Making the Right Decisions for You and Your Home
Thinking of going off-grid, backing up your home, or installing grid-tie solar? There are various options and things to know before embarking on this journey depending on which avenue you take.
Fig 1: image from US Dept Of Energy
If you are simply offsetting your energy bill and sending power back to the grid, an extensive energy analysis is not fundamental other than looking at your current yearly month-to-month energy usage on your power bill and reporting it to the solar company doing an installation. Many states only offer net-metering, where you can only offset your energy use instead of selling the power, so you don't want to produce more than you consume if this is the case. An authorized solar company will conduct the design and installation for you and it is not advised for a homeowner to do this as it involves connection to the grid and most installation companies will want to have control over the whole process for quality control reasons. Wi-Buy carries replacement inverters, and charge controllers for your system. Always have an electrician make any grid-tied and power panel connections.
There are a few options when it comes to hybrid systems. These are systems that combine the lower cost of a grid-tied system where the grid is your "battery" instead of the overhead investment of large banks of lithium ion or lead acid batteries and smaller, critical emergency load batteries that are usually much smaller in size and just maintained until needed. The traditional setups still need a knowledgeable installer for systems like the Sunnyboy Island, LG and Tesla Powerwalls. Wi-Buy now carries the LG line along with the suppporting equipment but caution and a proper electrician should be consulted for any grid and power service panel connections.
The newer options have come in the form of plug-and-play solar generators which can plug directly into an existing wall outlet and can be strung together to add storage capacity. These are modular and we carry generators from as low as 150 watts for your small handheld devices up to 24 kW that can power an entire home. A solar generator is just a fancy term for an all-in-one system. No more having someone install all the different pieces of hardware, now a whole system including a battery is enclosed in one unit. These can be portable, silent, and emissions-free. Most people don't realize how fragile supply lines are for their rugged fossil-fuel generators. In a crisis, gasoline, kerosene and propane will not be cheap or easy to come by and they do not have the capacity to be powered by the sun, a renewable source.
Sure, you could stockpile gasoline, but it has a shelf-life and many an expensive generator has been ruined by improper maintenance of these generators and draining the fuel between a long hiatus of inactivity. Honda makes alot of money off of this!
The cool thing about Off-Grid Energy is it is in the realm of Do-It-Yourself and gives you full energy independence. While not cheap, with a good strategy of reducing energy use and optimizing efficiency in your home, you can drive the price down vastly and not ever find yourself left in the dark from inevitable failures in our grid be it human error or nature. Wi-Buy is optimized to help you for these situations and we will be there along the way to slowly get you there if that is where you want to be.
There are various ways you can create energy through your home.
- Small solar electric systems
- Small wind electric systems
- Microhydropower systems (creeks and streams)
- Small hybrid electric systems (solar and wind)
- Solar water heating
- geothermal heat pump and water heaters
- bio diesel and ethanol
Fig 2: image from US Dept Of Energy
Forethought can save you a lot of headache. Consultation must made with your local homeowner association and city to understand the regulations in your region. Look at the local codes and requirements, that may determine what system you end up going with. Understand your geography and what technology will best fit your site. If you're building a new home, work with the builder and your contractor to incorporate your small renewable energy system into your home.
If you are adding on a system, look at your existing energy use. You can usually call your utility and ask for the last 12 months kwh usage by month or go online and look as well.
Think of how you can make your home more efficient. Heating and cooling is the biggest load in a home and the numbers can be staggering if there poor insulation, air sealing and irradiance barriers. Just as a pot burns you by touch, a fire warms you by sitting close to it, and the air heats up in a furnace, your house loses precious heat in the winter or gains unwanted heat in the summer.
In an uninsulated home, around 35 percent of heat loss is through the walls and 25 percent is lost through the roof. The remaining 40 percent is lost through doors, windows and the floor.
Your water heater is your second biggest energy glutton, if you can reduce the energy that consumes (think instant water heater, more insulation and smaller tank, or solar water heating), you are well on your way to a more efficient home and a smaller, less expensive solar system.
Many companies that do solar will not tell you how to save before looking into panels and a system. Their incentive is to maximize profits and sell the largest systems, as is with many businesses. We want a comprehensive solution for people that helps your wallet and the planet. We want you to be happy and return to us for your questions and energy needs and to spread the word how we can actually help you out. Imagine that!
Now target your appliances. You can get a watt meter and see what each appliance uses in real time and track over a day or week to see how often you use each appliance. Multiply the power use by the time to get watt-hours for each appliance. If you add them all up you can see what you use. Many people gawk at the amount of power they would need to replace their uses but with a tactical approach you can substitute those energy hog appliances for much more efficient ones. Energy Star appliances are rated much better than normal ones and you would see a huge difference in exchanging one for the other with those bigger items like washing machines and refrigerators. Replace those florescent and incandescent bulbs with LEDs and see wonders on your bill!!
If you are doing a hybrid system, all you need to do is size for a few emergency loads like a refrigerator, water heating, and some lights.
You can even swap fuels. For example a electric water heater to solar. Get a wood stove, cook on it, use food waste to cook with biogas, and an induction range instead of a power hungry convection one.