Reducing home energy use

Hello, Rainbow Friends,
When we think about the climate crisis, we know that we as individuals need to do as much as possible to reduce our our carbon footprint, our consumption of energy from fossil fuel. “Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which were induced by your activities in a given time frame.” from https://timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-definition/ You can learn your own carbon footprint here: https://www.terrapass.com/carbon-footprint-calculator


Home energy use and transportation energy use are the major contributors to our carbon footprint. Today, I focus on  HOME ENERGY USE:


Many local power companies offer energy checkups, to help you reduce the amount of energy consumed in your home. Thanks to Jonathan Nimitz for providing the following information about our local Home Energy Checkup. 
Jonathan writes: “PNM offers home energy checkups, where they send someone to review home energy efficiency. The cost is very low, $15-$45 depending on the level of inspection. The cost includes replacing incandescent light bulbs with high-quality LEDs, one or two smart power strips ($30 value each) that can greatly reduce “leakage current” while electronics are turned off, two low flow showerheads, and replacement aerators for the kitchen faucet and two other faucets. The checkup can include an inspection of a refrigerated air conditioning unit to see if it is operating properly or needs a tune-up. Recommendations are also made regarding other appliances and hot water heaters. One checkup is offered during the lifetime of each account (an owner at an address). The energy savings easily run into hundreds of dollars and a lot of kilowatt-hours, and reduction in carbon emissions. Additional information and scheduling is available at https://www.pnm.com/checkup For energy checkup programs in other locations, check with your own local power company.


After Jonathan told me about this energy checkup program, I went on line, signed up, and had my PNM Home Energy Checkup just a few days ago. Even though I had previously replaced more than half of my old incandescent bulbs with florescent bulbs, the very helpful “Energy Ambassador” was able to replace 20 more bulbs with dimmable LED bulbs. He changed out two showerheads. We discussed possible solutions to a problem area that has significant outside air leakage. And he left information with me about potential appliance rebates. The entire experience was a good and useful one.


SUPPORT THE USE OF MORE WIND AND SOLAR POWER: Many power companies around the country have programs than enable you to do this. Our local program is called PNM Sky Blue . I have participated in this and similar programs for about 20 years. The PNM program is a “voluntary program that allows you to purchase wind and solar energy at a premium price to show your commitment to the environment without putting panels on your roof or having a turbine in your back yard.” https://www.pnm.com/pnm-sky-blue1 Check with your local power company or search on-line for other voluntary solar programs.
A nationwide program called Arcadia Power is slightly different. They say: “We connect you to local community solar projects and purchase renewable energy certificates from wind farms on your behalf .” You pay Arcadia and Arcadia uses those energy certificates to pay your local electric company. https://www.arcadiapower.com/how-it-works/ (NOTE: I have no experience with this program. Scroll down on the following web page to find some reviews of Arcadia Power: https://www.reviewopedia.com/arcadia-power-reviews )


INSTALLING SOLAR PANELS ON YOUR ROOF is a step that many of us contemplate. Making this decision can be difficult and complex. In my opinion, the best over-all source of information is Energy Sage , https://www.energysage.com/solar/ . Especially useful is their menu item “Research Solar”. Energy Sage is associated with the non-profit Solar Foundation. The Solar Foundation says: “ We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing the use of solar and solar-compatible technologies worldwide. We believe that increasing access to this clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable energy source will lift up people’s lives and bring about a prosperous future for all.” https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/gosolar/


QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF. (Note: I am asking myself these questions as well. I do not have all of the answers. I am just sharing what I have learned. )
Why am I considering solar energy? 
Financial reasons?
Fighting the climate crisis?
Fighting air pollution?
Making the world healthier for the children of the future?
What will change in the next year or so?
The cost?
The incentives?
My needs?
How much electricity do I use per month? And/or…
How much money do I spend on home electricity per month?
Should I buy electric appliances to replace my gas appliances so that I can reduce my carbon footprint and run my home totally on solar electricty? 
What kind of solar system do I want and need? 
   Grid tie-in (no battery backup)
   Grid tie-in (battery backup)
   Off grid with battery backup
Is my roof ready for solar? “Before purchasing or leasing a roof-installed solar system, you should verify the condition of your roof. A typical roof lasts approximately 20 years on average. If you don’t know when your roof was installed or last repaired, it is a good idea to have it inspected by a professional prior to installing a solar system. You also need to find out from the solar company what happens if you need to repair your roof once your panels are installed and include the costs associated with removing your panels and reinstalling them in your financial analysis.”  From https://www.pnm.com/solar
Can solar be installed on the kind of roof I have? Based on personal experience, I know that some solar companies will not install solar panels on a tar and gravel roof, which is very common on flat-roofed homes in New Mexico. 
Does my roof receive sunlight for most of the day?
Does my Home Owners association put any restrictions on solar installation?
What kinds of incentives for solar installation are there? https://www.solar-estimate.org/solar-incentives Scroll down to the map and click on your state. Here are the results that I got for New Mexico:

