Friday, November 14, 2008

What is Net Metering?

Net metering is the arrangement you can make with your power company to install an alternative power system and sell power back to them for use in the grid.

The way it works is this: when you produce more solar power than you are using, your meter runs backwards. This is when your power company buys the power back from you. The power company then typically sells this power onto another customer (usually your neighbour) and you pay less for your power bill.

There are different types of net metering arrangements. The better ones allow you to either get credited if you make more power over a year than you use. Other arrangements will give you a 'floating credit' for one or more years. That net credit is generally not carried forward after a specified period. In other words, you don't get credited for a net annual excess of power.

The following states allow net metering:

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
Illnois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Masachusetts
Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico
New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
District of Columbia.

If your state isn't on this list, check the DSIREusa website. There are other rebates from local counties and power companies that might be available.

Is heating water with solar energy right for you?

The average house spends more on hot water than any other part of their heating bill. On average, 25% of a home's energy bill is from heating water. If you can implement a system in your home that would allow you to use solar energy to heat your water and transport it throughout your home, it would be one sure-fire way to help you cut down on your energy bill. .

Ideally, you want a south facing roof with a slope of your latitude + 15 degrees. Your solar collector should also have full sun between 9am and 3pm.

When considering a hot water panel setup, you want to make sure that you have panels large enough to supply enough hot water for everyone in your home. A general rule is to get a solar panel that has 10-15 square feet of collective solar area per person in the house. So if you have a home that has 4 people in it, I would recommed that you look at a collection system with panels that cover at least 40 square feet of area to sufficiently supply a constant hot water supply.

These systems, when used properly and installed properly, can help you to shave at least $200-$300 off your energy bill a year. It is important to factor in the amount of shade and the demand for hot water in your home to help you figure out the overall costs and savings.

Now that you know how much these systems can help you save in a year, it is important to note that a typical solar heating system on the market can start anywhere between $1500 and $3000. The systems will generally pay for themselves in about 5-10 years. You can look at the initial price of the solar collector as pre-paying for hot water. There are a wide range of solar water heaters available, so make sure you do your homework and find the system that will work best for your application. You do not want to invest this kind of money only to find that your system is inadequate for your needs.

FREE SOLAR PANELS - how to get them

You often see signs around construction sites that are solar powered, from time to time these signs will get damaged from drunk drivers or rubber-neckers passing through construction areas. Most of the time, the solar panels are still working but the glass above them is shatered so they have less of an output. Typically they still produce about 30 watts of power. The ones that are not shatered produce 60 watts and cost about $200-$300 dollars. Look closely at the signs and you will find a sticker with the phone number of the traffic sign rental contractor. Use your pen and paper to write down this number.

Call the company and ask for the shop maintaince manager or head mechanic and ask him for free damaged panels. If you have kids who enjoy doing experments, have them ask. Most companies love to help kids doing a school or class project. Most all traffic rental sign contractors have free solar panels that have some cracks or slightly damaged when drunk drivers hit the parked sign trailers. They replace them and throw away the damaged ones - and their insurance covers the cost. If they say you can come down and pick them up, you will want to take a big truck or trailer with you so that you can take off of the garbage panels they have with you. I tis best to take all of it, and disassemble whatever you do not need at home. If they do not have any panels or are unwilling to work with you, be nice, and ask them if they can refer to anyone that would be willing to unload some damaged panels. Be on time when you make an apointment to go and see them - and do not skip any appointments you make with them! Thank the shop mechanic with a box of doughnuts and refreshments and he might even call you when he has some more discard solar panels!

Once you get the panels home, test and repair the damaged panels as needed, cracks can be resealed with clear silicone. Wiring can be soldered back together.


Always Be polite when asking for discard parts

Don't stop on a busy road to get the phone number from a solar sign, as this is very dangerous and you can cause an accident.

Rent solar panels in your state

At the first of the year, I registered to have solar power put on my home by a company called The Citizenre Corporation. They are an energy company that is dedicated to modernizing our energy infrastructure and increasing our energy supplies here in the US. I signed up for this because I believe we are too dependent upon foreign oil, oil and natural gas prices keep rising, and I would rather see my hard earned money stay right here in the U.S. Also Solar Power is excellent for the environment as well! If you are interested and want to check it out - read the steps below.

Go to the website here: to set up a free account and enter in your home address and answer the home energy use questions. This will help them to profile your location, your homes use, and then provide some statistics for you to review.

