As an engineer who specializes in the design of high performance buildings, which typically include some component of renewable energy, I am often asked by homeowners “Should I put solar on my roof at home?” I often answer that question with a question of my own: “How old is your refrigerator?”
What does the age of a refrigerator have to do with installing solar panels? The typical single-family home might consume on average 12,500 kWh per year, and a refrigerator more than five years old is less efficient than a new Energy Star rated appliance. That old refrigerator is costing you approximately $100 per year and consumes almost 1,000 kWh of energy — replacing it will save you $150 over the next five years. Better yet, you probably have an even older refrigerator plugged in for extra cold storage; unplugging that completely will save you another $150 per year and reduce your home energy consumption by 10 percent overall.
The point is that there are very simple things you can do to lower your energy consumption and reduce your energy costs that are more cost effective than installing solar on your roof. Consider these quick fixes:
- Replace your incandescent lights with new LEDs. This could save you approximately $125 per year.
- Install a programmable thermostat to save another $180 per year.
- Tune up your AC unit annually and replace the air filters every 3 to 6 months, saving another $100 per year.
- Don’t use your clothes dryer or oven during peak hours. Not only is the energy more expensive at that time, but your AC unit must work overtime to remove the extra heat from your home. This can save you $100 per year.
- Make sure the doors and windows on your home close properly and seal tightly, saving up to $50 per year.
- Check your refrigerator, even if it is new. Cleaning the condenser coils and making sure the door seals properly when closed can save you $75 per year.
Only when you have reduced the demand loads in your home should you consider renewables like solar. You’ll reduce the amount of solar energy you require and save yourself more money without paying to install or maintain equipment that you don’t need.
Lloyd Ramsey has more than 25 years of professional experience implementing sustainable design strategies for new construction, modernizations, and adaptive-reuse. He is the Chairman of the USGBC Arizona Chapter and sits on the Executive Board of the Discovery Triangle.
Read more articles about energy at greenlivingaz.com/energy.