10 Ways to Conserve Energy

So, you have decided that it is time to reduce the amount of energy you use for running your household, but you just don’t know where to start. You were probably motivated by the desire to save up some money on utility bills, but there might also be an idea of environmental protection in the back of your mind, which is great and commendable by any means.

If you want to learn how to save energy at home, first of all, it’s necessary to make some simple and small changes in your behavior, but also, you have to start thinking differently, which is a much bigger issue and a much harder task.

We present you now with the top ten ways you can conserve energy. We suggest you first start practicing the advice we put on top of the list because they will be easier to implement, and then continue with those more challenging assignments. Don’t forget that these types of transitions take time, as well as some investment if you truly want the more permanent and significant shift.

1. Replace light bulbs

Up until recently, we didn’t know this, but the traditional light bulbs are huge electricity consumers. They are spending a great amount of power, and if you want to start saving up, consider replacing them with energy-efficient alternatives. It would be best to use LED lights, halogen bulbs, indoor solar lights, or CFL lights because they spent from 25 to 80 percent less electricity. For outdoor you can use outdoor solar lights for your garden, deck, or path.

Also, you will be happy to hear that they last from three to 20 times longer than those previously mentioned ones most of us are still holding on to. Yes, the alternative, more efficient bulbs are quite expensive, but only if you look at this as a short term purchase. But, if you behold it as an investment, and compare their price to their quality, you will see that you will spend less money on these products.

2. Change your behavior

The habits we have, when it comes to the way we act around our house are extremely important. If you want to make some changes in your bank account, you need to start by making those in the way you behave and live. For example, you can practice energy conservation by simply turning off the lights when you leave the room, by washing your dishes manually instead of putting them in a dishwasher every day, or by renouncing the dryer, which is known to be a huge electricity spender and hang-dry your clothes.

Of course, the greatest reduction implies you need to turn down the heat at your apartment during the winter, at least by a few degrees. Another thing that will save you the money is a decision not to use the air conditioner when the summer comes, but instead to turn on the fan. These two things, cooling, and heating are usually responsible for half of your bills, so these measures will make some changes money wise for sure. Also, you can use an energy monitor to establish which home appliances spend the most electricity on an everyday basis.

3. Use smart power strips

We are all using a lot of electronic devices in our homes, and all of them have “phantom loads” – electricity that’s turning into waste when they are in a standby mode or turned off. We are actually not aware of how massive this vain expense is. It is estimated that around 75 percent of the energy used for home electronics is consumed in those moments when they are not in active duty. And that’s something that can cost us up to $200 each year.

So in order to avoid this, you should buy smart power strips, which can make the phantom load disappear. They will eliminate this problem by completely turning off the power of each electronic device when they are not being used. There are several ways to do that. You can set up the stripes to turn off the electricity usage at the moments when the appliances are inactive, at the assigned time, with the help of remote switches, or based on the status of a “master” device. Most people agree that this is probably one of the smartest things you can do for our budget.

4. Buy energy-efficient appliances

The thorough research showed that all home appliances together consume around 13 percent of total energy use. Given that we need a lot of these electronic devices to maintain a certain level of comfort we are used to, we tend to purchase more affordable items. The experts in this matter claim that that is a mistake and that we need to pay attention to two numbers. The first one is the one on a product’s price tag, and the second one is the annual operating cost of it.

The truth is that energy-efficient appliances cost a bit more, but if you want to save up long term, you should know that their operating cost is from nine to 25 percent lower than the one conventional models dispose of. So if you think this is something you might be interested in, when purchasing new household devices, pick the ones that have the “Energy Star “label. That will provide you a federal guarantee that the item utilizes less energy when it is on standby, as well as during the use, than any standard non-energy efficient product.

5. Install smart thermostat

We already said that heating and cooling are wearing up to half of our average electricity bill. That’s why we have to think of a way not to use it when it’s not really necessary. The smart thermostat or programmable one can help us with that. We can set them up and arrange to automatically reduce or turn off completely the heating or cooling, during those moments where we are not there, or we are sleeping. That way, we will avoid wasting the electricity on these actions, while not making compromises with our comfort.

If you do all the calculations, you will see that by using these devices, you can save up to $200 every year, which is not insignificant. There are different models of programmable thermostats, and some of them have additional features like indicators that will show us when to replace air filters. That will save us some extra money since it will improve the efficiency of our cooling and heating home technology.

