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Author Topic: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy  (Read 2459 times)

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SamiHami

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Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« on: June 29, 2016, 08:24:50 PM »
Just like most people, I am always looking for ways to cut expenses. Now that we are well into summer and its hot we are running the AC almost constantly. In this climate it's pretty unavoidable. Consequently my electric bill is obscene. We will be getting new windows and doors in a few weeks which will help (a lot, I hope!). We are also going to get a tankless water heater.

One thing we do to keep the bill down is turn off the heated dry setting on the dishwasher. Instead, we shake off the wet dishes and leave it open overnight. By morning they are completely dry.

What tips do you have for keeping your power bill down?

ETA: Silly me! I forgot to mention solar power! Several houses in my neighborhood have gotten solar panels recently. Anyone here have them? How are they working out? Are you really saving money? Can you tell us about your experience with them?
« Last Edit: June 29, 2016, 09:55:09 PM by SamiHami »

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Dazi

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2016, 09:08:50 PM »
When no one is home, I turn the temp to 84. I run cold, so often I leave it on 80 when my DH isn't home. In the summer, I also turn the water heater down a bit. I have thermal curtains as well. When it's nice out, I open the windows and the porch slider. On windows that I never open, I have the plastic thermal sheets covering them year round.

Check your attic too. You may need to add more insulation. You can also install outlet insulation pads.
Meditate. Live purely. Quiet the mind. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine. ---Gautama Buddah





JoW

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2016, 09:26:44 PM »
I have vertical blinds in all of my windows.  I close them during the day to keep the sunlight and heat out.  If I want light in the room I will open blinds on the shady side of the house. 

I used to dry as much clothing as possible on racks outside.  I had to stop when I moved because I'm in a corner lot and my back yard is on display to anyone entering the development.  I plan to plant a tall hedge, a living privacy fence, near the street, then start drying things outdoors again. 

kherbert05

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2016, 09:57:58 PM »
I have a NEST thermostat. It allows more control over the temperature and it learns your routines. I've cut my usage almost in 1/2 from November to May. You have an away setting. I works two ways. You can manually set it to away at the thermostat or by your smart phone. You can have it set up so that it is notified when you leave your house via your smart phone and automatically switches to away. You can use https://ifttt.com/ to set up a geo fence so that your NEST automatically turns to Home as you approach your house. That didn't work so well for me. So I just have switch it to Home via my smart home as I get there. It has different setting that can fine tune savings. I have it set so it switches off the AC a little early but keeps the fan going circulating the cooler air to cool off the house the remaining little bit.

I also have been replacing my light bulbs with Phillips Hue bulbs. They are LED so consume less generally. They also can be controled by my phone. I use the https://ifttt.com/ to turn on my lights as I drive into my driveway. As I leave I can say Alexa Trigger I am Leaving - and all the lights except the porch turn off via my echo. I can quickly see any left on lights and turn them off. (Could be more tricky if I had others in my house). One down side - you leave the switches in the on position. If you experience a power outage/gray out/surge all the lights turn on. Pain in the neck at 2 am.

I do like them for security. I've answered my door bell from bed, and turned on all the lights. In that case it was just the neighbor kids retrieving a soccer ball. Another time I might have prevented a break in. We have had push in robberies with people pretending to be from the Power Company. (They don't even say Centerpoint who maintains/controls the lines just I'm from your Power Company and you have to let me in). It is suspected these same people have been burgerlizing houses. I was at my sister's when someone rang my doorbell and tried that line. I told them to get lost that I was calling the cops. I switched the lights around. When they walked away, I called the cops reported what had happen they sent someone out to look around. I know this because the part where I told the 911 person (HCSO had told us to call 911 if these people showed up at our door) I wasn't home when I answered the door didn't get communicated. So the cops rang my doorbell - they got a kick out of it thankfully.
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MaryR

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2016, 10:14:54 PM »
Arizona here. We do have solar panels and they are very useful. They are also rather pricey. We got some rebates from APS when installing them, which helped, but they were also mounted on the roof which meant there were holes in the roof. When the monsoon storms move in, anything bolted to the roof moves, which meant roof damage. I wouldn't do it again in this area.

Are you able to use a swamp cooler during certain parts of the year? They are worthless when the humidity is high or when its over 90 degrees, but very cost efficient. The added benefit is that you can use the outlet water to water your trees. Trees are sometimes a PITA, but really help to keep your home cool. I'm a big fan of fruitless mulberries. They only drop leaves once a year and then they do it all at once.

