Monday, October 06, 2008

Here Comes the Sun....or maybe not

So, in the interest of green/sustainable living, I have been thinking about installing solar panels for a while. I know, you probably think I'm crazy, living in Alaska. But in the summer, we actually get an incredible amount of sunlight, so it's not as ineffective as you might think.

Last night, I did some research on solar panels and found that a 1700 W (that's 1.7 KW) system would cost about $10K. Eep! So I was interested to see how much power we use vs. how much power that would provide. Annual average solar hours per day for Anchorage is about 3.7. So a 1.7 KW system would provide 6.29 KW per day.

As for our usage...drumroll please...we use an average of 20 KW per day! According to the Energy Star website, that's about 40% less than the average American. But considering the fact that the size of our home is about 40% less than the average American, well, we're not doing so hot. So, in order for solar panels to cut our electric bill by 50%, we would have to cut our usage a lot!

I'm not sure of the economics of this either. Let's say we buy 2 1.7KW panels for $20K. That would probably cut our electric bill in half. We currently spend about $1000K a year on down to $500 a year...I would have to do the economics, but it doesn't seem like a particularly good investment monetarily. (Contrary to popular belief, you can't just divide $20K by $500 and say it will take 40 years to pay it off. I learned that in my Enginering Economics class. There's a wonderful thing called the Time Value of Money which throws a wrench in the works).

Anyway, we can't install solar panels, because we rent. So the first thing is to try to reduce our electricity usage. I think a good goal for next year is to reduce our electricity usage by 20%. That would bring us down to 16 KWH per day (as an aside, after Ethan came home from Kuwait, our electricity usage jumped by about 20%. The obvious solution is to get rid of Ethan. But I kind of like him, so we'll let him stick around).

In all seriousness, the main way to reduce electricity usage is to upgrade your appliances. I know for a fact our fridge isn't very efficient because condensation collects between the doors. But again, we can't upgrade, so we'll have to look into other alternatives. I have some ideas for reducing our light usage when we're not home, like installing timers on our light switches so that they'll turn on right before we come home. That way our house is welcoming when we come in but we don't have to keep the lights on all night/day.

As for other things, well, I don't want to give up my grow lights, and Ethan doesn't want to give up his computer games/electronic music. So I will have to think some more. Any suggestions?

1 comment:

henna73 said...

We use timers inside the house, and motion lights for our outside lights. We have switched to CFL where possible. We also leave all lamps, toasters, coffee pot, clocks, tv's, etc. unplugged that we don't use on a daily basis (ie. spare bedroom, basement).

It would be nice if landlords were given tax rebates/incentives to update for their renters.