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Top 5 Misconceptions about Solar Power

img 10The problem with trying to get accurate information about solar power is that there is more than just the science to consider, and some people get off track with political, social and even emotional reactions to the subject of energy and the environment. However, people are not entitled to creating their own facts. To dispel the fog of misinformation, here are the top five misconceptions about solar power that are promoted by oil companies, coal producers and other vested interests.

Misconception #1: Solar-powered life requires sacrificing modern conveniences

Solar power augments the power you get from the local utility, or one can install a system that will supply all your needs. Solar-powered homes have all the appliances that other homes have—washers, dryers, computers, television sets, CD players, refrigerators and so on. To the degree that solar power gets you thinking about your power consumption, after which you may dump the gas lawn mower in favor of the human-powered variety, you may find any number of ways to reduce your needs. However, you don't need to live in "the Stone Age," which is the picture some opponents paint.

Misconception #2: You need storage for solar power

The prevailing misconception is that one must consume the energy as it's generated or lose it if it is not stored. In this scenario, without storage batteries, (extremely expensive) there would be no available power at night. The net metering system allows the utility companies to "absorb" the energy your system would generate then credit you for the energy supplied. Consumption of energy is supplied from the power grid at any time during the day or night. First the credits are used up, and you pay only for the excess usage.

Misconception #3: Solar power "isn't quite ready for prime time"

No technology is ever "finished" and science progresses in every area, but at different speeds and with differing rates of social adoption. Solar power generation is a fairly mature technology at present, and research and development continues, of course. That said, Solar has demonstrated that with the aid of incentives and rebates, a fairly hefty payoff in just 4-10 years. In the future as the technology becomes more efficient and cheaper, that figure will be reduced.

Misconception #4: Electricity from solar power is expensive

Power plants are expensive, too, but in this country most of the ones producing most of the power are paid for (average age is over 50 years), not to mention the large subsidies for the "public utilities" that figure into operating costs and customers' bills. Still, even today you will find it less expensive to install a solar system than connect to the grid if you are more than about 500 yards from a utility connection.

Misconception #5: A solar power system requires fossil-fuel energy as a backup

This misconception is neatly tied to item #2 above. By being tied to the grid, as is the most common setup in residential areas, your home will no doubt be supplied with all the energy it requires on any given day, cloudy or dark. Your home will have power as long as the residential area is supplied with energy, the major difference being that your home will contribute to the energy grid and thus your energy bills will be greatly reduced. A fossil fuel backup generator may only be helpful in applications where being tied to the grid is NOT an option i.e. a cabin in the woods scenario. Even in this case a battery backup option can store any energy you might need. Other solar power myths and misinformation

Energy independence, not just for America but for Americans individually, can be achieved with the right mix of science, policy, and mindset. Solar power is a huge component of any "energy future" one can imagine, and is here, ready to use, right now. Yes, it will continue to evolve and improve, but it is already a mature technology with a proven track record. Don't let misconceptions from naysayers and fossil fuel propagandists deter you from making solar power a part of your future.

Does Going Solar Make Sense For Your Home?

img 1small"Going solar" sounds like a no-brainer. It's true that tapping in to the power of the sun has multiple advantages in the best cases. You can lower your energy costs and also do your share to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, contributing to a cleaner environment.

However, going solar requires you to consider, a number of important factors. Take a moment to consider the following factors before you answer the question, "Does solar make sense for you?"

Is Solar Worth Your Energy Output?

Solar systems are not inexpensive, so if your monthly energy bill is less than $100 there may be other more economical ways to reduce it than going solar. You should do a quick self energy audit to determine how much energy you use, and then research what steps you could take to reduce the amount. Part of understanding the cost of solar is figuring out how much you will be saving.

Solar Is Not Free.

Although a solar system can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years that initial investment is a large one. There are however, various, state and federal incentives that can reduce the financial impact, by up to 50%.

Is Your Roof shade free?

If your roof is under shade for a good part of the day, this will reduce the efficiency of the panels. To reduce system size and cost it's advised that there be no shade cover over the panels during prime sun hours. If there are trees causing such cover, you will have to determine if they can be trimmed or removed.

Does your Roof have southern exposure?

Southern roof exposure remains the most effective orientation for your solar electric panels. Other orientations may work, albeit less effective 90-95%, leading to a larger, more expensive solar system. However it is always best to consult with your solar installer during his onsite visit, as the cost increases may be minimal.