By Creating an account, you are not committing to using their service. You are just selecting the type of plan that you would be interested in and the term that you would like to use their solar panels for. Once you create an account, they will generate a power consumption model for your address that you can review. Take a look at it and see how much power is generated in your area, and how much you use. This will help you to see the power that you can sell at certain types of the day, and the power that you will use.

Reading the chart and knowing exactly what you have consumed and when it was consumed will have significant value to you. Homeowners are more likely to conserve more energy when they can easily monitor their consumption. So not only will the chart help give you the ability to save money, but it will also help you to get into the habit of conserving energy.

The next thing to do is to go down into the "Contract Status History" of your account and read the FRA Terms & Conditions PDF they give you. If you read this, it will clearly state the agreement that you are interested in entering into, what type of thing the CitizenRENu group covers, the terms of the contract and how it works with your local energy provider.

The coolest thing is that the CitizenRENu company will pay for the city assessment, the code and ordinance work, and will also try to find qualified solar panel installers to come out to your house and do an installation. Your only cost is to provide a $500 dollar deposit for the term or the agreement that you enter into. So lets say that you want to have Solar Power on your home for 25 years - then you get the $500 dollars back at the end of the 25 year term. You can also transfer the panels to a new home if you move, so do not worry about that. I do want to make it clear though that you will still also get an energy bill from your local service provider. Just because you install these panels does not mean that you will not still get an energy bill. By installing these panels, they help you to drive down your energy costs because you are actually using the panels and selling energy back to the power company.

Another small fee that you will notice in your bill will also be a line fee from your energy company. Since you are trying to do something good for the planet and drive down your costs - the energy company will actually charge you about $5.00 a month for the use of their lines. They are still buying energy from you, but charging you at the same time to put it into the grid.

Regardless though, this company is doing the right thing, and they are defiantly worth checking out. I did, and I am really glad that I am helping to utilize solar power in my area. I still use grid power, but eventually I would love to be oil independent in my home!

The only problem right now is that this company is still trying to get funding and they are very overwhelmed with orders, so it is taking a while to get orders out. Also, there is a shortage or no qualified solar panel installers in certain states.

I do want to make it clear though that you will still get an energy bill from your local service provider. You pay to CitizenrÄ“ what you would normally pay to your existing electricity supplier during the lease term, but you lock in the rate at the beginning of each term, so even if your electric company raises its rates during the same period, you’re not affected. Just because you install these panels does not mean that you will not get an energy bill.

By installing these panels, they help you to drive down your energy costs because you are actually using the panels and selling energy back to the power company.
The power company will also charge you a fee for the use of their lines even though you are putting power into the grid for others to use.

The Citizenre REnU lease terms run in one, five and thirty year increments.

CitizenREnU -
Find Solar Professional in your area -

How to Heat Water With Solar Power

Heating water is one of the simplest and most effective uses of solar power. Solar water heaters can greatly reduce energy costs while simultaneously helping the environment. Professional installers can provide expert advice on using a solar panel to heat water in your home, but models are also available for experienced do-it-yourselfers to install themselves. Doing the job requires a few careful steps.

Things You’ll Need:
Solar water heater tank
Solar panel
Solar panel mounts
Solar panel rails
Copper connection tubing
Compression unions
Coaxial fitting for the water heater
2 roof boots
Roof boot flashing
Caulking gun
Teflon tape

Perform an audit on your home to determine your heat needs. Your water company may be able to provide information on usage, though a 30-gallon capacity per person in your household is a good round figure.

Determine the size of the solar power panel you will need and whether it will fit comfortably on your roof. Generally speaking, you'll need around 20 square feet for each of the first two residents. For every additional person, add 8 square feet if you live in a sunny area or 12 to 14 square feet if you live in a cold climate.

Determine the best placement for your solar panel on your roof. You will want a location where the mountings can be secured to the rafters (a hammer can be used to "sound out" the rafters), and also one that will allow you to run pipe to your hot water heater conveniently.

Measure the precise points where the mountings should go, making sure that they line up to the positions on the panel precisely.

Install the mountings using a power drill, with screws and brackets to hold them in place. The exact type of screw used will depend on the model of solar panel.

Seal the holes with caulk or similar sealant.

Install the rails onto the mounts and fix them in place, as described in their instruction manual (exact methods vary from model to model).

Install the solar panel on the rails, making sure they are secure against wind or bad weather.

Install a roof boot to provide an opening for the connection between the panel and the water tank. This should go approximately 2 inches from the feed connection on your solar panel, and should not be placed over any rafters.

