The hard facts about wind energy

I usually only write about things you can do to lower your utility bill ,  but there’s a few things everybody should know about our green energy.  Last post was about solar power and how expensive it is, and how its just not a good choice yet.  The next big topic when discussing green energy is Wind energy and wind turbines.

English: The , also known as the Green Mountai...

English: The , also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wind energy and turbines are a hot topic right now.  The governments talking about them, private companies are talking about them, and some home owners are talking about them.  Especially if you have one in your town.  Wind turbines are usually seen in the prairies and flat lands, but they are slowly making their way to the east coast.  It really looks like a good idea.  Wind is free, its green (obviously), and its renewable.  Turbines look like everything you would want in producing clean energy.  There’s just one problem.  Actually there’s a few problems.  Problems you wont hear many people talk about.

  1. Turbines are expensive.  They can cost between 1.5 -2 million dollars to build and install.
  2. Turbines are HUGE.  The typical commercial turbine is 400 feet tall. That’s the height of a 40 story building.  So if you live in the mid west and you enjoy the view, if there’s a wind farm close by its obvious.   Its not that they are ugly, its just that they are not natural.  Its the same as looking at rows of cel towers.  I’m not sure anybody would want to see that on a daily basis.  Not to mention some companies are using the space on the side to advertise business.
  3. Turbines don’t last forever.  They have to be replaced every 20 years.  Now without showing you a bunch of math figures and charts, the payoff for these turbines are between 15-20 years.  Now this depends on how much electricity it produces, but most provide enough energy to pay for themselves in 15-20 years.  That’s just about enough time for some body to spend another 1.5 million dollars to replace it.

So why are we using wind energy?  That’s a good question.  We have to do something.  We cant just sit around and keep burning up the same electricity.  I’m glad that we have companies attempting to harness wind energy, and solar energy, technology just hasn’t caught up yet.

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The truth about solar energy

solar panels

solar panels (Photo credit: spanginator)

I hope for a day that I can live “off the grid.” The sad truth about it is, the technology just isn’t there yet. You can live “off the grid”, but not with all your modern conveniences. Conveniences like, a dryer, curling iron, and microwave. Now as usual I will explain myself.
How does solar power work? You have to run power to your house using batteries. Batteries like golf cart batteries or 18 wheeler batteries. You take a converter that converts battery (AC) power to (DC) power. Now that you have power and its converted to DC the batteries will run down, unless you use solar panels to charge them. So you take solar panels and run them to a battery charger, that slowly charges the batteries throughout the day. Sounds simple enough right?
The average house uses about 31kw per day. It takes roughly 30 golf cart batteries to run the average house. At a cost of $250 per battery that’s $7500.00 initial cost just for batteries. Ok that’s a little crazy, but hey its green energy. Now you need solar panels. 120 sqft of solar panels will charge 1kw. So for 31 kw you will need about 3,720 sqft of solar panels. Solar panels for a system this size will cost around $16,000.00. The upside is, the solar panels should last you 20-25 years. The down side is, the batteries have to be replaced about every 3 years. There is constant maintenance on the batteries also.  Like replacing the electrolytes in the batteries.
Now I’m sure I have made some mistakes with this, solar energy isn’t this cut and dry. I’ve done research and this is the easiest way I can explain it. I’ve read about solar panels that are better and more efficient.  Just not enough to live the way we live on a daily basis.  The technology just isn’t there yet. I wish it was but it’s not. For example, with the system I explained you can run most of your house. The items you can’t run off these batteries are, your air or heating unit, cloths dryer, oven, curling iron, microwave, power tools, stove, and vacuum. Any item that pulls 1500 watts will ruin your batteries, which is a lot of items. I would love to live off the grid, but with solar energy it’s just too costly. I hope you find this informative and useful.

Which way do you face?

English: Green window

English: Green window (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would be ridiculous for me to say that all houses face East or West, but a lot do.  Just look around, which way does your house face?  Now I have researched this and I cant find any reason why it is this way.  I am not an engineer or an architect, so I don’t know if this is done for a reason or if this is just the way it happens.  Today I’m going to explain why, what way your house faces, has to do with your electric bill. If your house faces West (and mine does) this is the worst position for your house.  Why is this bad? Because your house has the most sun exposure to the hottest part of the day.  So the second worse position is facing East.  Although not as bad as West there is still a lot of sun exposure.  So what can I do about this, you ask?  You can rotate your house 90 degrees or you can cover your windows.  Now let me elaborate a little.  The sun pumps UV rays into your windows heating your house.  If you don’t believe me just stand in your window facing the sun and see if you get hot.  You have a couple options when it comes to covering your windows .