Making the decision for solar installation

The decision to go solar provides a lot to think about. You need to get a good picture of what your current energy usage is, and learn how you can reduce your energy consumption in low, and no, cost ways. A reputable and professional installer will take any worry off your shoulders, and your costs will come back in big savings over the life of the installation. A good solar installer will also help you navigate through the permit procedures and rebate applications that differ state to state. Professional installers keep current on all of the various incentives that can dramatically lower your initial costs

5 Easy Steps to Maximize Solar Power Savings

img 4smallYou've done all the research, crunched all the numbers and have finally decided to move forward with your plan to install a solar power system for your home. But are you sure about the size of the system you need? Make it too big and you're wasting money.

You are about to invest a sizeable amount of money, as residential solar power systems for the average American home cost between $10,000 and $50,000 (Before solar incentives). "Solar prepping" your home with these simple steps can help make your home more energy efficient, and thus reduce the size and cost of your solar system.

Step #1: Modern Windows, Drapes Keep Cold Out, Heat In

Some homes, and not just older ones, tend to "breathe" a lot. That is to say, the windows and doors do not shut tightly and have poor insulating characteristics. Modern windows, especially double-paned, are much better insulators than single paned windows. Old or new, you should periodically check window perimeters, inside and out, for cracks and leakage.

Step #2: Door Seals Help Insulate, Too

Along with windows, doors are one of the main ways that air gets in and out of your home. There is not much you can do about opening and closing them for access, but there are plenty of low- and even no-cost things you can do to keep them from "breathing" so much. The most common add-ons for doors are the seals for the bottom, which can be screwed or glued on quickly. A great test is on a cool evening place your hand at the base of the front door, if there is a breeze then a new seal may be an order.

Step #3: Check Your HVAC System

Whatever kind of heating, ventilation and/or air conditioning (HVAC) system you have, check for leakage of any kind. For central units, you will also want to check the filters, as clogged ones can dramatically reduce efficiency, and ducts, to ensure that there are no leaks. If you have window-mounted a/c units, you will want to ensure a snug fit, and make sure the vent is closed when it's not in use.

Step #4: LED bulbs

LED are tremendous energy-savers, and as the technology improves and longer bulb lives become more common, they will be money-savers, as well. Although the primary savings will be attributable to their lower power consumption, they are cooler bulbs and therefore will have a small but continuous heat-reducing effect.

Step #5: The Energy-Conscious Lifestyle

Being a conscientious planetary citizen takes more than green bumper stickers and Energy Star appliances, although these help (the appliances more so than the bumper stickers). It will take a strong, cooperative effort in cities, counties, states, the U.S. and the world, and it starts with you. It all depends on your effort to develop an energy-conscious lifestyle to ease your financial burdens as well as the planet's environmental ones.

Preparing Your Home Means Preparing Yourself

As you can see, preparing to install a solar power system means much more than estimating the square footage of sunlit roof area, or figuring out the rebate plan in your state. When you take the steps toward installing your solar power system, these simple steps will keep your energy-use estimate low, and will help save thousands on a system that is sized properly for your home. Reducing your energy consumption will save you money as well as relieve energy pressures on the planet.

Putting Solar Savings into Numbers

img 2smallSome may admit to feeling a little guilty that "going solar" was, at least in part, motivated by a desire to save money. The important thing to remember in this case is the effect, not the motivation. If you can save money while doing your part to reduce carbon (CO2) emissions, so much the better, and there is nothing to feel guilty about. The environment stands to benefit most of all.

The numbers are very encouraging, and should dispel any lingering doubt about the economic and environmental cases for solar power.

Energy usage facts (All figures in this article are from the EPA unless otherwise noted.)

National figures show an annual average electricity use of 11,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours), a bit over 900 kWh monthly.
The approximate average cost of energy is $200.00 each month.
The average American home emits over 16,000 pounds of CO2 annually. It takes 24 trees to offset that.
The figures seem even more compelling when you compare them with auto use.
The average person drives 12,000 miles each year with an approximate rating of 20 MPG. this "average car" will use 600 gallons of gas in a year.
The EPA estimates 19.4 lbs. CO2 produced per gallon used.
19.4 lbs. CO2 / gallon x 600 gallons of Fuel = 11,640 pounds CO2 emitted.
If you go solar for all your electricity use, you are taking the equivalent of 1.37 cars off the road. Think what an impact just your neighborhood, much less your city, could have on carbon emissions by installing solar power systems!

Real solar impact

When we project energy savings from solar as an experiment let us consider what would happen if a mere 5% of American households offset their energy use with solar power. In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of households in America was 111,162,259. Rounding up we get 112 million, so 5% is 5.6 million households. That's a large number of homes and it yields an impressive win for our environment, if it came to fruition:

If 5% of American households go solar, it means that, as a nation, we are:
Taking 7,700,000 cars off the road!
Removing 89,600,000 pounds of CO2 from the environment.
Offsetting the entire fleet of automobiles sold in the US. in 2007.
Retiring 6,900,000 trees from their "CO2 offsetting" jobs.

