Want to Go Solar? Cut Your Energy Use First
By Deep Patel, Intent
One of the most common complaints about “going solar” is that the upfront cost is just too high. The primary reason a solar power system can be a high ticket purchase for many solar power shoppers is because of the customers’ bad energy usage habits. The majority of solar power shoppers don’t realize they are energy hogs until they start shopping for solar power, when they are forced to understand and analyze their electric consumption.
So how can solar power shoppers instantly get a deep discount on their solar power system? The answer is simple, “reduce then produce.” Focusing on energy efficiency, and implementing lifestyle and product changes can greatly reduce the upfront cost of a solar power system. It is always more cost-effective to reduce your consumption through efficiency than it is to produce your own power.
Think of it this way, the more you can save through energy efficiency, the fewer solar panels you need to cover your electric usage. Itís that simple. But most solar power consumers get frustrated seeing high upfront costs of going solar and think there are no alternatives to bring the cost down.
How do you reduce your energy consumption?
1. Change all your light bulbs to LEDs. Lighting can contribute up to 10 to 20 percent of your electrical load. Want to minimize that load? LEDs (light emitting diodes) consume a fraction of the electricity that incandescent bulbs and even CFL light bulbs consume. While LED bulbs cost more than their counterparts, they last over 11 years, and LEDs differ from CFLs in that they contain no mercury, a very toxic element. LED bulbs can fit in standard lighting sockets and only cost a dollar or two per year to run a standard household light bulb. Since LED bulbs operate cooler, the decrease in temperature can also keep your home cooler during summer months.
2. Invest in insulation. Drafty windows and gaps under doors can significantly raise your heating and cooling costs. These costs usually comprise over half of all energy outlays made by homeowners. By investing in insulation, you can lower your energy costs by as much as 30%.
3. Get rid of old appliances. These tend to be less energy efficient. For example, an old coffee maker can consume power equivalent to the output of four solar panels! Purchase Energy Star appliances.
4. If youíre not using it, turn it off! Unplug unused items (they draw energy even if they are plugged in, but not in use). These sneaky loads are called “vampire loads”, and they cost U.S. consumers 3 billion dollars per year! How much are these loads costing you? Smart power strips can help you fight vampire loads by shutting off power draw when the appliance is not in use. Remember to set your computers to automatically hibernate (power saving mode) when they are idle for more than 5 minutes. And most importantly, turn off the lights when you leave a room!
Changing the way you consume energy can have a significant impact on the overall price of a solar energy system. Reducing energy consumption can shave off thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars from the final cost of a system.
It seems like today, everyone wants to produce their own watts through solar panels and wind turbines. But we need to first produce “negawatts.” Negawatt power is a term promoted and introduced by Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain Institute; essentially, the term means that by saving energy, we create a “virtual power plant,” thus not having to create a new power plant to increase electrical supply. The direct reduction in electrical demand through energy efficiency is called a Negawatt.
Energy efficiency and solar power fit very well with each other. When considering solar power, think about easy ways you can reduce your consumption first Ė that way you’ll save tons of cash, making the solar investment that much more attainable.
Are you doing anything to save energy that I haven’t covered? Please share!
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Deep Patel is the Founder & CEO of GoGreenSolar.com, a leading solar and wind power internet retailer and online community.
Intent.com provides content and community for who you aspire to be–personally, socially and globally.