Solar 101

Free Energy Audit You Can Do Yourself

To get the most out of your solar system you should first check and see how efficient your home is? I am going to take you through a check list for you to determine the efficiency of your home.

Let’s start with Insulation. It is very important to have the right amount of insulation in your home because heating and cooling makes up a very large part of the electric bill in most cases.  The main areas that need to be insulated are the attic, crawl spaces, and exterior walls.  The R value should be standard R-38.  If your R rating is lower you can add insulation to it to increase the value.  The higher the value the better quality job the insulation will do for your home. 
 The next places to insulate would be the windows and doors.  These areas need to have proper seals and no gaps or leaks.  They can be sealed with calking and doors have a number of different kinds of weather stripping and barriers that you can buy.  After you have checked your windows and doors you may want to go around and check for any other wholes or cracks that you notice drafts appearing.  
  Don’t forget to check your water!  You can wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket as well as your hot water pipes in foam insulation.  Doing this will keep your water warmer by 2 to 4 degrees.  You may also like to check your water heater to see if it is functioning properly.  The heating elements may still work but start to draw more power if not functioning properly so it is a good idea to get a meter and test it once in a while to make sure its level of energy draw has not changed and that it also is an energy efficient model.

Next up is light bulbs.  A standard bulb take 60-100 watts and a standard home can have anywhere   That’s a lot!  I suggest if you have a higher number of bulbs to start with the most used light bulbs and replace them with LED lights.  They give excellent lighting and use on average about 5 watts per bulb.  Now that’s a huge difference. 
from 20-50 bulbs.

Appliances are the final and most important energy hog.  Your heating and cooling system can be for most people number one in energy use.  You may like to go through your options here because there are many.  You may choose natural gas, wood stove, pellet stove, rocket mass heaters, electric heaters, swamp coolers, passive cooling, and air conditioning.  Each has there place depending on your needs. 
 The stove is a very big item to look at.  Using an electric stove can range from 4000-7000 watts.  This option can be changed to a large counter top oven which takes closer to 1300 watts per use giving you a substantial savings on energy.  You may also opt for the gas stove. 
 For the Fridge and washer/dryer make sure they are energy star rated to give you the best efficiency possible. 

Now take a look at the smaller things such as leaving the lights and the t.v. on when no one is using them.  Maybe you can have a talk with the members of the house hold to help remind one another to turn things off when no t in use. 

After you have completed your energy audit on your home you may find that your electric bill has gone down quite a bit already even without solar.  Now you can reap the rewards of an energy efficient home and as you move on now to size your home for a solar system you can feel confident that the numbers are right for your needs and you are getting the best system. 

How Many Peak Sun Hours Do You Get Per Day?

If your thinking about a solar system for your home you should take into account how much sun light your area produces. In this picture below you can see your zone.  Each zone gets different amount of light which will change the output you get from your solar panel system. In the winter time the amounts may change up to 50% Less then what you would get during the rest of the year. Make sure you calculate correctly to off set these winter months.

Sun Hours Zone Map

ZONE 1:  6 Hours

ZONE 2: 5.5 Hours

ZONE 3: 5 Hours

ZONE 4: 4.5 Hours

ZONE 5: 4.2 Hours

ZONE 6: 3.5 Hours

These numbers are based on a yearly average of full sun days.

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