Curtains and blinds make a world of difference, as do outside window awnings. Anything you can do to keep the heat off your home will help.

Storm doors are not just for winter. They keep the heat out as well.


SamiHami

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2016, 10:07:49 AM »
Arizona here. We do have solar panels and they are very useful. They are also rather pricey. We got some rebates from APS when installing them, which helped, but they were also mounted on the roof which meant there were holes in the roof. When the monsoon storms move in, anything bolted to the roof moves, which meant roof damage. I wouldn't do it again in this area.

Are you able to use a swamp cooler during certain parts of the year? They are worthless when the humidity is high or when its over 90 degrees, but very cost efficient. The added benefit is that you can use the outlet water to water your trees. Trees are sometimes a PITA, but really help to keep your home cool. I'm a big fan of fruitless mulberries. They only drop leaves once a year and then they do it all at once.

Curtains and blinds make a world of difference, as do outside window awnings. Anything you can do to keep the heat off your home will help.

Storm doors are not just for winter. They keep the heat out as well.

I am unfamiliar with swamp cookers, but based on your description I doubt that they would be useful in my area, where it is very hot and humid for much of the year.

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2016, 10:29:51 AM »
We are considering installing solar panels on our shed roofs.  If we hook it up to the grid, we get reimbursed far more per kWh for anything we dump into the grid than we pay for electricity we draw from the grid, even at the peak demand price.  We may start with some small, portable ones just to get some lights hooked up in there, that wouldn't feed to the grid.

It doesn't conserve energy but it saves money:  We have off-peak pricing from 7 pm to 7 am every day, all day on Saturday and Sunday and statutory holidays.  So I try to make sure I'm doing my electricity heavy stuff during those times - baking, laundry, running the dishwasher, running the hot tub.  The hot tub is costing us a pretty penny in electricity but I more than make up for it with reduced medical bills.  I don't need to go as often for physio or massage now that I'm in the tub almost every night.

Doesn't really work for SamiHami, unless night time temperatures get low enough - 15 C or about 60 F.  My Mom's trick was to open the house up wide in the early evening, closing only those windows that were a security risk, going to bed.  Then first thing in the morning, before it started heating up again, closing all the windows and drawing all the drapes.  The house would stay relatively cool until about 3:30 in the afternoon on hot days.  I've been doing this the last few nights.  It looks like I won't have to turn the AC back on again until after the weekend.

As incandescent bulbs burn out, I replace them with compact fluorescents and now, LEDs.  I'm just loathe to throw out something that is perfectly fine and we don't leave lights on very much, anyway.

A properly insulated house makes a big difference.  We can tell that our place is a little light on insulation so that's going to be a project late in the year, before the cold weather hits.

When you are redoing your roof, pick a colour other than black, which absorbs the heat.

Programmable thermostats are great, especially if there is a way to vary the schedule day to day.  The one at the old house let me modify each day individually.  So I could treat Friday differently than Monday through Thursday and Sunday differently than Saturday since my bedtimes would be different on those days.  The current one only has a M-F and S-S scheduler.  I'm trying to hook up with a buddy to get that changed out.

Change your furnace/AC filters regularly.  The dirt buildup makes your furnace and/or AC run less efficiently.  And if really gets blocked, it will shut down due to lack of air flow.
After cleaning out my Dad's house, I have this advice:  If you haven't used it in a year, throw it out!!!!.
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ladyknight1

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2016, 11:13:56 AM »
I don't know anyone in Florida who has made money on small scale household solar panels. Most who bought them got a government tax break for buying them, then had to clean algae and mildew off of them on a regular basis. 
My boss has solar panels for heating her pool, and they work pretty well.

If you search on google for solar panels, a calculator will pop up, asking for your home address. I put in my in-laws, since we are renting, and the net savings would be -$2000 over 20 years. Initial cost was $29,000. You can also lease a solar system.

I know solar farms are popular for commercial businesses, but I don't know what their return on investment is.

I bought room darkening curtains for both of our bedrooms and turn the air conditioning to 78 when no one is home, 75 when we come home and overnight.

ďAll that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
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siamesecat2965

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2016, 11:28:28 AM »
I live in a 1 BR apt so not much I can do, but I have found if I turn my a/c way down when I go to work, or off, if I'm away, my electric bills are much lower. I have 2 thru the wall units; one in the LR which is older has no digital display, only dials. So I couldn't tell you exactly what temp I have it on, but the one in the BR does. At night, i keep it at 66, but it never gets that cold, alhtough I do like my BR as close to arctic as i can get to sleep.

