The Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels: 6 Factors to Consider

Solar panels are sliding into mainstream consumerism—and it’s posing a challenge. For instance, when you want to buy a car, there is a surge of first-hand information from friends and family who can walk you through the ins and outs of buying a vehicle.

Putting up solar panels on your roof, on the other hand, doesn’t carry the same level of hype from the people around you. What’s worse, they cost the same as a brand new car. To make matters dicier, the number of homeowners who’ve adapted to solar infrastructure isn’t all that many, too.

That aside, the stakes are high. You are, after all, going to install this on your roof. It’s also an adaptation you can’t easily shrug off as, “I’ll do better the next time if I make a mistake now.” Present figures tell us that solar installations are rising and the costs are becoming more feasible. But how much do we know about the said technology and are we personally ready to switch to natural energy?

Here are a few tips to research your solar panels:

Have you tried working on energy efficiency before turning to solar panels?

The whole point of using solar panels is for you to be able to store and conserve natural energy. But apart from that, have you started doing the little things to help better your energy consumption, like turning off the lights when they’re not in use or unplug the television cord when you’re not watching?

The extent of solar energy you need to come up with equates to how much you need. That said, it’s wiser for you to begin consuming your energy much more efficiently before turning to solar panels. You can begin by looking at efficiency upgrades starting with an energy audit before whipping up a blueprint.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

This can make or break your solar panel situation. Additionally, if, for most of the day, your roof is covered in shade, then having to splurge a hefty amount for solar panels might not be worth it. You should consider that condition before marching onward.

Also, how sturdy is your roof? Even the lightest panels can be heavy for a decaying house covering. Make sure your roof is in structurally good shape. The usual warranty for solar installations can last up to 25 years and if your roof will need renovation in the next couple of months, you might want to rethink your strategy. Having it renovated first is often the smartest route versus putting up these panels straight away.

Moving forward, another factor is ownership. Many times, house dwellers can’t call the shots because they simply rent the place such a vacation rental property with solar energy system. A good solution to this is resorting to a community solar. This alternative lets more clients buy a stake in these installations and receive electricity bill credits.

Do you trust your installer?

Advertising comes easy nowadays. Don’t trust the first solar installer who hands you a flyer or presents you an ad. You have to remember that solar projects are a combination of electrical work and home improvement. References, credentials, and certifications are important. For instance, do they have accreditation under the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t hire an electrician to come to your home and shake things around when they don’t have sufficient experience. Consider an expert’s number of years in the industry.

It also comes as no surprise that these installations call for big checks. Shop around for installers and get as many quotes as you can before inking a deal. This can be challenging, but try looking for a company that will be available for you throughout your installation. While solar cells are stationary, you’re going to want to work with an installer who will emphatically extend their services even after your warranty period is over.

Which solar-type should you go for?

There are two prevailing solar sciences: the first one is photovoltaic. This technology produces electricity sourced from sunlight. Thermal, the second one makes use of sunlight to heat air or water for your everyday needs. At the end of the day, your context and living conditions help determine what you need the most. Despite that, those who use solar thermal are rare and qualified installers for this aren’t that many.

Buy or lease?

Before diving right into the world of solar panel usage, run a cost-benefit analysis. Is buying your own solar infrastructure the wisest decision you can make? Purchasing your costs more in the beginning, but you’ll have more evident benefits in the long run. On the other hand, renting grants you access to more affordable electricity bills. On top of that, you spend little to no money upfront in this arrangement. The tradeoff, however, is that there are limited monetary benefits for you.

When you rent your system, the company who you ink a deal with owns the infrastructure and you only shell out a certain fee for the electricity. When your rental period is over, they can either take the solar infrastructure back or sell it to you. But if you own your infrastructure, you can reap its advantages long after you’ve bought it. To snag a better deal, weight the lifecycle cost of both arrangements to see where you benefit the most. Factor in how much you earn at present and how much you see yourself earning in the near future. You have to put in a lot of research before you make a decision.

What should your contract contain?

As with any other contract, your welfare should be upheld as these last for long periods. The deal you ink should break down ownership, financing, and performance expectations. You should also factor in data-collecting technology if your infrastructure contains web-enabled devices. Determine who has access to it, if this applies. When there are things or contract segments you’re unsure of, it’s best to consult a legal advisor.

After everything’s been said and done, you’re not only cutting back on costs, you’re also contributing to a healthier planet.

Electricity Prices Drop 19% in 2 Days Due to Wind Power

Americans are spending over $100 a month on electricity, leading to many poorer people having to go without when cash is running low. Anything that can be done to reduce costs will help people to live comfortably and meet their basic electricity needs. One way to do this is by increasing the production of wind energy. Fortunately, this is exactly what is happening across the European Union and latest figures confirm this.