6. Set up energy-efficient windows

This is another well-known fact. Low quality and inadequate windows can be a source of enormous energy waste. You might find yourself in a situation where 25 percent of your energy bill goes unused because of this. The trick that will prevent heat loss is to replace a single-pane window with a double-pane one.

If you live in cold regions, it would be best to install gas-filled windows that have “low-e” coatings since they can reduce the heating waste quite significantly. There are also so-called storm windows (interior and exterior) that are suitable for locations where the weather can be a bit extreme. They can reduce unnecessary heat loss by up to 20 percent, which is truly something. And “low-e” coating windows are an excellent solution for a warm climate because they can lower the heat gain by restricting the amount of energy entering your home. This move will save you around $100 per year, and if you add some curtains, shutters, or screens, you will be in even better situation money-wise, since those things can provide an extra layer of insulation between the outside heat and your home.

7. Lower water heating expenses

We suspect you love showering for hours with extremely hot water, but you have to know that that pleasure costs you a lot. Water heating is creating a huge difference in your electricity bill/ But don’t worry, there are ways of reducing your expenses without buying an energy-efficient water heater. The first method implies adjusting your habits when you are under the shower – simply don’t use so much hot water. The second idea is to turn down the thermostat on your water heater or to insulate the entire water heater as well as six feet of cold and hot water pipes.

If, however, you already decided to purchase a new, energy-efficient heater, make sure to buy a model that will meet all your needs. For example, if you have a large family, don’t pick the tankless water heater because although it will use the energy more responsible and efficient, it won’t be able to handle simultaneous and multiple usages. And prepare yourself that they will cost more than regular water heaters, but they will last 10 to 15 years longer, and they will save you between 10 and 300 percent of electricity.

8. Upgrade HVAC system

The HVAC system is a system that unites heating equipment with air conditioning and ventilation. If you upgrade it to be more energy-efficient, you will save a significant amount of money each year. We already said that heating is responsible for half of our average home energy usage. That applies especially to those households that are placed in northern parts of the world. But you should know that when it comes to the “Energy Star “label, there are two different specifications – one is characteristic for southerners and another for northern parts of the United States. The research showed that you could lower the usage of electricity for this matter by 16 percent, which is equivalent to around $100 yearly saving.

Air conditioning won’t spend so much electricity, it usually takes around six percent of the total energy bill, but if you upgrade it to “Energy Star “, they will be eight percent more efficient. Given that the heating system and air conditioning can often be combined in one, you will be able to save up on both ends at the same time. And when it comes to ventilation, it is crucial to have a greatly isolated network that won’t have huge energy waste.

9. Insulate your home

If you have a desire to lower your expenses and to learn how to conserve energy, you have to think about proper insulation. It is a key to having an energy-efficient home because it will make sure the heat stays inside the walls during the cold days, and that heat from the outside doesn’t enter during the hot summertime. Depending on where you live, in what region temperature and climate-wise, there are different R-values that are recommended.

When building a house, it is necessary to insulate all walls, floors, attic, basement, and crawlspace. That way, you will create a barrier between the outsides and your house, which will be significant both during summer or wintertime. There are different methods and materials you can use to do that, but the most common are fiberglass, spray foam, and cellulose. It is especially important to make sure your attic is insulated, because the hot air inside the house is always rising up, and escaping through small openings.

10. Weatherize your home

Weatherizing, or as it’s also called sealing air leaks around the home area, is another way of reducing energy waste. The air will mostly leak through doors and windows, and it is not hard to get why, so you need to make sure to prevent that by ensuring there are no cracks between the doorframe or window and wall or vent.

In order to achieve that, you can use the caulk, especially if we are talking about stationary objects like the window frame, or whether stripes for moving objects, such as operable doors and windows. Those are not expensive solutions, and you can see them as a good investment since you will be able to return the money back in less than a year. To be sure you will lose as little energy as possible, you should think about weatherizing all the places you can in your household.

PACE Financing: Property Assessed Clean Energy Program

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So, you are definitely interested in transitioning to clean energy, but you are aware this project is quite expensive, at least if you are planning to go big and do everything right. The good thing is that the Government of the United States prepared some measures that can help you with that and make creating and maintaining clean energy more approachable.

Property Assessed Clean Energy program is one of the options you can go for. It is a program that was introduced in 2010 with an intention to help both commercial and residential buildings upgrade to the solar system or some other environment-friendly option.

What is the PACE program?

