Posts Tagged ‘battery backup’
» posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2010 at 9:12 pm by Woody Wilson viewed 265 times
By Theresa Curry • Contributor • July 25, 2010
Several hours into the second big snowfall in February, Chris Bolgiano went to the basement of her Fulks Run home and saw a digital clock blinking, the way they do when the power goes out.
“That’s the only way we knew that no electricity was coming into our house,” Bolgiano said. The other clocks, the lights, the computers and the kitchen appliances were continuing to provide the Bolgianos with the same level of utility and comfort as they did before the storm piled 18 inches of snow on top of the foot already blanketing their rural community.
It was a landmark of sorts for the couple: Chris, a nature writer and retired JMU librarian, and Ralph, a retired biologist, had installed additional solar panels a few months before. That allowed full power for their daily needs while keeping a system of sealed lead batteries charged. The batteries kicked in as soon as the electricity failed.
“We were without electricity for 36 hours, but we’d only used 25 percent of the battery backup,” Chris said. “And we were living life as usual. If we had been more conservative from the start, I’m sure we could have used much less.”
Meanwhile, Glenn Mingo was keeping an eye on the snow on the solar panels at his home between Spring Hill and Parnassus. Mingo normally fills his power needs from the panels on the roof of his ranch-style home.
“I’m retired, and I think of this as a way of prepaying my energy bills,” he said of his investment. “They’ll go up and my income won’t.”
Mingo and the Bogianos aren’t just in it for the longterm cost savings. They’re committed to lessening the environmental impact of their lives and they like the idea of being independent for security and other reasons.
There are growing numbers of homeowners like them, said Watt Bradshaw, whose 32-year-old Blue Ridge Energy Company specializes in building alternative energy sources such as solar, wood turbine, geothermal and small wind.
“In other countries, (people who install alternate energy sources) get enormous incentives for what they’ve done,” he said. Bradshaw said while total energy independence might not be possible, everyone can take some steps toward reducing energy costs.
If you’re thinking of moving in that direction, some guidelines from Bradshaw, Bolgiano and Mingo
Reduce your consumption
Over the course of about 10 years, Mingo installed compact fluorescent and LED bulbs in his most used lights, increased the insulation in his attic, and made storm windows to reduce heat and cooling loss.
Here’s How To Save Up To 50% Each Month On Your Home Utility Bills Without Installing Solar Panels Or A Wind Generator!:Save on Home Energy
“As I needed to replace appliances, I chose those that were more energy efficient and completely got rid of my garbage disposal,” he said.
To make dishwashing more efficient, he installed a foot-operated turn-on for his sink. He put in a root cellar for winter storage and buys apples and other good keepers in bulk as winter approaches.
The Bolgianos have used similar strategies since the construction of their 1,900-square-foot home 25 years ago. They heat with wood and don’t use a dishwasher or clothes dryer. By paying careful attention to the siting and construction of their basement, greenhouse and decks, they take advantage of natural light and heat in the winter and shade in the summer. Like Mingo, they have appropriate storage that’s naturally cool. The greenhouse allows them to have a salad garden all year, reducing both trips to the grocery and the need for refrigeration.
Contributing to the grid
“Going off the grid” was once a slogan of the energy-independence movement, but most people choose to stay connected, even though the power companies don’t offer much of a reward to their small contributors.
“In some countries, everyone who generates excess electricity and feeds it into the system is well-rewarded,” Bradshaw said. “It’s a tremendous mistake to put it all in the hands of the power companies with their 30 percent administrative markup.”
Mingo said he uses the conventional grid as a kind of storage system. “I contribute my excess power in the spring, fall and summer, and draw it out in the winter, kind of like a bank.” Bolgiano said her power company, Shenandoah Valley Electric Co-op, hasn’t quite figured out the bookkeeping aspects of the transactions.
“I have to really study my bill to see where they’ve credited me and how much over my consumption I’ve given them,” she said. She said the sealed lead batteries that allow her to store energy are expensive and not likely to become widely used for energy storage.
Bolgiano likes the idea of an eventual network of energy-contributing homeowners for security reasons. If the power supply isn’t all centered in one place, she reasons, a natural disaster or hostile attack is less likely to cause widespread devastation.
“I think it’s part of the American character,” she said, “to want to be independent and also to contribute to the common good.”
Start with a solar hot water
The most practical advice anyone can give about producing power is to install a solar hot water heating system, says Bradshaw.
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Thermal Solar Hot Water
“People actually use more hot water in the summer because of more laundry and showers, and that’s when you can get 100 percent of it from solar panels,” he said.
In its simplest form, solar panels pre-heat the water in a special tank before it flows into the regular hot water heater, which then adjusts its temperature for laundry and bathing.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1.5 million homeowners have installed solar hot water heaters, with a nearly 100 percent satisfaction rate. With hot water comprising 13 to 25 percent of household energy use, it’s a step that can be cost-effective, especially with state and federal rebates, and if you’re able to do some of the work yourself, as Mingo did.
“Plan to save the initial cost in three to five years,”
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