During the say, i turn it up to 75, and i keep it there until about an hour before i go to bed. my bills, granted for a small space have gone from say $125ish or so, to about $65-75 when I'm home a lot and its really hot.

Belle

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2016, 12:13:46 PM »
We do a lot of the things already mentioned on here - we hang dry 75% our laundry, we never use the heat setting on the dishwasher, programmable thermostats that reduce the temp while we're out (plus rarely using AC and keeping it to a minimum when we do), etc., etc.

The one thing that seems to have made a huge difference in our heating and electricity bills is insulation.

Our last home was small and had poor insulation. We replaced all of the windows when we moved in, which definitely helped. However, our previous home was so small that I never realized how bad our utility bills were for a house that size - they weren't breaking the bank, but only because the house was small.

We recently moved to a new house that is (literally) 3.5x the size of our previous home (plus has a pool, so extra utilities for that), and I was terrified of what our utility bills would be. Shockingly, our utility bills on the new house are just a tiny bit more than our previous house - barely enough for me to notice. It turns out that the previous owner insulated the heck out of the attic, plus we have better insulation in the walls. If I had realized how much of a difference it made, I would have bought better insulation for my last house!

Sirius

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2016, 12:37:47 PM »
A bit of advice on swamp coolers:  If you live in an area with high humidity, you don't want one.  I had one, but lived in an area where the summers were very hot but the humidity averaged in the 20% to 30% range, so a swamp cooler worked well.  Swamp coolers are basically water coolers, so if you live in an area where the summers are very humid it'll just make the situation worse.  Mr. Sirius is from the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia, and summer days of 98 degrees and 99% humidity are not uncommon.  Where I live right now, in the Portland, Oregon area, the summers aren't terribly hot.  We don't have AC in my house, but it's well insulated so there are times when it's actually quite chilly in our house but outside it's 75 degrees.  Right now I'm in a room with the windows open and it's 67 degrees and 10:30 a.m. and I'm chilly.  Today's high is supposed to be 80 degrees. 

We use a clothes dryer because there are times of the year that it rains so much here we'd better have a clothes dryer if we ever want our clothes dry.  One of the things that the company who owned our house before we bought it did while refurbishing was replace the insulation, which has only been to our advantage since this house was built in the 1960s.  In winter we only run the heater when it gets really cold, and Mr. Sirius and I both wear sweatshirts around the house.   

PlainJane

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2016, 01:40:19 PM »
The latest (August) issue of Consumer Reports has an article on solar panels. Don't know if it would be useful for you or not. I was a bit miffed that they didn't touch on the subject of ground installation; they only covered roof install.

mandycorn

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2016, 02:00:31 PM »
Something that was pointed out to me recently is that dirty/dusty solar panels are less effective, so if you're planning to install them, make sure you have a plan in place for cleaning them frequently.
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Kiara

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2016, 02:08:36 PM »
Run heat-producing appliances in the evening - dryer is the biggest one.

Close the blinds/curtains during the day to avoid solar heating.

If you have them, run ceiling fans....you can set the AC thermostat a bit higher and it won't feel any different.
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daen

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Re: Solar power, and your tips for conserving energy
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2016, 05:57:03 PM »
We have a new house, which we've seriously insulated. We have large south-facing windows, which makes for a fair bit of solar gain - good in winter, bad in summer. At present, we're keeping the curtains closed during the day, but we're planning on putting shade cloth panels over the exterior of the windows, to cut down on the amount of heat that comes through the windows.

In our last three places of residence (one owned, two rented) we were able to use a whole-house fan, where a large fan blows air out of the highest point of the house (or into the attic, if properly vented). As long as the outdoor temp and humidity is preferable to the interior, crack a couple of ground-floor windows, and crank up the fan, and the hot air goes up and out and the outside air comes in. Make sure you have a large enough fan and that you just crack the windows, and you can drop the internal temp by a couple of degrees within a quarter hour.

Sadly, we have a bit of work to do to get a whole-house put into the current location, but it's on the 5-year plan. Meanwhile, we can use the screen door to get some breeze in when the need arises.

We have also installed LED strip lights that provide most of our interior lighting. That helps with the energy bill, too.