Since we have had our solar installed, I have written an update each month so that anyone even thinking about going solar can have the facts in hand. This month is no different and actually I am pretty impressed with the numbers considering the amount of 90+ degree days we have had.
I am really no going to say much as I will just post pictures of my bills and you can decide for yourself.
As you can see our Utility Bill total was $165.17, which added to the $45.93 from the solar bill made our total utility cost just $211.10. Now take a look at last years utility bill:
There is about an $85 difference from last year, but ok I know your thinking, ” well, there were less Kw used this year than last.” Ok, let’s take a look.
So June 2016 Kw total (Utility and Solar) :1323Kw. Wow, yes that is less than the 1643 from July 2015 exactly 320. Yes we are being proactive in reducing our energy usage.
Lets look deeper:
Taking a look at ONLY Kw usage:
1323 Kw used total (utility & solar) if we paid utility (.099 Kw) we would have paid $130.98
But we only paid $120.28-so Kw for Kw, Dollar for Dollar-we still saved over $10 this month. Some months will be better than others but a savings of $120+ a year is worth it to me.
As I had stated in an earlier post, this is a very small system due to the lack of roof space we have, but in the long run:
We put no money out of pocket up front
We paid nothing for installation, permits etc
All maintenance, repairs, and/or replacements are free during the life of the contract (20 yrs-and the contract is transferrable to new owners if we would ever sell) Not a penny comes from me!
We can monitor production/usage on our own website hourly if we choose.
Company monitors system 24/7 and sends someone to repair/replace any issues without us lifting a finger.
We are making a significant impact on the environment by reducing our dependence on grid energy.
This has just been a great experience so far and I am so happy with the outcomes and returns from our system.
I would recommend anyone even thinking about solar to at least get a free, no obligation consultation. It is all handled by email and phone until you make a decision to have it installed.
Disclaimer: Although I am excited about our solar install, I do receive a referral bonus from anyone that submits a free consultation through this website and moves forward to install. BUT the good news is YOU CAN TOO! Be sure to check out the Solar Rewards Program so you can claim a $250 bonus with each and every referral-NO LIMIT!
p.s.-If you are not ready to go solar, but want to still make a difference on the environment, check out how you can have a great impact here:
Solar.SaveGreenGoingGreen.netIt has been almost 2 months since we had the solar panels installed. We have a website to monitor the production on a daily basis and I must say I am pretty happy with the first few weeks-even with all the cloudiness and rain.
In April, which we were only live about 20 days and most of those days were deluged with rain, we were still able to produce 291.5 kw of energy through the solar panel. I would say this is not too shabby of a start.
So far in May (Through May 28 2016) we have produced 310.69 Kw. Still a little low, but as you can see from the graph below, we have still had a lot of clouds and rain.
Our highest day production was 22.07 KW on May 16th. If we could produce 20 Kw a day for an entire month (600Kw for 30 days) This would run my greenhouse without issue, never having to pull extra energy from the grid.
Comparatively, my electric bill from the local utility (Baltimore Gas & Electric, BGE) for LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME due June 1, 2015 was a total od $280. I received my bill this year and it was for $195-a total reduction of $85.
But lets look at Kw usage from our utility bill. (Does not include solar production)
May 2015-934 Kw Average temp 57 degrees
May 2016-538 Kw Average temp 56 degrees
This is a reduction of 396 Kw from last year overall, but since I cannot know the exact days to calculate to compare apples to apples, meaning I do not know the exact reading dates that are accounted for in billing. If I did, I could calculate how much energy I produced in solar for the exact same days-giving me a very good picture of how we are doing.
I will be tracking our progress as I want to be able to have accurate information for anyone who may be thinking about going solar.
For more information on how easy and inexpensive it is to go solar please visit:
Finally, we have the approvals to turn on our solar system from the local utility! Of course the first few days of operation were cloudy, rainy, and generally nasty, but we still managed to average .8-1.0 Kw per hour.
It is a very small system since we don’t have a lot of roof space facing the southern direction. It will only pull about 3Kw maximum if everything is perfect. But even the small system will have not only a direct impact on our utility bill but we our now having a more positive effect on the environment, reducing our overall carbon footprint.
On the first sunny day when I checked the system, we were getting pretty good-pulling the full 240v and averaging between 2.1 and 2.6 Kw per hour. During the peak of the day, our utility meter was actually spinning backwards. So not only were we generating enough power through the solar panels to run everything we had on, but the utility was giving us credit for the overage-further reducing our electric cost from the utility.
Overall I am pretty happy with the system so far. Considering that it did not cost us a dime to install and I don’t have to worry about any maintenance or repair for the next 20 years. I am actually looking forward to our next electric bill to see exactly how much of an impact this system will have.