Property Assessed Clean Energy program, or in the short PACE program, is a financing package of measures funded by the government that’s available to individuals who would like to invest in clean energy alternatives for their homes or businesses. It is a loan created in a way that covers 100 percent of the project costs, in the form of a lien on the upgraded property.

It is very much alike to the traditional loan given that the applicant is getting money upfront, there is an interest rate, as well as a set repayment period that’s usually somewhere between five and twenty years. That way, business owners and homeowners are in a position to use their fundings to install a solar panel system or to upgrade to more efficient cooling, heating, or lighting options based on renewable energy.

What is a PACE Loan and How Does it Work?

First of all, you should know that you can use the PACE loan for numerous energy-efficient improvements. Installing or upgrading a solar system is just one of them. There is also the possibility of submitting the request for PACE in case you want to do seismic retrofitting for your home or commercial buildings if you are living in earthquake-prone areas, then in case you want to invest in energy-efficient roofing, LED lighting, in the HVAC system, etc.

The important thing is to remember that with PACE, the property you wish to invest in is collateral and that the debt isn’t tied to the owner of that property but to the property itself. Also, unlike traditional loans, PACE lending does not ask for regular monthly payments. You will pay this debt off through regular property taxes after your property was reassessed. In case you fail to pay this obligation, you will face the same penalties predicted for the non-payment of any other property tax bill. Here, the creditworthiness is of no importance regarding acquiring conditions for the loan.

In which states PACE is an option?

The PACE program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it comes from a local government agency or a third-party financial entity. To date, there are 36 states, including the district of Columbia, that are offering their inhabitants some kind of PACE program. While most states are proposing only commercial PACE programs, Florida, California, and Missouri also have residential ones.

It is encouraging that the PACE loan market is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. lending industry at this moment, so if you are living in Wyoming, for example, or North Dakota where PACE yet is not an option, there is a huge possibility that your situation is going to change pretty soon.

Advantages of PACE loans

People are very attracted by this loan for several reasons. Here are some of them:

  • Easy to qualify

You won’t have a problem getting this loan. If you compare the conditions and procedures typical for home equity loans that are also used for extensive home improvements, you will see that PACE is much more appealing. You just can’t have any recent issues in your credit reports.

  • Full coverage

You will get 100 percent financing for this project of yours, with no need for a down payment. Thanks to that you will be in a position to start the clean energy upgrade immediately, you won’t have to wait to save some money.

  • The depth goes with the property

Given that the PACE loan is bound to the property, the debt can move from one owner to another, if you decide on selling. So even though you have just finished with the house repairments, you can sell the property and transfer the debt to the buyer.

Disadvantages of PACE loans

There are also some shortcomings of this loan you should know about before applying.

  • Method of payment

We already explained that you would have to pay this debt through your regular taxes, but the truth is, this whole amount of what you own won’t be allocated to equal monthly amounts. The property assessments are something that needs to be paid once or twice per year. So that could be a great burden when the time for payment comes.

  • Interest costs

It is quite obvious that the loan you can get that quickly, and so easily, is followed with significant interest cost. You should bear in mind that these rates are often higher than the ones home equity loans have, so you need to calculate what is your best option given the circumstances and your needs.

Conclusion

Whenever there is money involved, you should double-check every information and second guess your own decisions. The PACE program is definitely something you should seriously consider if you want to invest in a clean energy upgrade, but make sure to know all the terms and details about how to get it and how to stay on course with it. You really don’t want any surprises there. But if you approach this subject vigilantly and with realistic expectations, PACE may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Solar Roof Shingles Explained

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If you entered the solar energy world fully, you must have heard a thing or two about the solar shingles. Many solar installers haven’t yet included them in their official offers since we are talking about a relatively new thing on the market, but the truth is a good reputation is following these discreet solar plates, which are threatening to maybe replace solar panels totally in the future.

What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles are revolutionary solar tiles created to look just like regular asphalt shingles many people use to cover the roof area. One of the first viable projects with solar shingles was installed in Colorado in 2011, so they truly are a super fresh thing on the market. They have the ability to collect and generate the sun’s energy into electricity for your home, but also to protect the roof from the external influences like rain, hail, or wind. Although they look quite fragile, the solar shingles are very durable and flexible – there’s no doubt about that.

The unobtrusive and refined design of solar shingles is the reason solar enthusiasts are willing to give them a chance, especially since it’s well known they can produce between 13 and 63 watts of energy each, depending on the manufacturer. They are very lightweight, and therefore very easy to install.

