E nergy efficiency is important to many individuals for financial and environmental reasons. As new energy technologies such as wind and solar-related devices are developed, more consumers look for ways to adapt such systems to their homes.
Principal Solar, Inc. Chief Operating Officer Ken Allen said the world is beginning an energy transition away from environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. One current popular interest is solar energy.
Because solar energy is free and abundant unlike fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, it is secure from geopolitical forces that affect the cost and supply, he said.
“The technology to capture the sun’s energy is developing rapidly and will continue to improve in significant ways over the next few years,” he said. “Government financial support for renewable energy is only temporary and will not be needed soon as the price for technology continues to decline.”
Michael Barriere, an energy consultant, commercial auditor, residential rater, and business owner said there are a number of misconceptions about solar energy.
Despite the belief panels do not work on cloudy days, they do still produce energy, he said. There are peak production hours for any system depending on location and time of year.
Utilities do not yet pay a fair market price for excess electricity owners produce, he said. In addition, sunlight and panel voltage is DC and must be converted to AC for home use. Batteries to store DC do make sense.
Allen said one misconception is solar energy products always will be dependent on government incentives and never self-supporting.
“The cost of grid electricity will continue to go up and the cost of solar energy will continue to go down,” he said. “These costs are already becoming competitive in some parts of the country.”
Photovoltaic modules are not the same, he said. They typically vary in efficiency from 8 to 20 percent. Research also is continually being done to find ways to improve their energy production.
What Homeowners Should Know
Although solar energy system costs currently are high and require government incentives to make them financially appealing, Allen said costs will continue to rapidly decline. The popularity of residential solar installations also is presently dependent on local programs.
A solar system on a rooftop will generate electricity for more than 25 years with no price increase, he said. Because there are no moving parts, nothing will wear out due to friction and the panels increase the value of a home.
Allen said owners can choose to live off of the electric grid and never pay another utility bill. Electricity still will be available for appliances and lighting in a home and can heat a home on the coldest days.
“During a mid-summer day when grid electricity may be three times its normal price, your solar system will produce maximum amount of electricity with no increase in price,” he said.
Barriere said it is important for homeowners to make sure their homes are energy efficient before installing solar systems because a typical home already wastes 20 to 40 percent of the energy the owner pays for.
Most homes leak air and draw in air that, depending on the season, must be heated or cooled and thus wastes energy, he said. The air drawn in often has contaminants and allergens that sometimes make indoor air worse than outdoor air.
He said when a home is properly weatherized, including having a sealed envelope, proper insulation, and upgraded appliances, it will use less energy and be comfortable and healthier. Such measures also add value to a home and can be rated for performance.
Overall, Barriere said energy efficiency initiatives create jobs, improve the housing stock, and build communities through economic activity. Homes, schools, office buildings, parking lots, and other structures are finding usage of energy efficient products beneficial.
Allen said the transition to sustainable energy sources is just beginning and one day the usage of fossil fuels will be eliminated. Costs to clean up fossil fuel emissions will eventually outweigh benefits.
“All renewable energy sources have certain characteristics that make them compatible with different climates,” Allen said. “All types of renewable energy will continue to be adapted into for several years as the need for fossil fuels become financially impractical.”
Featured Photo Source: Flickr - Schwarzerkater