Next up: Solar Photovoltaics. The first thing that everyone needs to know about solar energy is that there are two basic types of solar panels: those that provide electricity (photovoltaic panels, or PV), and those that provide heat. They are two entirely different types of panels that work in entirely different ways, with different costs and benefits. So when someone says: “I want solar,” I always clarify which kind first. (“Passive” solar is another type, but that does not involve any equipment.)
“Geothermal” is a little bit of a misnomer, because true geothermal works only in specific places where there are hot spots in the ground. Most people who use this term are referring to ground-source heat pumps, which take the relative heat
and cooling from the earth to heat and cool the home. The easiest way to think about it is a heat exchange system uses the earth’s constant 50-55 degree temperature to help you get to your desired home temperature, which is usually between 68 and 72 degrees. In the hot summer months, think about that outdoor air conditioning compressor that has to work so hard to bring in 90-100 degree air and cool it down. Instead, the ground source heat pump brings in 50 degree water to help cool the air. Another benefit is that there is no outdoor air conditioning compressor.
The first ten tips I have offered so far have been relatively easy and inexpensive to implement. The next tips will be devoted the things that are not easy and not inexpensive, but in my experience can be totally worth it in the long run. Over the next several weeks, I’ll cover some of the larger investments, like solar and geothermal. I’ll address what it is, how it works, and the costs and benefits. Many of these larger investments also come with either tax credits and/or utility rebates that help defray the upfront cost, which I’ll address at the end of each topic.