Lifespan and the cost

If you are planning on installing solar shingles, you should know that the price per square foot is somewhere between $21 and $25 if we are talking about the standard, single-story house. That means you will have to set aside a total amount of $60.000 in average for installing this new generation solar machinery. Of course, the price varies and very much depends on the size and slope of the roof, the condition of the site, and the shingles brand you plan on using.

Just like the solar panel system, the average solar shingles installation will last around 20 to 30 years, regarding the maximum efficiency. They won’t stop working after that period of time, but the energy output will be smaller for sure. If you are on the grid, it’s most likely you won’t have to replace them for a couple of years more, but if you wish they generate more electricity, you need to consult with a solar contractor and see what should be your next step.

Installation

You must be wondering how many of these solar tiles you will need to install so they could provide you with electricity. The answer depends on how big your house is, for starters, and how much solar energy you are planning on using. The great thing is that you don’ t need to replace your entire roof with solar shingles, they can be integrated into the existing one. The installation process is very simple, it will take around 10 hours for the professional to do it properly, but it’s not recommended for you to take things into your own hands, pretending to be a handyman.

Solar panels vs. Solar shingles

So, now you must be wondering why should you choose to go with solar shingles instead with the traditional solar panels, which, as confirmed, would do an excellent job for sure. We won’t try to persuade you, it’s up to you to make this decision, but we are going to point out some advantages and disadvantages of this new solar entity.

Many people agree that solar shingles are more aesthetically pleasing since they can blend in smoothly with the existing roof construction, while the numbers show they are 10-15 percent more cost-effective too (per watt) if compared to solar panels.

On the other hand, they can be less energy-efficient, which can be a deal-breaker, and they need to be placed on a roof with high sunlight exposure and specific slope. Also, you may have a problem of finding the solar installer willing to work with shingles, because they are still very new products on the solar market.

Conclusion

It’s such a great thing that nowadays we all have a choice in this particular matter. The solar industry is evolving and growing, so the options are not so narrowed down as they used to be. If you think about it, solar shingles are the new and improved version of solar panels. But they are not here to replace them, since they both make a significant difference and do the work just fine, but to offer you a choice, an opportunity to arrange your home the way you wanted, visually, and still make it be great solar-based station.

Net Metering for Home Solar Panels: How Does it Work?

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It’s not possible for your solar panels to produce the exact amount of electricity you will need each month. So, most people tend to install solar systems that will for sure cover all their needs, which means sometimes, or better say pretty often, there will be some extra electricity they didn’t manage to use. The question is, what’s happening with that unused power?

You don’t have to worry because the energy generated by your system will not perish, nor someone else will get to use it. There are ways for you to exhaust all your resources. We are talking about net metering, which is also known as net energy metering (NEM).

What is net metering?

Net metering is a solar incentive which provides you to store the extra energy in the grid system, in exchange for some credits. In situations that cause solar panels to stop working, like when it’s night time or low income of sunlight, you will be able to use those credits, and “take back“ that energy from the grid.

It’s quite simple. Net metering will allow you to bridge all those differences that arose throughout the year between needing more electricity at one moment and creating more than you need at the other. The unwritten rule is that most of the houses will generate an excessive amount of electricity during the summer months, and then use some amount of power from the grid when the cold winter comes along.

This is not the only procedure utility companies are using in order to help and praise homeowners for going solar, but it’s very common. In 41 states, there are mandatory net metering rules everyone has to apply, and two more countries have utility companies that permit this practice.

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How does the system work?

Besides helping you balance electricity usage during the whole year, net metering is also a great practical solution for maintaining solar harmony in everyday life. The thing is, we usually spend more electricity in the mornings and evenings, when we are at home, while the solar system is the most productive in the early afternoon. But with NEM, you don’t have to think about those things, you can just use the electricity as you pleased.

So, we established that the surplus energy your solar panel system provided went into the grid. But how does it all work when you are in a solar power deficit, and you need more electricity? Very simple, your meter will run in reverse.  In that case, everything will work the same as the time before you went solar.

How utility companies process net metering?

If we are talking about the first scenario where your solar system has produced more electricity than you need during one month, the utility bill will have a credit based on the number of kilowatt-hours you sent to the grid. The scene where you don’t have enough electricity to cover all power needs in the house implies that you have to “buy“ electricity from the utility company. If that happens, you will need to pay for what you’ve spent from the grid, minus the credit you have for pouring excess energy in the previous period.