Well. we finally got our solar installation done and I could not be happier. It, unfortunately is not an off grid system, but I am at least making in difference in my energy is generated. There was no way at the present we could afford an off grid system, but with the benefits of this system it just seemed like the right step.
Instead of showing a lot of pictures of the installation, I did a Vimeo video, (click on picture) which I thought might be a little more interesting. Solar is now much easier and more affordable than it has ever been and with even the utilities moving more toward solar and wind power, it just made sense to take a look now.
We did not have to pay a dime for the installation, nor do we have to pay for any maintenance or upkeep for the next 20 years! Not to mention the savings over paying all that money to the utility.
I have always been interested in solar power-clean, effective, and free generally speaking. But I recently ran across an article from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that I thought brought out some very interesting facts about the direction of solar energy.
The facts and figures come from the Solar Market Insight published by the SEIA for the 4th quarter of 2015.
First: the U.S. installed 7,260 MWdc of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014.
Second: For the first time ever, solar beat out natural gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.4% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. in 2015.
These two facts come as no real surprise as it has been well known that interest in solar has grown phenomenally over the past decade. But when I started looking at breakdowns of the installations, I was surprised. In particular, the following two graphics caught my eye
Once I started to think about it, it really made sense. Solar is clean, renewable energy, which is essentially free after the initial cost of installation. So after the utilities initial outlay of immense cash, they can begin to recover investment immediately without having to make further purchases, such as with coal and natural gas.
Although the utilities may have the buying power to install these huge systems, that is not true of most commercial systems. They cannot afford the high initial cost even with the short term recapture of investment, usually 7-10 years.
Residential on the other hand has options that completely remove the drawback of an expensive installation. We just had our system installed, although a small system comparatively, but it cost us absolutely nothing to install and the maintenance and repair of the system is taken care of for the next twenty years, which means I don’t have to lay out even a dime to keep the system maintained to optimum efficiency. I will be writing more about our personal system in another post later.
I think that the utilities know the future of harnessing free energy and our taking advantage now. They understand that in generations to come the decisions they make now will have a huge impact on not only their bottom line, but the environment as well.
The last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.
Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.
The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.
The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.
Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation, but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.
FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.
The basics of any emergency stock:
Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water. (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan. Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods. If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.
If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?
For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.
I am taking advantage of the nice-but cool weather today to start preparing the suburban homestead for winter. Bees, chickens, rabbits, fish, the greenhouse, the aquaponics systems the garden, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and I am sure there are a few other things that will need my attention over the coming weeks.
This morning started at 5:30, fixing breakfast for the little woman. Yes she still works outside the home, which is why I became here “Homestead Hero”, as she calls me. Hero I am not, but it is a full time job to take care of a homestead-even a small 1/5 acre suburban homestead.
After getting her off to work, its time to gather food scraps and greens (grow in the garden and greenhouse) to feed the chickens. Taking food and water to the chickens is not as easy as walking out the back door since we can not legally keep fowl on our property. (In Baltimore County-must have 1 acre for any chickens) So I have to take a short drive of about 1 1/2 miles to get to the chicken coop on our friends property. This isn’t so bad and I really do not have to go every day since we installed the solar electric door to let them in and lock them up at night. But it’s nice to feed them greens and scraps to keep our feed bill low.
Once back from the coop, I focused on getting the bees wrapped all warm and toasty. We have had a few nights now at 30 degrees, so why wait until the last minute.
I start the wrap with a layer of 2″ foam board around three sides. This is held tight with a metal plumbing strap. Then I can surround the hive with straw bales. These serve as a great wind break and an insulator for the cold weather accompanied by high winds that we usually have here on the east coast.
In the third picture, many of the bees came out to see what was going on, almost looks as if they are getting ready to swarm, but they quickly settled back inside to their routine. I was going to start feeding them today, but with the activity I will just wait until tomorrow before I disturb them again.
While I was outside, I just checked on the rabbits. We have a mating pair of Florida Whites, of which our female is currently pregnant. She is due on the 27th, so I just added some straw in the cage so she could build a nice comfy warm nest to deliver the litter. I have the plastic wrap put up but have not surrounded the hutches with it yet. That only takes a few minutes to unroll and attached to the outside of the hutch, so I can wait until later this month.
Chickens, bees, and rabbits-check, check, and check. So on to the greenhouse. I have not been real active in the greenhouse over the summer, since all of my attention has been devoted to the outside garden projects.
Of course the last few weeks have been filled with canning, freezing and dehydrating our spring and summer crops. “crops” that makes it sound like we have so many acres, but we have just enough for one little homestead hero to handle. You would be amazed at how much can be grown on a 1/5 acre!
