Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive September 2011 Show 1136 Solar Power

Solar Power

One potential energy source is pretty much a constant without harming the environment. A growing number of Americans are counting their energy savings thanks to a little help from the sun.
Solar Power

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Show 1136: Solar Power

Air date: September 4, 2011



Rob:  While gasoline prices have fallen dramatically from record highs last year, few believe this dip is even close to permanent, which is why alternative energy sources still make sense.  Yet each has their own set of drawbacks.  Coal contributes to greenhouse gases.  Corn based ethanol puts pressure on food prices.  And wind, well, it’s absolutely great, when it blows.  But one potential energy source is pretty much a constant without harming the environment.  As our Brian Bendele shows us, a growing number of Americans are counting their energy savings thanks to a little help from up above.

That 80 gallon tanks feeds the 50 gallon tank that we have for the downstairs.

Brian Bendele:  Going green doesn’t just mean using alternative fuels.  It also means using natural resources, like the sun.

Fred Hansen:  Solar dryer here, one of the cheapest solar investments you can make to save money for yourself.

Brian:  Now while homeowner Fred Hansen points out the simplest of solar powered appliances, drying your clothes outside does add up.

Fred:  If you consider that a dryer uses about four kilowatts of energy an hour, and a family does two loads twice a week, that’s four loads, that would be sixteen kilowatts for something the sun will do for you for free.

Brian:  But Hansen’s ingenuity hasn’t stopped there.  He uses the sun to power his home and heat his water.

Fred:  Most people say, well all you’re doing is producing enough to turn some light bulbs on, and we’re producing way more than that.

Fred:  My gas bill, that was primarily for the two hot water heaters, has been cut in half.  So that’s a benefit there.  Solar electric last year, I had twelve panels that made about fifteen percent of my electric.

Brian:  Hansen learned about solar power on a trip to Hawaii.  And when he came home he also learned about a tax credit to make the process economical.

Fred:  It’s still a system that is getting better but is expensive and probably is not practical for most people without the tax credit.

Brian:  Something Scott Frazier with OSU Bio Ag Engineering says homeowners should look into and use now before it’s too late.

Scott Frazier:  If you are in a remote location, you know, off the grid where it would cost several thousand dollars to get power in there then that’s something to look at.  Or, if you are just interested in this from an environmental point of view and you want to do your part so to speak.

Brian:  What Frazier is talking about and Hansen is using, is photovoltaics, where solar panels actually create electricity to run your house and even turn back your electric meter, putting electricity back into the grid.

Fred:  I’m not paying anything for electricity right now.  The electric company is paying me.

Brian:  A process that isn’t cheap to install.

Fred:  With the electric company coming and approving it and running power lines to the breaker box, I think it’s somewhere between 800 and 1,000 dollars a panel.

Brian:  And with Hansen’s twenty panels the bill adds up fast, but thanks to the 30% federal tax incentives, you can receive up to $2,000 for solar electric and solar water heating systems.

Scott:  Well probably for residential we’re thinking that solar thermal, so in other words, to provide hot water is probably the best bang for your buck.

Brian:  That is because a typical system runs around 2,000 to 3,000 dollars with the tax credit.  But most importantly the system works with your current hot water heater.

Scott:  There’re several different kinds.  The simplest kind would just feed into your existing water tank; and you would keep, whether it was natural gas or electric, you would keep that tank operating on natural gas or electric.  It’s just that the thermostat in the tank would sense that it is getting hot water from somewhere else.

Fred:  We used to have a problem that if we did laundry and dishes you had to wait quite a period of time before you could take a shower or bath and have hot water.  After I put the solar hot water in, we have not had any problems whatsoever.

Brian:  A resourceful way to save money while going green from an advanced level right down to the most basic of all applications.