Yes, it’s tax season again and we know you all love doing your taxes. That’s why our HVAC contractor is here – to help you save even more with energy efficient tax credits.
According to the IRS, you can receive a tax credit if you have an energy-efficient home. If you made an improvement to your home last year, you may qualify for the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit or the Non-Business Energy Efficient Property Credit.
While we’re working to increase renewable energy as a country, the future of renewable energy also varies by state. Some (like West Virginia and New Mexico) are just beginning to produce solar, wind, or hydro power while others (like Idaho and Maine) are already running entirely on them.
As you’ve likely heard, we’re less than one week away from an iconic total solar eclipse. The event will happen Monday, August 21st beginning around 9 a.m. PDT in Oregon and ending around 2:50 p.m. EDT in South Carolina. Here are some fun facts about the big event:
The last total solar eclipse to span the length of the continental U.S. was on June 8, 1918, which means your parents and even your grandparents have likely never seen one.
The eclipse’s “path of totality” refers to the exact path that the moon’s shadow creates over the Earth. It’s only in this path that you can see the sun completely covered by the moon.
People in 14 different states will be in the path of totality: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The moon will travel at various speeds (from 3,000 mph down to 1,500 mph) as it crosses the U.S. This means totality will last anywhere between 2 minutes and almost 3 minutes, depending on where you view it.
Solar eclipses happen on average 1-2 times per year, but many don’t pass over populated areas.
When the moon completely covers the sun, those in the path of totality will experience a darkness similar to dusk and will be able to see stars, the planet Venus, and the sun’s corona (the aura of plasma that surrounds it).
Only one major city will have a great view of the eclipse: Nashville, Tennessee.
The United States is the only country that will be lucky enough to experience totality (other countries will be able to see only a partial solar eclipse). The last time this happened was on January 11, 1880.
When totality occurs, animals will become confused and think it’s night time – birds will fall silent, spiders will take down their webs, crickets will chirp, bees and ants will return to their nests, and mosquitos will start biting.
Those of us in Pennsylvania aren’t lucky enough to be in the path of totality, but we’ll be able to see the moon covering 75%-80% of the sun.
Remember, never look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse. Even if the moon is covering part of it, it can still permanently damage your eyes. Make sure you have the right glasses if you want to look directly at the eclipse (sorry, sunglasses aren’t protective enough).
Since its first appearance in the 1960s, solar technology has been steadily becoming more and more prominent. Not only have we improved solar cells, energy storage, and solar applications, but we’ve also made the renewable energy source more affordable for people throughout the country.
One company dedicated to making affordable solar power happen is Solar City, an energy provider based in San Mateo, California. Recently, it announced its plans to mass-produce the world’s most efficient (and affordable) solar panel.
The project comes as a result of Solar City’s acquisition of Silevo, a solar manufacturing startup. Silevo creates a highly efficient solar panel using a technology called Triex, and with Solar City as the manufacturing element, the project could see great success. To get things going, Solar City is currently building a solar panel manufacturing plant outside of Buffalo, New York that is said to triple the size of the largest solar plant in the U.S.
Solar City’s chairman, Elon Musk (who happens to also be the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX), has funded the project since its conception in June, which aims to lower global warming effects and make solar energy more affordable. Typically, solar panels can cost anywhere from $5 to $11 per watt, however, these anticipated new panels aim to cost $2.50 per watt by 2017.
The cost of solar energy is already falling, but more affordable solar panels will help drive it down even more. In fact, according to a report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, solar is predicted to be cheaper than traditional grid power by as early as 2017 and as late as 2040. The overall cost and availability, however, will also depend on federal subsidies in the future. For now, though, the future is looking bright.
If you haven’t heard, prefabricated homes (also called modular homes) have been growing in popularity. These homes are manufactured off-site and are then shipped to a desired location and assembled. They’re quick to put together, durable, can fit in small spaces, and can often cost less than designing and building a home from scratch.
Just recently, an Australian architecture firm took the prefab house to a whole new level by creating one that actually produces more energy than it uses. The world’s first home of its kind features things like:
In-ground cooling tubes
Australian plywood walls and ceilings
Green, thermally insulated roof
Planter boxes for herbs and vegetables
Double-glazed, draft-proof windows
Air-tight build to save more energy.
As long as a home like this is built in a place where it can consistently access sunlight, it could save around 1,120 tons of carbon emissions over its lifespan (around 100 years); that’s the equivalent of 267 cars being taken off the road. It’s because of this that the home is considered beyond a “carbon zero” home and instead, what’s called a “carbon positive” home, since it actually produces energy on site.
So how much does a house like this cost? In Australia, they’re going for between 260,000 and 406,000 Australian dollars, which is between $203,000 and $317,000 American dollars.
The average American household uses almost 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy every year, so if this trend catches on, it could mean significant energy savings for both the homeowners and the surrounding areas.
To see pictures of the first carbon-positive prefab home, click here. And if you’re interested in seeing the installation of a one-bedroom, two-bathroom prefab home by the same Australian architect, click here.
As a homeowner, you probably use electricity, natural gas, or oil to power your home. Over the past several years two other energy sources have emerged: geothermal and solar. Both of these sources use the power of nature to produce energy and can save you money on your monthly bills, but which is right for you?
How They Work
First, we’ll give you a brief description of how each energy source works: Solar power uses solar panels, which are often installed on your roof. These panels capture the light from the sun and turn it into a usable electricity. Geothermal power uses the heat from the earth to control a looped underground system, which can then heat or cool your home.
Before you consider an alternative source of energy for your home, first consider your location. Solar power relies on the sun, so if you live in an area that’s constantly cloudy, you might not benefit from it as much as you could. And geothermal power, while beneficial in every region, is incredibly effective when producing heat, so a home in a colder area is an idea candidate.
The cost of a geothermal heat pump installation and the cost of a solar panel installation both depend on the size of your home and how much energy you use. While the average cost of a geothermal heat pump is between $20,000 and $25,000, a solar panel installation can vary based on how many solar panels you decide to use (but is typically between $10,000 and $20,000).
The amount of money you save with an alternative energy source depends on the bills you’re trying to cut down. If your home is powered by oil or natural gas and you choose to install solar panels, your solar panels will only save you money on your electric bill. However, if you opt for a geothermal heat pump installation, it will save you money on your heating and cooling bills.
Choosing to use geothermal energy or solar energy is a big decision. Talk to one of our experts – we can help you decide which is your best investment.
I would wish everyone a Happy Thursday, but we’re all still pretty bummed about last night’s Flyers game, so we’ll have to settle for “Bring on Game 5!!” instead.
I’m not a big fan of any one morning radio show. I kind of hop around the dial on my way in to work, but one that I listen to pretty regularly is the Marketplace Morning Report on NPR. One of the things that I like about the show is that they talk about different things that companies do well, and one of their recent reports really caught my attention.
Did you know that FedEx is going all out with an alternative energy program? I didn’t know this, but they’re updating their fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles and they’re putting in solar and other green energy options at their facilities. You can check out the details on their site here. I think it’s great to see a big company like that leading the way in alternative energy – so kudos to you, FedEx! Converting even part of a huge fleet like they have to alternative energy is a fantastic accomplishment.
Oliver is obviously much smaller than FedEx, but we are trying to do our part for a clean Earth as well. We produce solar energy at our headquarters (check out our production), and we offer options for homeowners too.
Do you know of other businesses, big or small, that deserve kudos for alternative energy development? I want to hear about them, please! Leave a comment and let us know who deserves a Green Star.