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AleaSoft is a forecaster of energy production and usage. They regularly do in depth analysis into the energy sector, so that governments and businesses can determine which source of energy is most effective at lowering costs and creating a cleaner atmosphere.

Consistently, research from AleaSoft has shown that as wind power production increases, the overall price of electricity goes down. In the two days between October 7 and October 10 2019, the cost of the average electric bill fell by 19% and further analysis showed that this was as a direct result of investment in wind energy.

Change Between October 7 and October 10

There has been a general trend across the European continent suggesting a fall in prices. However, during the weekdays between Monday October 7 and Thursday October 10, the decline in costs was most significant. The average fall in the price of electricity markets was 19%, although there was significant variation between countries.

Most strikingly, Belgium was able to slash prices by 32%, cutting the cost of the average Belgian’s electricity bill by a third. Other electricity markets showed less of a price fall, such as in Spain and Germany were costs fell by just 7%. Wherever you happen to live in Europe, however, the news is hugely positive. Any drop in prices helps ordinary and low income people to power their homes without feeling restricted.

What is Driving the Fall in Price?

A fall in electricity costs can be for many reasons, so AleaSoft’s research delved into the possible causes of such a significant decline in the energy markets. The sudden drop in prices came at the same time that wind energy production has been ramped up. When wind turbine usage fell, electricity market prices increased. The correlation is so close that this is the only reasonable explanation for the fluctuations in price. 

14% of energy provided in the European Union is produced by wind farms, but 95% of new energy source investments are put towards renewables. This suggests that the overall percentage of electricity from wind will rise exponentially. The UK, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark are the main countries where wind farms are located.

Improved Maintenance Techniques

One of the reasons that European countries are so capable of building new wind farms is improved maintenance techniques. The aerial platform is the easiest way to clean and repair wind turbines, so a dedication to the aerial life has helped to provide turbines which function more efficiently. New generations of aerial lift equipment, skylifts and other aerial platforms are making it easier and cheaper to produce wind power consistently and over long periods of time.

Wind turbines have a reputation of being inefficient. Many believe that their construction is harmful to the environment and that they spend most of their lives switched off and inactive. This is no longer the case, however, and the spike in wind energy production detected by AleaSoft supports the view that maintenance is improving and so too are the capabilities of wind farms.

Even if the environment isn’t a priority, all homeowners long for cheaper electricity. This new report showing the direct link between wind power and lower costs is a great sign. It should boost investment in the technology and ensure a long term and consistent decline in energy costs, as well as a cleaner environment.

The Development of Backup Batteries for Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a force that can help combat climate change. However, without the right proactive steps, there can be pitfalls. For instance, solar power is becoming more widely available but can use some improvements. Solar backup batteries are a critical solution when renewable energy fails.

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The Need for Renewability

Renewability is one of the keys to stopping and reversing the climate crisis. It’s time to phase out fossil fuels and harmful environmental practices and focus on sustainable energy sources. There are various deadlines when people must act, and stopping climate change becomes more pressing every day.

However, while renewable energy is a solution, these sources may need a backup system. Often, resources like solar and wind energy are durable and hold up through harsh weather and high demands. When they fail, though, it can leave millions without power. A full renewable system requires constant clean energy.

During the 2020 California wildfires, residents reported their photovoltaic (PV) panels were no longer working, and they were losing power. The ash from the fires was covering the panels, and the smog in the sky was disrupting the transfer of sunlight. During instances like these, a backup plan is necessary.

Battery power is the solution. If solar fails, then the backup system can kick in and keep residents’ homes, schools and companies running.

Integrating Backup Batteries

A backup battery system will most prominently help solar energy setups. While PV panels are versatile, they can nevertheless use assistance. Microgrids will especially benefit from solar backup batteries. The ultimate goal is to keep emissions low at all times — but people will still need power. If a solar system fails, like those in California during the wildfires, then it’s not operating on a fully renewable level.

Experts can integrate batteries into the electrical setup with the proper enclosing tools to prevent surges and stalling. They’ll connect to the lights, HVAC system and other necessities of the building. For schools, internet access may be required to contact parents during blackouts. Businesses may need to keep computers running to prevent data loss.

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Each system will depend on the supply demands of the location. A smaller home may not need a large network. However, if a solar microgrid powers a university, then the backup battery system will need to account for that demand. Experts must consider the power level of the PV panels, too. That is what will bring solar backup batteries to the next level.

Battery systems can generate power when renewables can’t. It maintains a sustainable impact while still providing people with electricity at all times.

Why It Matters

Renewable energy is groundbreaking. It shows the way forward with no carbon emissions, lower pollution and benefits for public health as well as the environment. While there can be power outages and mishaps with fossil fuels, renewable energy can draw more people in with foolproof generation.