Add flashing to the boot to make the surrounding hole watertight. Use caulk for a further sealant if necessary.

Install a second roof boot in the same manner approximately 2 inches from the absorber outlet of your solar panel.

Attach the compression unions to the roof boots.

Connect the compression unions to the appropriate feeds on the solar panel using copper tubing.

Make sure all connections are tight and will not leak water.

Run copper tubing from both feeds down through the attic to the water heater.

Turn off the gas on your water heater and drain it of all water.

Install the coaxial fitting onto the water heater (exact details vary by model).

Connect the copper tubes to the fitting, making sure that the feed line (cool water out to the solar panel, which will heat it) and the return line (hot water in from the solar panel) are connected to their proper locations.

Double check all connections to make sure there is no leaking. Use sealant or Teflon tape if necessary.

Refill the heater with water and turn the gas back on.

Make sure that your solar panel doesn't violate any existing building codes in your area, and check with your water company before attempting to adjust an existing hot water heater.

Take care when working on your rooftop. Make sure your footing is solid and always have a friend or family member close by in case of an accident.

How to Get Solar Power Grants

There are tax rebates and government programs designed to help you start using alternative energy. Since solar power equipment is still very expensive, and can be very hard on your budget to try and start using, you can look for grants to help you purchase and install a solar panel system. Think about the type of solar power system you would like to install - such as a solar water heating system or a photovoltaic solar power system. Water heating systems only heat the water in your home whereas photovoltaic systems can provide energy for the entire home. Which one you choose to install dictates which grants you will apply for.

Establish the overall budget for solar power installation. Before you get a solar power grant, you first need to determine just how much the system will cost to install. The solar water heating systems are usually much cheaper to install than the photovoltaic system.

Contact your local city energy office for any local grants that may be available. When you search for solar power it's best to begin at the local level and then expand to the state and federal level. Each level should have solar power grants you can apply for. See the Resources section for more information.

Read the details of the solar power grant and determine if you want to proceed. Some solar power grants are more consumer friendly than others are. You will need to read all of the fine print on just what you have to do qualify for the grant. Some grants will require installing the system first and then will reimburse your expenses, while others will award the grants contingent on the work you complete in the future.

Submit the solar power grant paperwork along with any other information that each grant requires. The detail of the information required varies for each grant.

Ways to use Solar Power in your home

As the environmental costs and limited supply of power sources such as fossil fuels are realized, solar power is rapidly becoming a much more viable alternative. It is an excellent alternative energy source, and it can be used for creating power and heat.

The creation of electrical power from solar power is generated through the use of photovoltaic panels that capture radiant energy form the sun and convert it into electricity. Each PV cell is made of two slices of silicon, mixed with a little bit of either phosphorous or boron since pure silicon. The cells absorb the sunlight, then the layers of silicon separate the electrons out into positive and negative charges, creating electrical current. The current can either be used immediately, or stored in batteries for later use. The reaction only produces direct current electricity however so it must be passed through an inverter to be converted into an alternating current so it can be used in our homes. A typical PV cell can last up to 40 years with no maintenance other than a yearly clean.

You can also use solar electric power for your outside lights and to power your landscape features. Antoher really effecient use for solar power is to supply electricity to your well pump - if your home uses a well for its water supply. Solar power can be used to power high efficiency water pumps which can be linked directly to PV cells, or which come in their own kits, ready for installation to your pump motor.

There are also solar systems that exist for heating your home water supply, your pool, or outdoor hot-tubs. Water supply heating systems simply set up on your roof, or next to your pool or hot tub, and circulate the water supply through a heat exchange unit. The heat is produced from the sunlight that hits these units and they can greatly reduce heating costs. These can be used year-round in hot climates, and they also make special units for use in cold, freezing climates.

In addition, you can couple these units with radiant panel flooring that can installed in your home, and can actually replace existing conventional water heaters, dramatically reducing utility bills by up to 85 percent.

Solar power can also provide additional heat to any kind of heating system by using hot air panels or a “solar wall.” This adds heat to the building directly during hours of sunlight.

These are just a few of the most popular uses for solar energy that can help you to increase your homes energy effeciency, and keep your lifestyle comfortable - but green!

Harness Solar Power - Project Blog

Welcome to the Harness Solar Power Project Blog. I created this blog to help teach people about solar power, solar panels, solar electricity, and how easy solar power is to use. I set out to show you how you can start using solar power in your everyday lives. Take a look through the posts to start learning about solar power projects you can easily do around your home to start harnessing the sun's ability to create electricity.