Solar power science, statistics and sense

The solar power industry is unique in many ways, and one of the most interesting aspects of how it is marketed and "sold" to Americans is its reliance on science, statistics and sense. In few other industries is a fully informed, skeptical and cautious consumer welcomed as warmly. The fact is, everyone involved with alternative energies and energy conservation knows that education is the key to encouraging adoption of new, environmentally friendly energy sources.

The EPA, Sierra Club and various other environmental agencies and organizations provide a wealth of information about the impact of energy use on our planet. If you want to be an informed consumer, do some reading. If you are considering an investment in a solar power system, consult people who are knowledgeable in the field. Get the facts, use your head, and you will likely find that your wallet will agree with you about the benefits of a solar power system for your household

Home Improvement Returns: Solar Power Savings

img 5smallA solar power system is without a doubt the best, most cost-effective way most homeowners can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment. It is also a proven way to save on energy costs if you are currently paying upwards of $150-$200 per month to your local utility. But did you know that many different studies, conducted by the real estate and home improvement industries, have shown that solar installations give you a better return on your investment that any other home improvement? It's true.

Of course, real estate markets differ from state to state, and city to city. Overall, local markets determine the resale value of homes, but some improvements to your house increase its value in any market. It is important to know up front that you need to do some legwork if you want to see your home improvement investments result in an increased sale price for your property. First of all, you should consider the different impacts of various home improvement investments.

Bath, kitchen and beyond ... and solar

Improvements to bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of the home, both inside and out, rarely result in lowering a home's ongoing operating cost. Investments in cosmetic improvements are only worth additional money to the particular people who will value them. The proven, demonstrable monthly savings inherent in a solar system will be important to any buyer.

Most solar installations will pay for themselves in 4-14 years, after which you will essentially be "making money" for the life of the system. A common 3kw home solar system for example shows that the installation performs as well as a 17% stock return, assuming a conservative energy cost increase of 5% annually. The greater that energy cost increase is, of course, the greater your ROI (Return On Investment) will be by locking in the operating costs of solar today.

Economics of solar improvements vs. home improvements

Long-term studies published in the Appraisal Journal indicate that home improvements that save money on annual electricity costs will increase the property's value by a 20-to-1 ratio. In other words, if you are saving $1,000 a year off your electricity bill by using solar power, the increase in your property value is a cool $20,000. Home buyers choosing between a home that generates free, self-supporting solar power and a typical home that generates thousands of dollars per year in electricity bills will usually make the rational decision, all other things being equal.

In just about every state, increases in assessed property value attributable to solar power systems are fully exempted from property taxes. When you factor in the rebates and incentives, and run the figures over the lifespan of the solar installation, solar power begins to enter the "can't lose" category. On the other hand, the aforementioned cosmetic upgrades to bathrooms and kitchens and even outdoor landscaping do add to your property's assessed, taxable value, making it less likely that you will recoup these costs when you sell.

Making the case of the value of solar installations

You may need to do some strategic thinking when it comes time to sell real estate agents and potential homebuyers on the value of your home's energy efficiencies. There are a variety of ways to do so. A simple chart, comparing the monthly and annual energy costs of your home versus similar homes that rely 100% on the power grid, can be a very compelling part of a sales brochure or web listing. It will be up to you and your agent to communicate these real, tangible savings to all potential buyers. Many people will not even consider energy costs when shopping for a home, and will simply assume that all houses of similar size and location have roughly equivalent utility costs. Having a solar installation power the house will be a stand-alone value point to many buyers that will put you ahead of the competition.

You need to consider not just the actual appraised value set by the market, but the personal values of the possible buyers. For many people environmental awareness and sustainable living are not just words on a bumper sticker, and for those who want to live according to earth-friendly principles a solar system can have a value well in excess of the dollar amount accorded to it. The solar installation may not only set you above the other homes, it may be the difference-maker in their buy decision.

Bottom line facts

The long-term "Appraisal Journal" studies clearly show that homeowners can profit by making wise investments in energy-efficient technologies, regardless of how long they end up staying in their houses. As soon as the decrease in monthly energy costs exceeds the amount of after-tax mortgage interest financing the solar installation, there will be a positive cash flow. This will last as long as homeowners live in the houses, and when they decide to sell they will recoup their entire investment.

The challenge for real estate professionals, appraisers, sellers, and buyers is to take a long enough, hard enough look at the numbers to ensure that energy efficiencies like solar systems are accurately reflected in the market values of the improved homes. If these savings are not part of the formula, the appraised values of solar-powered homes could be unrealistically low. The good news is that the information is getting out there to the marketplace. More and more people are learning that solar power really is the best, and most valuable, home improvement investment.



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