Given those movements are quite predictable on an annual base, the utility company usually won’t send you the bill after those months when you generated some extra electricity. That way, you can build up credits during summer, so you can use them when the winter comes if needed. The great thing about solar is that you can assess the average annual needs and design a clever solar system, so you are always in perfect balance regarding the net metering.

What happens when you go off the grid?

Going off the grid isn’t something solar experts often recommend, because there is no need for that. When you are connected to the grid, and you use a solar panel system as the primary source of electricity, it’s like you have a reliable storage system that will never fail you. Otherwise, you will be forced to use some kind of home solar battery system, which can provide you only with hour-by-hour variations in the domain of solar electricity generation. No home system can replace all the benefits of net metering.

Conclusion

Net metering is definitely another great thing you can add to the pros list if thinking about installing the solar system and turning to the alternative way of living. It will confirm your decision is the right one. Just make sure to check is the net metering valid in your state, and have in mind that even if it’s not mandatory, like in Idaho or Texas, some utility companies still allow it.

Top 10 Countries Using Solar Energy

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As you already know, most of the world still relies on natural gas, oil, and coil for energy. However, some countries are quite interested in investing in renewable power. These nations fund large projects and encourage their citizens to produce energy by using solar panels.

So, where is solar energy used? As it turns out, the U.S. could learn a thing or two from countries like China, Germany, and Japan. These and other nations prove that solar power is a valid answer to a global search for alternatives to conventional fuels. In this article, we analyze the efforts of the top ten countries that use solar energy and profit from using sunlight-induced energy on a national scale.

10. South Korea

Situated on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea has huge plans when it comes to energy converted from sunlight. The government plans to add 30 GW (gigawatts) of photovoltaic power use in the next ten years.

The Moon Jae-in administration calls this plan “Renewable Energy 2030” – it is their answer to the public’s demand for safer and cleaner energy.

9. France

Once we take into account the country’s well-developed energy sector and strong economy, it’s no wonder that solar power took off in France. Driven primarily by large-scale installations, the country’s market grew close to 60% in the first half of the last year.

In 2016, François Hollande (the President of France) and Narendra Modi (the Prime Minister of India) founded the International Solar Alliance. The alliance’s main objective is to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

8. Australia

When ranking solar power by country, it’s impossible not to mention Australia. The country’s solar presence has snowballed in the last ten years, with more than two million installations as of September 2019.

However, many people argue that the nation could do much more – nearly all areas of Australia enjoy high sunshine hours. Fortunately, the government plans to fund new plants and increase production in the following years.

7. United Kingdom

In terms of installed capacity, the United Kingdom has finally managed to overtake Spain and France. Government initiatives encouraging homes, businesses, and schools to use solar panels have successfully assisted in establishing the UK as one of the continent’s leading sunlight-power producers.

In 2016, sunlight power accounted for 3.1% of the UK’s whole electricity generation. In 2017, this number rose to 3.4%. The country is on a slow but steady path of decreasing dependence on conventional fuels.

6. Italy

Over the last decade, Italy’s reliance on solar power generation has increased dramatically. Between 2009 and 2013, Italy saw a 15-fold increase in installed PV capacity, overtaking U.S., Japan, and China at the time.

However, the government’s tax breaks offered to solar farms have expired since then. This caused many sunlight powers farms to be closed or sold. Nevertheless, Italy still stands as one of Europe’s leading countries when it comes to harnessing the sun’s energy.

5. India

Getting into the solar game at the beginning of this decade, India is predicted to greatly increase its production by 2020. With India being a developing country, this energy plays a crucial role in purifying and heating water in many of its regions.

The Government of India, led by Narendra Modi, plans to increase the installed capacity to 100 GW in the next two years.

4. USA

The United States has had a long history of using sunlight-induced energy. Since the initiation of the SEGS Thermal Plant in 1983, the country has produced more than 17 million megawatt-hours.
The United States steadily improves its status as a solar power leader – almost $20 billion were invested in the solar industry in 2014 alone. The country is home to both the advanced domestic capabilities and large installations.

3. Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun has been one of the renewable power leaders ever since the 1990s. As well as being at the forefront of power generation, Japan is also one of the biggest manufacturers of technologies required for solar panels.

For the last couple of years, the Government of Japan has had sunlight power as one of its priorities. They’ve made panels more attractive and affordable to citizens by subsiding installation costs.

2. Germany

When it comes to European countries that use solar energy, Germany is the clear champion.