Batteries don’t produce any emissions, so the renewability continues — as does the consistent supply of power. Outages and surges can become less common and not as much of a setback if they do happen.

The partnership of batteries and renewable energy opens up the future. From here, experts will want to work on scalability. Microgrids are a prime area for integrating backup batteries with renewable energy. On larger scales, though, the possibilities could be endless.

Better system setups mean bigger solar and wind farms could also use battery power. While these operations have less chance of failure due to the amount of energy going into them, batteries could still facilitate optimal energy flows and provide backup assistance.

In Development

With energy companies expanding their renewable energy services and integration, every step must receive a backup. Batteries are long-lasting and durable. Adding them to renewable energy setups will create a more foolproof dynamic — one that’s sustainable and always providing power.

Energy Potential of Empty Fruit Bunches

A palm oil plantation yields huge amount of biomass wastes in the form of empty fruit bunches (EFB), palm oil mill effluent (POME) and palm kernel shell (PKS). In a typical palm oil mill, empty fruit bunches are available in abundance as fibrous material of purely biological origin. Energy potential of empty fruit bunches is attractive as it contains neither chemical nor mineral additives, and depending on proper handling operations at the mill, it is free from foreign elements such as gravel, nails, wood residues, waste etc.

EFB

However, EFB is saturated with water due to the biological growth combined with the steam sterilization at the mill. Since the moisture content in EFB is around 67%, pre-processing is necessary before EFB can be considered as a good fuel.

Unprocessed EFB is available as very wet whole empty fruit bunches each weighing several kilograms while processed EFB is a fibrous material with fiber length of 10-20 cm and reduced moisture content of 30-50%. Additional processing steps can reduce fiber length to around 5 cm and the material can also be processed into bales, pellets or pulverized form after drying.

There is a large potential of transforming EFB into renewable energy resource that could meet the existing energy demand of palm oil mills or other industries as well as to promote sustainability in the palm oil industry. Pre-treatment steps such as shredding/chipping and dewatering (screw pressing or drying) are necessary in order to improve the fuel property of EFB.

Pre-processing of EFB will greatly improve its handling properties and reduce the transportation cost to the end user i.e. power plant. Under such scenario, kernel shells and mesocarp fibres which are currently utilized for providing heat for mills can be relieved for other uses off-site with higher economic returns for palm oil millers.

The fuel could either be prepared by the mills before sell to the power plants, or handled by the end users based on their own requirements.  Besides, centralized EFB collection and pre-processing system could be considered as a component in EFB supply chain. It is evident that the mapping of available EFB resources would be useful for EFB resource supply chain improvement. This is particular important as there are many different competitive usages. With proper mapping, assessment of better logistics and EFB resource planning can lead to better cost effectiveness for both supplier and user of the EFB.

A covered yard is necessary to store and supply a constant amount of this biomass resource to the energy sector. Storage time should however be short, e.g. 5 days, as the product; even with 45% moisture is vulnerable to natural decay through fungi or bacterial processes. This gives handling and health problems due to fungi spores, but it also contributes through a loss of dry matter trough biological degradation. Transportation of EFB is recommended in open trucks with high sides which can be capable of carrying an acceptable tonnage of this low-density biomass waste.

For EFB utilization in power stations, the supply chain is characterized by size reduction, drying and pressing into bales. This may result in significantly higher processing costs but transport costs are reduced. For use in co-firing in power plants this would be the best solution, as equipment for fuel handling in the power plant could operate with very high reliability having eliminated all problems associated with the handling of a moist, fibrous fuel in bulk.

Pros and Cons of Buying and Doing a DIY Solar Panel Installation

There’s a number of reasons why people invest in solar energy through solar panel installations on either their homes or other buildings. For some, they want their energy consumption to reduce their carbon footprint and make sure they live environmentally friendly. For others, they may want a power source they can use just in case the power were to shut off for a long period, or may want to earn tax incentives for going green.

But whichever reason you have, you have a choice between buying from a professional solar panel installation company, and going the DIY route. There are a few pros and cons to doing a DIY solar panel installation.

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Pro: You Can Determine Where And How You Want Your Solar Energy

If you have the time to design and build your own solar energy system, you can decide how you want it built and where you want it placed. One of the keys is buying solar panels for either on-grid or off-grid use, because that determines a lot in the scope of your installation.

But if you’re willing to take on the rigors of the installation, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing solar power going to the areas of your property where you want.

Pro: There Is Some Savings You Can Get

Yes, getting DIY solar panels can save you some money, though it may not be as much as you want. The main area of savings is in the design and labor costs since you’re handling these yourself, but there can still be other costs you incur while taking the project on. For example, you may need storage or battery backups in some cases that may be a hidden cost. Still, you can usually save about a minimum of 10%-20% in overall costs by going DIY.

