An energy audit is a great way to determine steps than can be taken to increase the energy efficiency of a home, therefore reducing the household’s carbon footprint and energy bill. However, this story shared by Joe Wateski and Justin Greene of the Solar Energy World Energy Services Division, shows just how important it is to be mindful of the impact of our daily routines and activities, and how an energy audit quite literally saved the day.
Joe and Justin started the energy audit in a typical, all-electric home in Charles County, Maryland. Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that the house was purely electric, the team’s carbon monoxide detector started showing a reading of 3 ppm (parts per million) shortly after the start of the audit. Joe says that a dangerous level of carbon monoxide is about 9 ppm for long-term exposure, and 35 ppm is an immediate, “get out of the house” danger. Unable to determine a cause, they took the sensor outside, reset it, and continued the analysis. When the team moved to the upstairs of the home, the carbon monoxide meter showed 5 ppm. Puzzled, Joe and Justin continued the energy audit, unsure of why these readings were happening in a home that was fueled only by electricity.
The answer was found in the attached garage. At the time of the energy audit, there was nothing alarming to be found. However, it came to light that the customer’s daily routine included starting his car, which was in the closed garage with a remote starter. The home had an attic over the garage, which was not only attached to the living spaces of the upper level of the home, but also had a missing hatch cover. Having found a reading of 3-5 ppm 3 hours after the car had last been turned off, Joe and Justin put their theory to the test. The customer started the car, and within seconds, the carbon monoxide level rose to 500 ppm, and quickly surpassed 1200 ppm.
Joe and Justin quite possibly saved the lives of their customer and his family, and at the very least, they provided a much safer environment by educating the customer about the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Even more troublesome, Joe says that many home performance professionals do not use a carbon monoxide sensor when auditing an all-electric home. Says Joe, “Today was the perfect example of WHY we do WHAT we do HOW we do.”
If you are a home or business owner that is interested in solar power, you might have a lot of questions. While you are always welcome to send inquiries our way, we will be having a weekly Twitter chat that is dedicated to answering your questions. This will be particularly helpful for those who are interested in solar in Maryland, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.
To ask a question, you may fill out the #AskSEW form, or tweet @solareworld your question directly, using the hashtag #AskSEW. Then join the conversation every Friday at 10:00 AM for the answers to questions asked by you, and others who are interested in solar power.
You may be interested in:
Solar Energy World on Twitter
This Sunday, households everywhere will be tuning in to watch the Superbowl. Whether you are traveling to the big game, or cheering for your team with friends at home, fans of football and sustainable living can celebrate in the fact that the NFL is making the effort to go green.
Football uses a lot of energy. Lighting entire stadiums requires a lot of electricity, not to mention the energy used by players and spectators travelling to and from games, or even the fans that will watch from home.
Let’s take a look at the teams that will be playing this weekend. The San Francisco 49ers’ efforts to go green include plans for a completely new stadium by next year. According to NewSantaClaraStadium.com, the structure will be solar powered, and feature a living, green roof that will not on be covered in vegetation, but will contribute to the stadium’s energy efficiency. Other green features include parking for bicycles and electric vehicles, and recycled construction materials.
M&T Bank Stadium of the Baltimore Ravens is making efforts to be green as well. According to the Maryland Stadium Authority, the football stadium (along with Camden Yards) attempt to recycle as many materials as possible. From trash after game days, to construction material and old equipment, hundreds of tons of materials were recycled in 2012 alone. Plus, according to the Baltimore Sun, materials that can not be recycled are sent to the nearby RESCO plant, which uses the material to create steam energy, and reduces the total waste volume by 90%. The stadium is in the process of LEED certification.
Many other NFL teams and stadiums have joined the green movement as well, such as the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, both of which offset 100% of their electricity usage with renewable energy. Smaller sports facilities are considering the environmental and economic impacts of green operations, as well. At Solar Energy World, we have seen this locally with our own solar panel installations at Metuchen Sportsplex, and Soccer Dome II.
Solar power can definitely help homeowners save money on their energy costs, and at Solar Energy World, we have installed plenty of residential solar power systems. Many businesses are also seeing the benefits of solar power, both economical and environmental.
Furniture retailer IKEA aims to be powered by 100% renewable energy. This is part of the company’s commitment to sustainable operations, and many other businesses are following suit. This infographic from Solar Energy Industries Association shows the top 20 corporate solar users in America.
Solar power is not just for large companies and national corporations; several businesses have gone solar in Maryland. Our installation at Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market will reduce the grocer’s carbon footprint by an estimated 560,000 pounds!