Although relatively small when compared to nations such as the US or Australia, Germany has been one of the planet’s top sunlight power generators for years. More than 120,000 of Germany’s households have solar units, and there are more than 30 important PV generation plants spread over the country. Germany plans to use nothing but renewable energy by 2050.

1. China

Among the world’s continents, Asia is the heaviest investor in solar power. As you can already guess, the top spot goes to China.

Surpassing Germany in 2015, China is now also the world’s leader for PV usage, having 174 GW of installed capacity. What’s more, the country’s energy providers are going into space – they’re planning to put a solar power station some 22,000 miles above the earth. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?

How Efficient Are Solar Panels?

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When reading up on solar panels, you’ll probably bump into the term “efficiency.” Although it sounds like a good thing, most people don’t exactly know what this term is. How efficient are solar panels? How do you even measure this?

In this article, we’ll analyze the factors that influence the performance of solar panels in detail – solar panel efficiency. Moreover, we’ll also go over the environmental factors that detract from it. With silicon-based panels being the most common type today, we’ll specifically cover the efficiency of this material.

What exactly is the efficiency of solar panels?

In simple terms, this is a measurement that determines the amount of sun’s energy a particular panel is capable of converting into electricity. A solar panel converts the sun’s energy into electricity by capturing the current that’s generated when sunshine interacts with the panel’s thin film or silicon cells.

Typically, the cells are arranged into glass rectangles and are packed tightly. This is so that they can attract sunlight. Once the energy is converted, it is sent to the user’s circuit box. From there, it is distributed to the rest of the house.

How is this measured? If a particular panel has 15% efficiency, it can convert 15% of the sunshine that’s interacting with it into electricity. The models with the highest efficiency are capable of reaching 23% efficiency. However, the average efficiency stands in the range of 15%-18%.

Which factors affect solar panel efficiency?

The performance of these products is affected by a whole host of variables. Here are the most vital ones:

  • The Type

As they’re based on the silicon of highest purity, monocrystalline panels sport the highest efficiency. The polycrystalline models don’t perform so well, but they still do the job. Finally, the thin-film models are somewhat inefficient, but they come at a low price. They do, however, take a lot of space, which makes them inadequate for most households.

  • Maintenance

In most cases, a solar system won’t require much maintenance. This is especially true in case it’s grid-tied. Nevertheless, one should clean his system regularly. This is because dirt, dust, and other debris can easily affect the panel’s performance. Using soapy water is usually more than enough. The rainfall can also do the job. Those who are afraid of heights can use the cleaning services. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to the question of how often should one clean his panels. To get the idea of how frequently you should wipe off the dust and dirt, you can simply monitor the power output.

  • Temperature

Unless you live in an excessively hot area (such as Phoenix or San Antonio), the temperature is not something you should worry about. Typically, the efficiency of a particular solar panel will decrease as the temperature increases. To combat this, most professional installers position the panels in a way for them to receive an adequate amount of airflow. This keeps the efficiency rates up by providing natural cooling.

  • Orientation

Another important factor is the orientation. To achieve the best performance, one needs to position his system in a way that maximizes the sunlight input. In the case of the U.S., this means that the panels need to be faced southward. To make solar panel orientation easier, one can use trackers. These devices make the panel follow the sun’s trajectory. However, solar trackers are too expensive for most homeowners, and they don’t pass a cost-benefit analysis. The more straightforward solution would be to use racks to alter the pitch of the roof. In most cases, this is more than enough to allow your system to spend more time in sunlight.

  • Shade

This one is a no-brainer. Depending on one’s setup, shade can even bring down the whole system. To prevent this from happening, one needs to consult professional solar panel installers. These experts conduct a thorough analysis of shading in one’s specific situation.

  • Lifetime

Like most other products, the performance of solar panels goes down with time. In most cases, this means a decrease in the power output of 0.5% with each passing year. Most companies back their models with warranties that guarantee that the performance won’t go below 25% after 25 years of use. Read here to learn how long solar panels last.

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Is it true that bad weather can decrease solar panel efficiency?

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding the solar panel efficiency is that bad weather can lead to reduced performance. However, the opposite is often true. Although designed to withstand average temperatures, these devices actually perform better when they’re cooler. They need light, not heat – some of the most productive days are usually bright winter days. Another thing people are often confused about is snow. There’s nothing to worry about – a thin layer of snow doesn’t affect the performance as much as you think it does.

