Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q. How much is it going to cost for me to convert my home for a Renewable Energy System?
A. We first take a look at what your power needs are going to be in your home. Each home has power needs that are as unique as fingerprints. No two families use the same amounts of electricity. The cost of a renewable system to fit your specific needs must be figured by how much energy you use daily.
Look at your current power bill and see how many kilowatt-hours you use on a daily basis. Then we can figure how much you need to produce from a RE system and design it to custom fit your needs. One size does not fit all. Upfront costs of a typical system can run anywhere from $8K to $28K.
A portable system could cost substantially less, between $3K to $8K, depending on your needs. These portable systems are also suitable for small cabins, back up power for black outs, camping, portable electricity for appliances. This is a take-it-with-you system.
Is your home as energy efficient as it could be? The more energy efficient your home is, the more you will save both initially and the long run.
Q. How does a Renewable Energy System work?
A. Most renewable energy sources produce Direct Current (DC) electricity which is then converted to Alternating Current (AC). For example, solar electric panels produce DC power that is sent by wire either directly to a battery bank controller for stand-alone systems, or through an inverter which converts it to AC for grid-tie systems. Wind Turbines produce 'wild' AC electricity and requires an AC converter to smooth it out. For grid-tie systems, an inverter is added to match the utility's current and protect sensitive equipment.
In a battery-based system, deep cycle batteries are suited to this sort of usage and sized to meet your needs (most often rated at 12, 24 or 48 Volts DC). The power from the batteries goes into an inverter that changes it to regular household current. This means you will not need to change your in-house wiring or appliances. Electrical codes require UL listed equipment and good workmanship in construction. System monitoring and metering of power can also be designed into your system.
Q. How can I save energy without using an RE System?
A. Most households normally waste 17% to 25% of the electricity by not using it efficiently. Some of the most common waste is from your incandescent light bulbs, inefficient appliances (high energy consuming, high wattage) and phantom loads. You should always change out the incandescent light bulbs with more efficient LED or compact fluorescent lights. You should also utilize energy efficient appliances. Newer LED lighting costs are now much lower and have become the favored lighting to use in your home and business.
Now to clarify, a phantom load is anything that consumes energy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some of these things we take for granted and do not realize how much they are costing us needlessly. Some examples are: built in clocks on microwaves, coffee makers, and radios. Others are rechargeable toothbrushes, razors, and remote control appliances. A television with remote can consume up to 10 watts of power just waiting for you to turn it on. Computers and stereo equipment are another source of phantom loads.
Power strips will help you conserve energy if you use them on your appliances that have phantom loads. Appliances on a power strip can simply be turned on when you need them, and truly be shut off when you are done. By repeating this process, it will become a habit that you will do automatically.
Q. How do I know which Renewable Energy System is right for me?
A. Each individual has specific needs. Renewable Energy generation is dependent upon the availability of RE sources at your site. Photovoltaic panels (PV's) use sunlight to make electricity. Wind turbines use the wind to turn a propeller that is connected to generator. For the most economical and effective installation, you need to determine what sort of Renewable Energy system will work for you. This involves some homework and taking a hard look at your electrical use patterns. This is why we need to do a site survey to determine just what resources are available at your home. It will determine exactly which resource or combination of resources can be used to best fit your energy needs. A well-designed system will incorporate your energy resources with the proper components to produce the most electricity available at your site. Some people start with a battery based system that charges off the grid at non-peak hours. You consume power to charge the batteries at night when the rate is far less and feeds your appliances from the battery bank during the peak period when power is expensive. You can start a system like this without any RE sources and add them later on when you can afford it. A battery based system like this will get you through a blackout keeping essential loads like lighting, communications, and refrigeration powered.
The following explanation for each resource will help you to determine which resources are available.
Solar Power: Nearly everyone has access to some sunlight. How many hours of unobstructed sunlight do you get in a day? The crucial time period is the three or four hours on either side of solar noon. If there are trees, buildings, etc., that block the sunshine during those periods, using PVs may be less effective.
Wind Energy: How hard does the wind blow in your area? Is it seasonal or year round? Is it windiest during stormy periods of little sun? Do surrounding trees and bushes tend to grow leaning away from the prevailing wind? Are there tall trees or buildings close by that will cause turbulence to the wind stream?
Q. Can I sell excess electricity back to the utility company or "The Grid"?
A. 40 + states now have "net metering" programs to encourage the use of renewables on The Grid. If you inter-tie your system to the utility power grid you can sell excess power back to the utility company. It's quite a thrill to watch your meter spin backwards! Check out the Department of Energy's net metering guide.
A Final Note: With a "battery-based" system, the inverter will automatically switch to powering your loads from the battery in the event of an electrical grid black out. When the grid comes back on, it automatically switches back. In a "battery-less" system, the RE sources are required to automatically disconnect in the event of an outage. In other words, you must go dark along with everyone else.
We hope that this page has answered a few of your questions. If you would like more detailed information, please feel free contact us by the information listed at the top.