Sunday, September 07, 2014

Saving Money Through Solar Energy for the Home

It may come as a surprise that you can get a solar array on your house with no up front cost, and reduce your energy bills in the process. That sounds like something a phone solicitor might say, but my friend and neighbor Peter Thompson, who has considerable technical expertise as manager of IT at Princeton High School, decided to research the issue, and ended up with solar panels on his roof.

He went with solar even though his roof doesn't face south, and is shaded for part of the day by nearby trees. Despite these less than ideal conditions, the panels are projected to supply nearly half of his home's energy needs. Since getting the panels up and running, he's learned that they produce significant energy even when it's cloudy.

In a detailed writeup with photos and graphs about his experience researching solar and getting the panels installed, he describes the various factors that influenced his decisions about whether to purchase or lease, how many panels to get, and what sorts of financial incentives are in place.

His explorations of this may have begun when I asked him about the possibility of using energy from solar panels during power outages. Most solar arrays shut down during power outages, for reasons Peter explains in his writeup. But he was able to negotiate with the installer to include a way to feed solar-generated electricity to one wall outlet even during a power outage. That electricity can then run small electronics and charge a battery that could be used at night.

My ideal would be to have an electric car whose batteries could keep the house going in low energy mode during a power outage, with the solar panels providing a means to charge the car's batteries. Peter's writeup shows how he took a significant step in that direction. He also gives contact info if you want to ask him any questions. If you're driving down Hamilton Ave, his house is at the corner of Horner, just past Harrison St.

Thanks to Peter for sharing his research and experience with the community!

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