About Renewable Energy

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We are living in a time when the climate is drastically changing, literally in front of our eyes, and renewable energy is striving to be used on a significantly larger scale. The fact is, there are no good reasons for renewable energy not to conquer and seduce the world. It costs less than the nonrenewable one, or it doesn’t cost at all, and it is eco-friendly, which is a thing we should pay more attention to in perspective.

In the United States, solar and wind energy are trending now. More and more people every day are turning towards alternative energy options. These two are already part of the national electricity grid, and their reliability is not compromised.

But it’s necessary to know that not every renewable source of energy is bringing nothing but benefits to our environment. Biomass or hydroelectric dams, for example, can seriously affect wildlife and climate, but that’s the subject for a different topic. Now, we are going to explain what this type of energy actually is, and what are its main sources.

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is the energy that comes from sources that cannot be consumed. We all know about the solar energy that’s the leading representative of this category, but there are also wind power, hydropower, geothermal power, and biomass, and they are virtually limitless, they can be replenished during an average human lifespan. On another side, we have nonrenewable energy sources like gas, oil, or coil that need thousands of years to be formed. That means their regeneration process is much longer, and that they can all be consumed before another round of them were to be created. In other words, they are available in limited amounts.

Although we believe the revolution in this matter is happening right now, and that renewable energy is some sense a new technology, the truth is the wind, sun and other natural sources are being used for heating, lighting, and transportation for many years now. The difference and the reason why this topic is so current and undeniable at this moment is that now we have effective and less-expensive ways to capture and retain renewable energy.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

types of renewable energySolar energy

The amount of sun’s energy people from all around the world use during one year is much less than the amount of it that falls from the sun to the earth in one hour. Impressive, right? Although, until recently, we didn’t know about this specific fact, we always were aware that the sun could be helpful in many ways. For thousands of years, we used the sunrays to prepare food, be warm, to grow crops, and now, we only expanded our possibilities of using this source, like for heating our homes, powering our devices, warming water, etc.

Solar energy is the energy that we get directly from the sun, and we can capture it and use it thanks to solar technology in a couple of ways. Mostly, it’s via solar panels, through photovoltaic (PV) cells that have an ability to transform sunlight into electricity. With the help of a solar panel system, we can generate enough power to meet all the needs of one’s home, but then, there are also solar farms that are using mirrors in order to concentrate sunlight and provide power for thousands of homes. The important thing is that solar systems do not create greenhouse gases and air pollutants, so they don’t affect our environment in a negative connotation.

Wind power

In the past, there were windmills that worked on the power of the wind. Today we have modern turbines that can be huge in diameter, and therefore able to produce an enormous amount of power. The system is simple, it’s based on a wind’s ability to turn the blades on a turbine, and that will feed the electric generator and create electricity.

Wind power is the energy provided by this natural phenomenon. But if you have in mind that the sun heats our planet unevenly and that because of that air circulates in different patterns around the earth, you will understand that wind power is actually an indirect form of solar energy.

Wind turbines can be placed anywhere, but it’s best to put them in a place where the wind gets to achieve high speed. So open planes, the top of the hill or open sea are the good choices. In the U.S., wind has become one of the cheapest energy sources. Oklahoma, California, Iowa, Texas, and Kansas have become top wind power states.

Hydropower

For now, hydropower is the leading source of renewable energy in the United States, when it comes to generating electricity, but it looks like the wind is about to take over the lead in this matter. Hydropower relies on fast-moving water, whether we are talking about a large river or high waterfall. It uses that natural force, and by spinning generator’s turbine blades convert the power of moving water into electricity.

Usually, people create dams in order to do that. They make it possible to store the water in a reservoir, after which it can be released through a turbine system and generate electricity. But there are a lot of disadvantages when it comes to large, mega-dams, so they are often considered to be nonrenewable sources of energy. They can negatively affect and reduce natural flows, and they can restrict access to the river area for humans and animals that are relying on it. Because of that, smaller hydroelectric plants, those with a capacity below 40 megawatts, are a much better solution since they won’t cause extensive environmental damage. Another way to create hydropower is by using tidal and wave power.

solar panels and renewable energy image

Geothermal

It is a fantastic thing that we are walking every day on a ground that hides so much power underneath the surface. There are all kinds of processes that are happening inside the earth, and one of them is the radioactive decay of particles that create heat called geothermal energy. The fact is that every piece of rock has traces of radioactive material on top of it, and that decays very slowly during a period of a couple of millions of years. That natural sequence of events generates heat and provides us with another source of renewable power. If you wait long enough, you can see this force in the form of volcanoes.