Incentive Name
Eligibility
Type
Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit
Federal
Personal Tax Credit
Property Tax Exemption for Solar Systems
State
Property Tax Incentive
Net Metering
State
Net Metering

The Federal tax credits for residential renewable energy products are still available through December 31, 2021. Tax Credit: 
   30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
   26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
   22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022 
More information here:  https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits/2017_renewable_energy_tax_credits


Property tax exemption: “ New Mexico offers a property tax exemption when you install a solar system on your home. For the purpose of property tax assessments, residential solar systems will not be treated as an improvement to your property and therefore will not increase the amount that you pay in property taxes.” https://www.solar-estimate.org/solar-panels/new-mexico#solar-incentives


What is Net Metering? “Net metering (also known as net energy metering or NEM) is a solar incentive that allows you to store energy in the electric grid. When your solar panels produce more electricity than you need, that energy is sent to the grid in exchange for credits. Then, at night or other times when your solar panels are underproducing, you pull energy from the grid and use these credits to offset the costs of that energy.” https://www.energysage.com/solar/101/net-metering-for-home-solar-panels/ Most states, including New Mexico, require all electric utilities to offer net metering to their customers. Check your own electric utility’s website to find out more about their net metering policy. This is what I learned about my local power company: When you have solar panels installed and you apply up with PNM to s ell your renewable energy certificates (RECs) to PNM, you pay an application fee of $150. If you don’t want to sell your REC’s back to PNM, the application fee is $50. If you have chosen to sell your renewable energy certificates (RECs) to PNM, “PNM credits energy toward future bills.” (NOTE: Not all power companies give you credit toward future bills.) 


THE BIGGEST QUESTION: How do I find a reliable solar installation company? (Note: All organizations listed here use your address with Google Map Satellite View to see your roof.) 
You can get estimates from Energy Sage without triggering unwanted phone calls or e-mail messages : https://www.energysage.com/p/the-solar-foundation/ You can start with their “Instant Estimate” which provides just a rough estimate. If you want to proceed farther, you can create an account and get multiple estimates. You will see the estimates from several companies in a comparison chart, and then you can decide which companies, if any, you want to communicate with. Here is what they say about their process:  “E nergySage Marketplace gets you quotes online from multiple, pre-screened local installers and helps you compare offers in an apples-to-apples format so you get the best deal…On EnergySage, you are in control of your solar buying experience. No more door-to-door salesmen, no more unwanted phone calls. We provide a 100% online experience that allows you to receive and compare multiple solar quotes first, and then decide which installer is right for you…  Anyone that already has a solar quote in hand is encouraged to use EnergySage too. The more quotes you receive, the better you understand all your options… Our platform aggregates multiple solar quotes for you, calculates the financial merits of each offer, and then presents them back to you in an easy-to-understand format. Our mission is to make going solar as easy as booking a flight online….”
As I understand it, with other “Solar Marketplaces”, to get an estimate, you will provide your home address, your name, and then either your e-mail address or your phone number. And then you will probably begin to get messages or phone calls.


SOLAR ESTIMATE.orghttps://www.solar-estimate.org/(NOTE: This is a “Solar Marketplace”.) Solar Estimate.org tells you that they are “…Currently seeking live pricing that will take into account your power usage and other preferences from solar companies in your area. Your phone will ring shortly as some solar companies will wish to ask you more questions to personalize a quote for your needs. Please take this call and answer these questions, as solar companies will offer better prices when they can limit uncertainty with a job. We recommend you do not enter your details into other solar marketplaces until you have reviewed the quotes we have sent you. Other solar marketplaces have been known to resell your information.” (My NOTE: On October 19, I began this process of getting an estimate with Solar-Estimate.orgI received one phone call inquiring if I wanted to continue the process. I told them I was researching for an solar article I was writing and that I did not want to continue. I have NOT received any more phone calls.) 


SOLAR REVIEWS: https://www.solarreviews.com/solar-companies/ This site seems to be the standard in the solar industry. “SolarReviews is an independent comparison website for the residential solar industry, promoting truth, quality and pricing transparency for the benefit of consumers… SolarReviews has been the leading American consumer reviews website for reviews and ratings of residential solar panels and solar panel installation companies since 2012…It has also grown to become the leading consumer education website for homeowners considering installing solar panels on their rooftop and to offer consumers solar price comparison functionality.” Click on SEARCH.Then you can enter your zip code for a list of companies in your area. Scroll up and down for various lists: best, cheapest, etc. For a single review, enter the name of a company that you are considering and get that company’s rating and reviews.
Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor: Both ask lots of good questions about your solar needs, and then they require your address to begin the process of finding a good solar installer in your area. 
Check out your final choices: Once you have narrowed your search down to a few businesses, you can check their rating with BBB (Better Business Bureau). (Note: you must know the home office city of the company to find it in BBB. And sometimes they  abbreviate. For a company that has the words New Mexico in the name, it was abbreviated NM. When I put the full name in the search field, I didn’t find the company.) https://www.bbb.org/search
As you can tell, I am still exploring the subject of renewable energy. I don’t have any final answers. But I have learned a lot in the process.


Good luck with your own exploration,

Myra

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