Last year, the town of Thurmont, Maryland saw it’s first commercial solar installation with the completion of a solar electric system at Federal Stone Industries. In addition, Waldorf, Maryland saw the construction of the first ZeroHouse 2.0, a house that uses solar power and energy efficient design to net zero energy usage, on the east coast.
Many businesses and homeowners are making the switch to solar power, proving that renewable energy is not a fad, but a change that brings real benefit. Solar adopters are seeing lower energy costs, revenue generated by their solar systems, and they are significantly reducing their impact on the environment.
1. Solar power reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar power is clean energy. There are no byproducts or harmful pollutants released into the atmosphere when generating solar electricity. While traditional electricity sources require the burning of coal or fossil fuels, solar panels use solar energy immediately, without the need for combustion.
2. Solar energy is a renewable resource.
The sun fuels solar panels, so there is no need to worry about rising fuel prices if your home is powered by a solar electric system. Free, clean energy is always available, so solar panels simply provide peace of mind.
3. Solar saves money.
Solar energy is free. It has always been, and always will be free. Other sources of energy, on the other hand, cost money, and the price of conventionally supplied electricity continues to rise over time.
4. Solar power can earn you money.
Depending on the particular incentives for your location, you may be eligible to earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs. SRECs are earned based on the amount of energy generated by your solar power system. They can then be sold, meaning that you earn money simply for having a solar system on your roof!
5. Solar power means energy independence.
You can pay off your home and your car, but you may not have considered owning your electricity source. Solar power puts you in control, so that you will not have to pay the utility company every month. Not only is this good for your wallet, you can also be assured that your household’s carbon footprint has been significantly reduced by switching to solar power.
Do you want to learn more about solar power for your home? Join us for our Solar 101 Workshop!
If you have landed on this page, there is a good chance that you are a homeowner who is interested in using solar power for your home energy needs. While our website is full of great information about residential and commercial solar panel installation, those of you in the Maryland area have the opportunity to have your questions answered in person at our Solar 101 Workshop.
This two hour workshop will be held at the Solar Energy World headquarters in Elkridge, Maryland, and attendees will learn everything that they need to know about solar power for the home. This includes the process of analyzing your specific needs, the actual installation, financing and leasing information, as well as the details about special tax incentives for going solar.
Other benefits of attending the workshop include complimentary refreshments, and a tour of our solar powered rooftop, so that you can see the solar panels up close.
This event is free with RSVP or $20 at the door. RSVP is available on our Solar Workshop page.
Happy New Year from Solar Energy World! To ring in 2013, we have compiled a list of 13 ways to go green, so that this year can be your most eco-friendly year, yet.
1. Get a home energy audit.
Saving money and becoming more energy efficient are two of the benefits of having a home energy audit. An analyst will survey your home, identifying weak points where energy is lost. It’s an easy way to see where you can start saving money, and will point out the changes that will make the biggest impact.
2. Block drafts around windows and doors.
Gaps or cracks around windows and doors can cause significant heat loss in the wintertime (or gain, in the summer). Save energy by either sealing the weak points using caulk or draft guards, or having replacement windows or doors installed. Properly fitted windows and doors with energy efficient constructions will help maintain the temperature of your home, meaning that your heating and cooling system will not need to run as often.
3. Unplug electronics when not in use.
This simple tip will help save energy, and may also keep your home a little more organized in the process! Appliances and electronics continue to draw energy when plugged in, even if they are switched off. This is obvious with electronics that have a light or clock that remains on even when the device is powered down, such as a television or DVD player. The more you unplug, the more you save. Start by unplugging your cell phone charger when not in use, and unplugging and storing your hair dryer after you are finished, rather than leaving it plugged in on the bathroom counter. These small changes can add up to make a difference.
4. Save time and energy by planning errands together.
Try to run errands at the same time, and plan the route that makes the most sense. By stopping at several different places that are close to one another, all in the same trip, you will save time, and money on fuel costs.
5. Eat greener.
Styrofoam take-out containers, plastic sandwich bags, and paper wrappers are just part of the waste that food can produce. How can you reduce it? Be mindful of what you need, and look for reusable alternatives. Glass or plastic containers can be used to hold sandwiches or other lunch items, and frequenting carry out places a little less often may help. You could also bring your own reusable bag when picking up dinner from a restaurant, instead of using the paper or plastic tote provided.
6. Recycle old clothing.
When it is time to clean out your closet, don’t throw old clothing into the trash. Items that are in good condition can be given away or donated, of course. Items that are beyond the wearable state may be recyclable. You can either look for ways to re-purpose the fabric yourself, or look for a textile recycling drop off location near you.
