Solar Energy

Here’s the big question: “If you could lock in gasoline prices at $1.79 per gallon for the next 30 years would you do it?” When asked this question, the overwhelming response is YES!

The next question is: “If you could lock in your utility bill costs for the next 30 years, would you?” Again the answer is YES!, but they want to know how….and that’s the story of the “Net Zero” home.

The amount of energy falling on the earth from the sun is incredible. According to some “the earth receives about 274 million gigawatt-years of solar energy, which translates to an astonishing 8.2 million “quads” of Btu energy per year. The entire human race currently uses about 400 quads of energy (in all forms) per year. Put another way, the solar energy hitting the earth exceeds the total energy consumed by humanity by a factor of over 20,000 times.  www.ecoworld.com article by Ed Ring on June 14, 2006

Is there enough solar energy to power all the needs of the human race? Absolutely!

But let’s talk about what makes sense today…and tomorrow for you, the homeowner. Let’s talk about the New Sunconomy. It’s what makes $ense for you now and in the future.

As a New Orleans solar contractor, we help homeowners create energy efficient homes that utilize the earth’s most abundant source of power. Road Home Builders can show you how solar power can produce enough power to run your entire house.

Let’s look at three scenarios that might make sense for you.

1. Energy Efficient House
2. Energy Efficient House w/ Solar Assist
3 Net Zero Energy Efficient House

HERS Scale

Energy Efficient House

An energy efficient house is one with a tight building envelope (walls, ceiling, floor, windows and doors), energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, hot water system, low wattage lighting (typically fluorescent or LED) and energy efficient appliances. This makes up the bulk of energy used in a home. Of course, things like computers, Televisions, DVDs, music systems, clock radios and other items plugged in to wall outlets all consume power, even when turned off.

Energy Efficient House with Solar Assist

All the items in #1 above but with solar hot water and/or solar photovoltaics that produce some of the energy necessary to run your household. For instance, a solar hot water system may produce enough solar energy to heat and maintain a 40 gallon tank but if all family members shower in the morning to get ready for the day and someone uses water to cook breakfast and wash dishes, there may not be enough hot water in the solar tank to supply the needs during that demand period. Then, of course, natural gas or electric hot water heaters would turn on to make up the difference between what the sun could heat and the demand for that period of time during the day.

The same would be true for Solar Photovoltaics or Solar Cell systems. Many times, especially on older homes, it would be too costly to produce all of the electricity needed to supply 100% of the needs of the home. Size, energy efficiency, older systems and pools all play a part in energy used. The idea with Solar Assist is to produce some base line of electricity and/or hot water and use utility grid power and/or fuel to supplement the remainder of your use.

Net Zero

A “Net Zero” home is a home where the envelope is tight, the systems are designed specifically for the energy efficient house and you then calculate what amount of solar photovoltaics and solar hot water you will need to achieve as close to no utility bill as possible. In states like Louisiana you have net metering where the meter will actually run backward as you feed power into the grid during the day when utility companies need it most and then run forward at night or early morning as you start using your systems.

An option of “Net Zero” that some people use includes the use of batteries to store power and possibly the use of a generator to be totally grid free. Some people call this Grid Free Housing or living off the grid. This makes sense in locations where it is too expensive to run power lines over long distances to bring power to one house such as in the mountains of Colorado or the swamps of Louisiana.