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Living in a solar home

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  • william stewart
    I ve seen many points brought up about solar power systems and their production; Having a passive solar house powered by photovoltaics, I can provide some
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2002
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      I've seen many points brought up about solar power systems and their
      production; Having a passive solar house powered by photovoltaics, I can
      provide some insights, within the context of

      Chemicals
      Yes, some panels were produced with less than desirable chemicals.
      However, new thin-film technology eliminates steps for chemical
      etching, and streamlines the entire process, producing rolls of PV
      material, instead of individual wafer slices in a batch process. The
      energy used to produce these panels (in their entirety) is 'paid-back'
      in about 1.8 years, depending on location. For several pages of detail,
      see Home Power magazine issue #80.

      Energy efficiency
      Always the first place to start. R-19 walls, R-38 attic, double pane
      Low-e windows with high Solar Heat Gain Coefficient(SHGC) on the south
      side, house wrapped tight, heat recovery ventilator. All appliances are
      exceptionally efficient, including lighting.

      Conservation
      Put simply; use as little as you can get by with. We don't leave lights
      on, or use phantom load appliances (unless we unplug them when not in
      use). We do have a heat pump, but we only use A/C when the weather
      outside is humid and over 85F.

      Solar
      The passive solar aspects of my house cost almost nothing; I arranged to
      have most of my window space on the south side, carefully chose my
      windows and insulating blinds, and ensured that each south window group
      had properly sized eaves over them to block the summer sun. Extra
      price: $1300. It

      The solar photovoltaic system is 2 kW (thats 2000 watts of electricity
      when the sun is shining directly perpendicular) and supplies most of our
      home's needs (4 people). We net-meter our system, which means that we
      sell back all the power that we don't use by spinning the meter
      backwards. It cost approximately $10,000 (including some incentives),
      with $3000 installation (I added lots of extras). I also added AGM
      batteries, which will primarily be used in emergencies, and will last in
      the net-metering mode from 10-20 years, after which they can be 98%
      recycled (people may throw away cell phone batteries, but not these).
      They require no maintenance; in fact, I've had to do zero maintenance
      on the system in the last two years, snow and hail included. Off-grid
      applications with flooded lead-acid batteries do require monthly battery
      checks and occasional topping off, but gridtied systems get around that.

      Solar panels on a condo that faces northeast are completely impractical.
      Take credit for all of the other highly sustainable measures you have
      undertaken and purchase green power if available in your utility
      district. And get a clothes drying rack for drying your clothes indoors
      in the winter.

      Population
      I agree that overpopulation is the biggest hurdle to sustainability, but
      that does not stop us from conserving and using clean energy. Carfree,
      afterall, is one of the best energy conservation measures we can take.
      While we are only car-reduced, our resource footprint is very small.
      When I do drive, its in my Honda Insight. We just came back from
      bike-shopping, stopping at the farmer's market for our weekly groceries,
      much of it organic.

      Internal debate can be heathly, as long as we are seeking the truth.

      Will Stewart
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