7. Add some foliage to your home.
When decorating your home, consider adding more greenery. Potted plants not only look great, they also help filter the air in your home. Certain plants can help remove mold from the air, increase the humidity level, and also increase the amount of oxygen in the air. Besides, plants and flowers look great in any room of the house!
8. Look for alternative heat sources.
It might be cold outside, but do you really need to increase your thermostat setting? Before you turn up the temperature a few degrees, try adding a sweater, a blanket, or lighting a fire in the fireplace.
9. Choose energy efficient appliances.
Many electronics and appliances are labelled as Energy Star certified. These products must meet certain levels of energy efficiency in order to bear the Energy Star seal. Choosing these products over others will ensure that you get the benefits you are looking for, while using less energy than similar products.
10. Wash in cold water.
Heating water is an energy expense that you may not need in all situations. Unless a garment is labelled that it must specifically be washed in hot water, you can save energy by washing laundry in cold water. Remember to choose the appropriate water level for the amount of laundry being washed!
11. Save water with every flush.
A conversion kit can help reduce the amount of water used every time you flush the toilet. Alternately, you can place a brick or a water bottle filled with gravel in your toilet tank to take up space and displace the water. This will cause the toilet to fill with less water after you flush, which adds up to a lot of water saved!
12. Reorganize your home for better air flow.
Take a look at your home. Are you heating rooms that are barely used? Are your air vents blocked by furniture, such as sofas or bookcases? Close the vents in rooms are that barely used, and close the doors to keep heat in the rooms used the most frequently. Move furniture away from air vents to allow heat into the center of the room.
13. Choose renewable energy.
Of course, we need to point out our favorite way to go green: solar power! Having a renewable energy system for your home means that you will reduce or eliminate your energy bills, while also reducing your impact on the environment. Renewable energy sources, such as solar power, are completely clean, meaning that harmful byproducts are non-existent when electricity is produced.
Solar Energy World strives to consistently provide the highest level of customer service. We are honored and pleased to announce that, because of our efforts we have earned the Super Service Award for 2012. Please see our press release for more details about the qualifications for this esteemed award.
Have you worked with Solar Energy World, yet? See for yourself why customers are raving about us, and set up your free solar analysis, today!
The Solar Holiday Photo Contest is under way, and Solar Energy World is looking for photos of solar-powered homes that are decorated for the holidays!
If you are a home or property owner that has chosen solar power, and you have decorated for the holiday season read the contest rules and submit your entry. Hurry, because all entries must be submitted by Wednesday, December 19, 2012.
All entries will be uploaded to the Solar Holiday Photo Contest Pinterest board by Solar Energy World. Vote for your favorite photos by “liking” the pins, and don’t forget to re-pin your favorites to encourage your followers to vote!
You may be interested in:
Solar Holiday Photo Contest Rules and Entry
Solar Energy World on Pinterest: Solar Holiday Photo Contest
A major deciding factor when considering solar power is money– how much will a new solar electric system cost, and how much will it save?
The good news is that solar power is significantly less expensive to install than it was just ten years ago. Government incentives, plus attractive financing or leasing options, make solar more affordable for homeowners everywhere. Even better, an expected return on the initial investment is seven years or less.
Still, many people question what exactly it will take to make solar panels even less expensive. Researchers are actively pursuing new technologies that increase the efficiency of solar panels, and reduce the cost.
One idea is to create solar panels from cheaper and more widely available materials. The solar cells of today are made of silicon, which reacts to sunlight to produce the photovoltaic effect that solar electric systems rely upon. This effect is magnified by doping the silicon with impurities. Any semiconductor, such as silicon, can be doped, but not all semiconductors are created equal. Cheaper alternatives to silicon do not maintain the “doped” effect as well as silicon, so other methods of enhancing the photovoltaic effect on cheaper semiconductors are currently under development. You can read more about the UC Berkley study regarding this, here.
Other ideas for improving the efficiency of solar panels include designs that trap sunlight within the structure of the cell, instead of reflecting it. This would improve efficiency by absorbing more of the sunlight that hits the surface of a solar cell, rather than absorbing a percentage and reflecting the rest.
The key to reducing the cost of solar panels is to improve their efficiency so that fewer panels are needed to meet electricity demand, and to use less expensive and more readily available materials to reduce the cost of the panels themselves.
Solar power is now more affordable than ever. Solar Energy World can help you on your way to energy independence. Call us now to set up your free solar analysis.