Steps to take before you get solar
I have heard about solar electricity and I am thinking about installing some at my property. How do I go about it? What do I need to know?
Dear Going Solar,
These are some great questions! I actually don't have much experience with solar energy so I met with Stratton Hatfield of BE Solar, who provided some good insight into what you should consider first.
It is important to be as energy efficient as possible, even before installing solar energy.
Stratton gave several ways of reducing kilowatt-hour consumption almost immediately.
Doing this first is what will give you the greatest return on investment with a solar system. Here are a few examples:
1. If you use light for more than two hours a night in any room, replace halogen or incandescent bulbs with LED lights.
They will be clearly labelled LED (light emitting diodes). You can get them from any lighting or hardware store and they cost about $5 for a standard household light and range in price for other types of bulbs.
Stratton preferred the Phillips brand but there are many available to choose from. One bulb could last as long as 22 years. I did not know that, did you?
2. Any devices that are plugged in 24/7 can be put on a timer to reduce energy consumption.
Hot water heaters, towel warmers, closet heaters and dehumidifiers are good examples.Depending on the equipment, you can save between $25 and $200 per month.
The cost of a timer is minimal and you will be saving monthly on your electricity bill, long after the cost has been forgotten.
A quick word here, if your water heater is ready to be replaced look for a heat pump hot water heater.
These devices use electricity 60 per cent more efficiently than traditional heating element hot water heaters.
A by-product of these heat pumps is dehumidification which would keep any space nice and dry and crisp.
Sounds good for Bermuda! Heat pump water heaters are available from any plumbing supply company; the slightly higher price will save multifold over the lifetime of the system.
3. If you have a pool it makes sense to replace a single-speed pump with a variable speed pump.
They are silent, with brushless motors (less maintenance), and have integrated timers. The replacement can save up to $200 per month.
4. There are items that eat up electricity even when you are not using them.
Among those that should be on a surge protector strip when you are out of the house or asleep are televisions, computers, phone chargers and dehumidifiers. It is tough to calculate the savings using this, but trust me it will not only save you money but save your electronics from power surges caused by lightning and outages.
5. Consider upgrading stoves, fridges, dishwashers, washers and dryers to appliances with the highest energy star rating you can find. When upgrading air conditioning try and go for the highest “SEER” rating.
By implementing these recommendations you will see how much your kilowatt consumption drops, which will then be reflected in your Belco bill.
Now that you have savings, you can design a solar system based on your actual efficient kilowatt consumption. You can use these savings to put that money towards purchasing a bigger house, upgrading your kitchen or start saving towards your own solar electric system powered by clean renewable energy.
Next week I'll talk about the benefits of solar electricity and what to consider now that your home is more energy efficient.
Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty's leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. Contact her at email@example.com or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Look for Ask Heather Real Estate on Facebook