  1. Some really good blinds or shades.  This helps but only a little.  The UV rays are still getting into the “envelope” of your house.  This is a decent option just not a good one.
  2. 3M Window film.  This is your answer. According to 3M using the window film to block the UV rays can help reduce cooling cost of your house by up to 30%.  Even if they are wrong (I doubt they are) and its half that 15% is still a substantial savings monthly. Other good qualities of this product is it reduces fading of carpet and furniture by up to 99%.  It also reduces glaring in the windows.  They also have a crime prevention sun control line.  I wont get into that today but trust me you wont get through that glass.
  3. You can replace your windows with better newer windows with UV protection.  There are some amazing new widows on the market now and I will get into those on a different post.  The average cost to replace 1 window in your house is close to $300.00.  I try to give you low cost ways to reduce your bill and this doesn’t quite fit.

This 3M window tint or window film isn’t like what you put on your car window.  You can get the smoke tint or mirror tint from 3M but most people like the window to look natural so the film is clear and isn’t noticeable.  3M website has tons of technical information on how this works on their website feel free to check it out.  I wont bore you with that.  http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Window_Film/Solutions/Markets-Products/Residential/Sun_Control_Window_Films/Prestige_Series/

3M company has a reputation that stands for itself so you know their product is good.  I am a DIY kind of Guy so I rarely pay someone to do some thing I can do my self, and I know how to tint windows. I say that to say this, You can buy the film from 3M and do it yourself. However for this product to work properly it needs to be done right and to have a warranty it needs to be done by a trained professional.  So you can do this yourself I just wouldn’t recommend it.  If your like me and your unfortunate enough for your house to face west then call or look up 3M window film.  If your building a house face it a different direction.  So how many windows do you have in your house? and what direction is your house facing?

4 quick money saving tips

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There are a lot of things you can do to save money on your electric bill. Some tips are easy to accomplish, some are more difficult, and some require a professional. My tips today will be some you can do on your own. They don’t require a lot of money or time.
1. Fix, replace or install weather striping around your doors. Your doors and windows are the biggest problem for sealing up your house. You can get all different types at your local hardware store. If you have metal doors they make a magnetic type that works great. If wood there’s a foam type. All types basically peel and stick. It’s very easy to install.
2. Don’t turn your thermostat up while your away. Turning it up some is ok, but turning it off or way up will require your unit to work twice as hard later.
3. Don’t shut off some of your vents. The vents or registers should stay open all the way, or at least cracked open a little. You’d think if your not using a room, if you shut off the register and shut the door it will make it cooler in the rest of your house. Well that’s not true. Your a/c unit and your ductwork is specifically designed for your house. If you shut off registers it’s basically like holding your hand over the end of a hair dryer. It’s forcing air back on the fan making it work harder, therefore running up your electric bill. Also if you close the door to a room there needs to be a gap between the carpet/floor and the door. If the carpet is snug against the bottom of the door when the door is closed, it’s the same principal as shutting the vent.
4. Get unplugged. We’ve all heard this before. Unplug unused items in your house. Items like a coffee maker and computers draw power even when they are off. Other items are just as important to unplug, like phone chargers, TV’s, lamps. Basically anything plugged in should be unplugged. Now I understand its almost impossible to do this everyday, but getting in the habit of unplugging will help lower your bill. These are 4 quick easy tips to make a difference. Now I need something from you. How much was your last electric bill?

So many light bulbs so little time

reddy

If you’ve been shopping for light bulbs lately, you know that you cant just go pick up a light bulb and go home. There’s incandescent bulbs, Compact fluorescent, and LED’s.  That’s just they types what about sizes? In my house I have 3 different size bulbs.  1 size definitely does not fit all.  Leaving sizes aside we will look at types today. 

  • Incandescent bulbs- You might have noticed walking through the light bulb section at the store. These are hard to come by.  Why is that? Well our government decided they would mandated that we make smarter choices.  Its called the incandescent phase out.  In 2012 they stopped selling 100w bulbs. 2013 75w bulbs will be phased out. 2014 all other incandescent will be phased out.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the old 100-150 watt bulbs were terribly energy inefficient.  They could produce upwards of 350 degrees of heat.  How do you think your easy bake oven worked?  It was a light bulb. 
  • Compact fluorescent- aka CFL- Compact fluorescent bulbs are basically miniature fluorescent light bulbs like you see in commercial businesses. These bulbs have come a long way.  The technology is getting better with these bulbs.  They use to be notorious for making a humming noise and flickering.  MOST of the time these don’t do that any more.  The great thing about these bulbs are the fact that they are over 75% more energy efficient than their incandescent counter part.  That right there should be enough to make you want to change out your incandescent’s today.  These bulbs now come with the capabilities of 3 way lighting for lamps or dimming features.  The price is coming down also.  With the pricing getting better and the studies that show CFL’s are lasting up to 25 times longer, this decision is a no brainer, or is it?
  • LED’s- or light emitting diode- LED’s are my personal favorite.  LED lights use only 6-8 watts as compared to a 100 watt or 75 watt incandescent (if you can find one).  The incandescent typically last a respectable 1,200 hours, where the LED last a whopping 50,000 hours. The LED cost about $32 a year to operate, the incandescent cost $328. These are all wonderful features of the LED bulb, so what’s the down side?  Right now the down side is the price of the LED.  As technology gets better the price will continue to drop as it has been doing.  LED’s are new to the market for homeowner lighting. 