You should know that the core of our planet is heated just as much like the surface of the sun, and that’s only based on a regular decay of radioactive particles in rocks deep under the ground. When people drill deep wells, they bring extremely hot water on the surface, and then they use that hydrothermal resource in order to create electricity. That is possible thanks to the geothermal plants that usually pump the water and the steam it back into the reservoir. Creating this kind of useful power can be done with geothermal plants that don’t have underground reservoirs, but that might create a massive risk of earthquakes in areas that are considered to be geological hot spots.

Biomass

Biomass is renewable energy generated from organic material that comes from plants and animals. It is perceived as the most traditional source of renewable energy. We are talking about animal manure, waste wood, and crop waste. If you burnt those things, you would get the heat created from chemical energy, and that can generate electricity. There are two ways of achieving that. The first one implies that biomass fuels are burned directly, and the other way is based on converting them into biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol, so they can be burned later.

But here is a problem. Although biomass is basically a clean and renewable energy source, recently, one study showed that some forms of biomass are not really green, and probably not the right alternative to coal and other fossil fuels. The research proved that biomass, especially the one from woods, can produce extremely high carbon emissions. But that’s not the case with all of the biomass forms. Sawdust, for example, can be a great low-carbon energy source.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

Advantages

The most significant advantage of renewable energy is the fact that it is all around us. Every part of our planet has access to the sun, wind, water, and earth, so there are no monopolies, no owners who can create a particular market and blackmail you on conditions you can use these forces. Nonrenewable energy sources, however, can usually be found in one or a couple of specific places in the world.

Regarding that, renewable energy is limitless, we won’t run out of it. The climate might change, but the wind will continue to blow, and the sun will keep on shining. And that is something we cannot say about fossil fuels. It’s just a matter of time when we will run out of them. And that fact affects the cost of it, tremendously.

Then, there is the matter of protecting the environment, which is a huge deal nowadays when we become aware our planet can turn its back on us if we don’t treat it right. Nonrenewable energy sources are endangering the environment continuously. There is global warming, forest destruction, water pollution, air pollution, etc., and all those are consequences of using the planet’s potentials in an inadequate manner.

Also, renewable energy supports our health. It is well known that the usage of fossil fuels leads to emitting many harmful pollutants that can cause some cardiac and respiratory problems. And we don’t want that. Everybody would like to live in a world where the air we need to breathe in is not toxic or harmful in any other way. And there is also the question of greenhouse gases that are released in the atmosphere during the combustion of fossil fuels. That is the thing that brought on the rise of global temperature and extreme weather changes.

And we cannot forget about the fact that usage of this energy won’t cost us a thing. We do not have to pay for the sun to shine or for the river to continue with its flow. It’s all in nature’s hands, and it’s simply given to us. Of course, we do need to have some kind of a system that will allow us to use this energy in the right way, so there will be some expenses when you first decide to set it up, but you can forget about the bills and paying for heating, cooling, cooking, lighting up your home, etc.

Disadvantages

Although there are mostly benefits of using this clean and renewable energy, there can be some shortcomings, like always in life. The first one is the fact that renewable sources are not consistent, they are not available to us every day and in every minute of it. Usually, they are considered to be intermittent, which means that they are not able to provide us with what we need all the time. For example, the sun is not always shining with the same intensity, sometimes it’s cloudy. And the wind isn’t blowing the same way all the time, it’s more or less powerful.

The other problem is the fact that that energy needs to be stored somehow. If you use solar panel technology, you have to be able to keep the extra energy you generated one day, for all those days when there won’t be enough sunlight. Storage technologies do exist, and they are available, it’s just that they can be very expensive.

And of course, the geographic location is a crucial thing when we talk about natural and renewable sources of energy, but not everyone can answer this demand appropriately. People who live on a farm are in a position to use solar and wind energy in great capacity because they are in an open space, and there is nothing that can jeopardize this process, while people who are in a city flat won’t be so lucky. There are other buildings that are creating shade and prevent the flow of wind.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that renewable energy is our future and that it is a necessity if we want to protect and save our planet for the generations to come. The benefits are huge, undoubtedly, but it seems like it needs time for people to believe in it, to accept the time for change is now. It is good to know though that renewable energy provides around 20 percent of the U.S. electricity generation, and that it is becoming more and more popular in this country. There are even, on both federal and state level, policies that promote renewables and help them become the more popular and accessible solution.