Anyway, back to the greenhouse. I wrote a couple of months ago about our cherry tomato plant in the aquaponic grow bed. I figured today was a good day to say goodbye to it-after 11 months of growing and fruiting. Yes it was still delivering cherry tomatoes, but the growth had taken over the greenhouse and the vines had rooted in several places throughout 2 grow beds.
It took some time to clean out the remains of the tomato plant, along with some lettuce, spinach, and mint that the growth had been hiding from me. But now that the grow beds are empty, except for a thriving mint plant in one corner, I can start to plant for winter growth.
While working outside I found some bean plants that had sprouted around my outside grow tower. I guess when I let some stay on the vine to dry for use as seeds next year, they must have fallen off and germinated in the ground around the barrel. There were six small plants that seemed to be thriving, even after the frost we encountered the last two nights. I thought this would be a perfect time to try green beans in our aquaponics system.
I installed one of our larger tomato cages into the center of the grow bed. Then I dug up the 6 bean plants and cleaned the roots for transplanting. This will be a first for me trying green beans so I am excited to see how well they do.
The other grow bed, with the mint in the corner is now planted with seed for lettuce, mescaline, spinach, and arugula. It is nice to be able in the winter to feed our chickens and rabbits fresh greens.
Part of preparing for winter is also thinking ahead to spring, so today I had a full load of wood chips delivered. I use these to spread on paths and walkways between the raised beds, as well as around fruit trees to keep roots warm in the winter.
Anyone like pumpkins this time of year? I did not plant pumpkins this year because it absolutely took over our garden beds last year. But I guess God had other plans for the garden this year as I have a great amount of pumpkins that grew. I think it fascinating that they are hanging from my tomato cages and green bean tunnel.
While working around the homestead today, I had an engineer here all morning checking, measuring, taking pictures and asking questions, readying our house for a solar panel installation. We are really looking forward to adding solar to our property, hopefully to help get our utility costs reduced and be more in line with our belief in sustainability and eco-friendly.
I think this is the first time I have ever written over 1000 words for one post. I hope I did not bore you, but there is always a lot going on at the little suburban homestead this time of year. This hero, although tired, really enjoys the activity.
Today’s economy is rising tide of expenses and debt for the average consumer. It seems to many that there will never again be a low tide where one can catch their breath before dealing with yet another increase or financial crisis. In previous posts, I gave several tips on ways to decrease your expenses and although we are soon starting a new year, those tips are still very pertinent today.
We have moved forward in our sustainable living model with the addition of rabbits, bees, tilapia fish, and a large aquaponics setup, which have all helped in reducing our need on outside sources to live a comfortable, frugal life.
I would like to take a moment to once again discuss the desire and need to reduce our energy consumption-initially to reduce our expense and be less dependent on outside sources, but since have noted how much a difference has been made in reducing our carbon gas emissions.We are taking our energy reduction one step further with the addition of a solar panel grid to our electric system.
In the past decade solar power was an expensive venture to install and maintain, but in just the last few years many new innovations have made solar power a very affordable opportunity to the average homeowner. In just the past few months, thousands have contacted us to see how affordable solar energy has become.
Through our program and partnership with one of the leading solar companies in the United States, it is as simple as:
Included maintenance at no additional cost for the life of your contract. That includes any necessary repairs or replacements. (Which, you should know, are not a common occurrence: Today’s solar systems are designed to withstand extremes of wind and weather)
Locked-in low rates that can be significantly less than you pay your utility now
No paperwork: All permitting and arrangements with your utility will be handled for you
And with a completely FREE evaluation of the property, there is nothing to lose. Everything will be handled initially by phone and email, and only once you decide solar is the right choice will an engineer visit your home for an on site assessment and installation plan.
The truth is, going solar may be one of the smartest things you can do as a homeowner because it can increase your home’s resale value. And as utility prices go up, your savings grow.
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by converting much of your power generation to green, clean, solar energy. Take just 30 seconds to request your no-risk consultation and you could be on your way to savings in your pocket, while making a huge difference on our environment. Currently available in limited markets, but quickly expanding, so if we are not in your market yet, check back soon.
For more information on Solar Power or how to save money over your current utility visit us at:
It is never to early to start thinking about plans for the next year. As 2015 winds down, lets gear up for saving in 2016.
Here are a few simple things you can do to save money while being eco-friendly. If you have a limited budget, start with the free ones and then try and add another step as you can afford them. In the long run, the savings will far outweigh the initial cost!
GO GREEN to SAVE GREEN IN 2016
Reduce Energy Consumption
· Insulate! Insulate! Insulate!
· Insulate electrical sockets on outside walls.