So what does all this mean?   Your going to have to swap to CFL or LED soon due to a lack of incandescent bulbs. Which bulb you choose is up to you.  Each one has its down falls, CFL’s aren’t made to flip off and on regularly.  They will last longer if they are on for 15 min. or more.  Flipping off and on will shorten the lifespan of the CFL.  LED’s are expensive, but will save you enough money to pay for itself eventually.  Try the different bulbs to see how you like them.  Your probably not going to replace them all at the same time so try them out.

 

Have you tried either of these and if so what’s your opinion?

Do something different

Is it time to replace your water heater?  I was recently asked about replacing a standard water heater with a tankless, and sadly I didn’t know what was best.  I pride myself on knowing a lot about keeping energy bills low. In the case of water heaters  though, I had no idea what the best option was.  I know what the most energy efficient standard heater is but I didn’t know what the best option was.  So I decided to figure it out and share it with you.  

Standard water heater vs. a Marathon water heater by Rheem

  • Your standard electric water heater runs about 3 hours per day. It uses approximately 5500 watts per day that’s about 495 Kwh’s per month.  Your typically charged .10 per Kwh that’s $49.50/ month before taxes.  All this information is based on how much you use your water heater.  If you have a couple teenagers, it might run more than 3 hours per day (it doesn’t just run when your using it) The average life span of a standard water heater is 10 years.
  • Rheems Marathon water heater according to its energy guide label uses 389 kwh’s per month @ .10 thats $38.90/ month + taxes. In a year that’s an average savings of $128 per year.  The average lifespan of a Marathon water heater is 20 years.

$128 per year doesnt sound like much of a savings especially when you look at the fact that a marathon cost nearly twice as much on the show room floor.

Here’s the real information. The construction and design of the marathon water heater makes the Marathon over 300% more energy efficient than your standard water heater, but how is that possible? Well the construction allows WAY less heat loss during the day than the standard water heater so your Marathon water heater doesn’t run 3 hours per day like the standard.  If it did you’d still have a savings of $128.00 per year but the fact that the Marathons not going to run that much and you wont lose the amount of heat during a day that the standard will means that $128.00 savings per year just went up exponentially.  That’s what makes the Marathon so much better than your standard heater.  It doesn’t lose the heat during the day therefore it doesn’t run as much during the day.  Not to mention there are greater tax rebates for buying a marathon (so I understand).

Marathon water heater vs. Tankless water heater 

  • I wont repeat myself with the Marathon information its all listed above
  • Tankless water heater The average lifespan of a Tankless water heater is about 20 years.  The same as a marathon.  The show room price of a Tankless heater is about $1000.00 about the same as a marathon heater.  I’ve heard from multiple sources that the cost of a tankless water heater to be installed is nearly $2000.00 I’m not really sure if that’s correct it seems a little high.  A heat pump water heater with an EF of 2.0 and an electricity cost of $0.0842/kWh365 X 12.03 ÷ 2.0 X $0.0842 = $185.  So thats $185/ year cost to run the unit depending on how much water you use.  The pro’s of the demand unit is you should never run out of how water due to usage.  The con’s are it cost a little more per Kwh and it cost more to install.  Another problem to look at is if you have a split plan house or a large house you may need more than 1 tankless heater which would almost double your cost of operation.  

So in summary I cant tell you which unit is better for your house only you can decide that.  I can however give you the info to make an educated and hopefully green decision.  I would hope that you can see that the old way of doing things (heating water) is just not good enough any more.  In this day and age you can save money and use less electricity which is better for all of us.  

Side note: I did not compare gas water heaters to electric.  Have you seen gas prices lately?

 

Tell me what you think about solar electricity?  Do you think its a good Idea?

Keep the hot air where it belongs

Aluminum-Window_Deteriorated-CaulkOne of the easiest ways to keep your electric bill low is, keep the hot air where it belongs. If you want to stay cool inside while its hot outside, then here are a few tips.
1. Caulk around your windows on the outside of your house. Weather it’s a brick house or a wood frame, even if there’s only a small hairline crack between the window and the brick/wood. Seal it up with a clear silicone type caulk.
2. Caulk around your windows on the inside of your house. Caulk where the wood meets the aluminum window frame. Is yours already caulked? Ok then caulk around the window seal where the sheet rock meets the window trim. Also caulk the corners of the window frame. ANYWHERE you can caulk then put some caulk.
3. Think caulking is hard and messy? Think again. Put the caulk on slow and wipe with a damp paper towel. The towel smooths the caulk and gives it that professional look. It also cleans up really easy.
4. You can do this before or after your caulk. Test your windows by lighting a match and blowing it out. While the A/c unit is running light a match and hold it up around the window seal and see if its pulling air into the house.
Older houses were built with the idea that houses needed to breath. Well they don’t, the big problem is that new houses built today aren’t built much better. So there you go. Theres som actionable advice. For very little money and very little effort you can seal up a portion of your house.