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.)
Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category
“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.
This first quarter of the year is supposed to be devoted to tips on home energy savings, and it would not be complete without talking about water. Saving water also saves energy, especially if you are talking about saving hot water. Saving water saves money, too.
- The first, easiest, cheapest thing to do is to install low-flow aerators in all faucets. I did this last year, and it took me about 15 minutes to do 5 sinks. The only tool I needed was a wrench. What does an aerator do? Most faucets have a flow rate of about 2.2 gallons per minute, and an aerator will take it down to 1.5 gallons per minute. It does this by mixing more air in with the water, so you can’t tell the difference in water pressure. Assuming a faucet is used for 10 minutes/day (teeth brushing, hand washing, shaving), that saves 7 gallons per day — over 2,500 gallons per year — which can really add up over time, both in cost savings and fresh water savings. Faucet aerators cost between $3 and $20 each; and some utility companies even offer them for free. Here’s one on Amazon that takes the flow rate down to 0.5 gallons per minute for under $5: 0.5 GPM Faucet Aerator Depending on how much water you use, the financial payback makes it a no-brainer. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YycSEQHPqZ0]