· Turn off the lights when you leave a room to help reduce your electric bill.
· Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use. (Considered an energy vampire)
· Turn off anything with LED lighting, ie VCR/DVD, cable box,etc… Again, energy vampires.
· Do not hold refrigerator or freezer door open for an extended period.
· Close blinds or curtains on sunny side of house in summer to keep the sun from heating up the room, keeps AC from having to work harder. In winter, open blinds and curtains so sun warms the room, decreasing heating costs.
· Caulk around windows to keep an airtight seal, reducing energy costs
· Seal leaks around the house. A common place to look is at the junction where the foundation and house meet. Also another place to look for is where the electric and plumbing come into the house.
· Change all bulbs to CFL bulbs or LED lighting.
· Change furnace filter every month to have furnace work efficiently.
· Use Energy Star appliances when possible.
· Use a programmable thermostat.
· Turn down the thermostat. For every degree you turn it up or down you save money. In the winter, turn down the furnace. Wear shoes, socks, and a sweater. We program out thermostat to go down to 64 degrees at 9 pm when the grandchild goes to bed. Everyone can be warm snuggled under the covers! Also open curtains and/or blinds during the day to let the sun warm the room.
· In the summer, turn air conditioner up and use a ceiling fan in the room you are in, when you leave the room turn off the fan. Close the curtains and blinds on the side of the room the sun will be shining into. This helps to keep heat out thereby reducing energy costs.
· Caulk around your dryer vent.
· Turn down water heater to 120 degrees. This can cut up to 5 % off bill with each 10 degrees that you lower the temperature.
· Put an insulated wrap around your water heater.
· Use a pressure cooker to cook things quicker, food is also healthier.
· Give your digital clock away, use a wind up clock, or if you need an alarm what about your cell phone?
· Weather strip and caulk around doors and windows.
· Using the microwave is cheaper than using the stove or oven.
· Cook with crock pot, pressure cooker, or microwave.
· In the summer, arrange cooking so that you don’t use the oven and heat up the house. Use the grill as an option.
· In the winter, when you use the oven when the food has finished cooking open the door so the room is warmed too.
· Air dry dishes, don’t use the high heat drying cycle of the dishwasher.
· Don’t put the refrigerator near a heating vent.
· Keep temperature of the refrigerator about 34 degrees F.
· Keep the freezer temperature between 0-4 degrees F.
· Keep the refrigerator coils clean. Vacuum the coils every month for maximum efficiency.
· Keep refrigerator a couple of inches away from the wall so coils won’t have unnecessary heat trapped.
· Keep freezer full. If necessary use gallon jugs of water between grocery trips. Uses more energy to keep air in freezer at proper temperature than to keep solid items frozen.
· In refrigerator compartment it is most efficient for the air to circulate around foods.
Reduce Water Consumption
· Turn off water, don’t let it run when brushing teeth or working in kitchen.
· Put a brick or plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet to decrease the amount of water you use when flushing toilet.
· Reuse your bath towel more than one time! Hang it up to dry and use for a few days to reduce the amount of laundry you have. This is for energy AND water savings.
· Use the water that was used to boil eggs, cool it, and water your plants with the water. Utilize the water that will run down the drain, use it to water your plants or gardens.
· Insulate at minimum the first 6 ft of hot water pipes from the water heater.
· Use low flow faucets and showerheads.
Reduce the amount of time spent in the shower by a few minutes for water savings
Take a shower instead of a bath-uses less water
Fix any water leaks!
Save Money on Laundry
· Empty dryer lint trap before drying clothes.
· Don’t wash small loads in the washer. Fill the machine to capacity to keep from doing multiple loads of laundry.
· Line dry clothes whenever possible.
· Remove laundry from dryer promptly, to prevent wrinkles and having to iron.
· When drying clothes separate the lighter clothes from the heavy ones. Dryer will keep running until the wettest item is dry.
· Wash clothes in cold water. Can save up to $63. a year for the average consumer.
· Don’t run appliances during peak times. In some areas your energy costs more at these times. Check with your local gas and electric company to see what your peak times are. (Usually around 1pm to 5pm.)
Make your own laundry soap-cheaper and no added fillers or chemicals
Saving money in the Home office
· Turn off the computer, printer, and fax machine when not in use.
· Shred paper to prevent identity theft, use in compost piles.
· Use a Smart Strip with all office equipment.
· Only print what you must have in print form, if you can save in a digital file, do so. If you need to retain it for records purposes, look into an online backup/storage facility. They are very inexpensive and your records are guaranteed safe. (This is great also if you have a system crash!)
Want more ideas, be sure to catch Part 2! If you can think of others-feel free to add them in the comments!