smart thermostat, and check to see that it’s working properly.
5. Install or fix the weather stripping around your doors and windows.
6. Install rooftop solar on your home; and if you’ve already installed home solar, wash your panels if they are very dirty.
7. Clean your heating and cooling filters and check your air ducts for leaks.
8. Buy an electric vehicle.
9. Install a variable speed pool pump and cut back on the hours of operation.
10. Change your electric rate to a Time of Use or the Electric Vehicle rate.

It’s surprisingly easy to reduce your energy expenses in 2016, while at the same time improving our environment. For more details on energy saving tips, Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.

Ten Energy Savings Myths

With energy prices changing so quickly — and new technologies ramping up into the marketplace — the “conventional wisdom” about energy is often wrong. We’ve been as guilty as others when it comes to trusting emotions and public opinion about energy, as opposed to real math and science.

See if you can guess the answer to ten simple questions in our energy savings myths quiz:

1. Are electric cars cheaper than gas cars?
2. Is rooftop solar expensive?
3. Will you save money if you buy new energy saving appliances?
4. Will gas prices stay low?
5. Is solar for no money down a good investment?
6. Are LED bulbs expensive?
7. Do electric utilities like customer energy efficiency?
8. Is clean coal cost effective?
9. Is nuclear power the best baseload power source?
10.Has energy efficiency reduced our per capita energy usage?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of these energy savings myths, then make sure to listen up to this week’s Energy Show. The conventional wisdom is wrong — all of these energy saving ideas are myths.