According to the experts at Unbound Solar, “Even if you extend your payback period by taking out a loan to finance your project, you still enjoy reduced electricity costs from the moment you flip the switch on your PV system.”

Con: Not All DIY Solar Panels Can Be Used On The Grid

While there are a few cases where you can install your own solar panels and remain connected to your utility provider, not all solar systems are designed for that. And some local governments have laws about what kind of solar panels and installations can be done that remain grid-tied. You’ll want to do research on whether you can do this before getting started.

Con: DIY Installation Can Be Quite Complex

While getting your own solar panel kit and building it yourself sounds easy enough, the process can be very intense and require a lot more know-how from the consumer than they might realize. Plus, there are tasks that need to be completed and signed off on by a certified electrician if your solar panels are going to be grid-tied, so you need to be aware of that. It’s usually going to require heavy duty tools and take some man power to get the system installed perfectly.

At the end of the day, installing your own solar panels can allow you to save a lot of money on energy, or get power to areas that it would be difficult to with a utility provider. But if you’re new to installing a solar panel system, you need to carefully consider the cost in both time and money to do it.

Factors to Consider Before Subscribing to Community Solar

So you’ve heard of community solar and are now thinking of subscribing to one. Naturally, you want to know if you are qualified for a solar farm subscription. In this article, we will discuss factors that you need to consider before you sign up for a community solar program.

What is Community Solar?

Community solar or shared solar is one of the biggest renewable energy trends to have emerged in the past decade. Compared to residential solar which is mostly individualistic, a community solar project allows several neighboring households to tap into a single solar farm installation.

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Instead of installing panels on residential roofs or backyards, solar farm owners set them up at a central location like an open field or even an open body of water. Since it is subscription-based, you will simply receive a portion of the solar energy generated by these farms. Usually, this power will be coursed through your existing power lines, which means you don’t have to get any new gear just to enjoy your subscription. Sounds promising, right?

Am I Qualified for a Subscription?

Just like traditional solar panels, though, community solar programs are not for everyone. Here are some factors that make you a great candidate for community solar:

1. Your utility provider has a solar project

A lot of local energy providers own or manage their own solar farms. This way, you can buy in and ‘fund’ the community project in exchange for rebates in your monthly energy bill. Supporting these utility-sponsored projects will allow you to reduce your own electricity costs while helping your provider reach their goals in terms of building a more balanced energy portfolio.

Check with your utility provider if they have such a project. If they do, then chances are you are automatically qualified to subscribe to it.

2. You live near a solar farm

Utility providers are not the only entities that can own and manage solar farms. Private companies, non-profit organizations, and even local government units can run shared solar projects that you can easily subscribe to.

Sometimes, members of the actual community come together to pitch in the capital for the solar farm, making it purely community-owned and for the benefit of the general public.

In any case, it is required that you live close enough to a solar farm for a viable subscription.

3. You can’t put up solar panels at home

One of the most important considerations when choosing your solar-generating system of choice is feasibility. PV panels will require you to have ample space at home, not to mention the authority to make such installations on the roof (or even on the ground surrounding your house.)

More often than not, you will not be allowed to make modifications to a rented house, even if it’s for something as beneficial as a solar panel system. In this case, subscribing to a community solar program would be your best bet.

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Even if you live in your own house, though, solar panels may not always be suitable. Not all roofs can accommodate those installations. If your area gets more shade than sunlight, sourcing your solar energy from a shared solar garden might still be the most cost-efficient solution.

4. You move a lot

Flexibility is a prime benefit of having a community solar subscription, as opposed to investing in your own solar system at home. If the nature of your job or lifestyle is that it requires you to move a lot, it just won’t be practical to invest in your own panels because of the sheer effort it would take you to uninstall, transport, and install them all over again with every move.

Going for a solar farm subscription will give you more flexibility when moving since it’s typically easy to suspend or cancel your subscription to one and just subscribe to a different project that’s nearer the place where you’re moving. It’s also a great way to maintain environmental sustainability with every move.

If any or all four of these factors are attendant in your case, then you already know that you possess the golden opportunity to try out a community solar program and see how it works out for you.

5 Things You Need To Know To Reduce Your Electricity Bill

If you are a homeowner, you have probably thought of lowering your electricity bills every time you get your bill is logical. According to a recent study, the electricity bill is the second-highest cost most homeowners pay every month. That’s not surprising because thanks to modern science, we use electricity to run appliances for everything around the home nowadays.

Especially during this time when coronavirus has damaged the world economy, people are struggling to pay their bills. Meanwhile, lockdowns mean more time at home and higher electricity use than if you were in the office most of your day. You can reduce your electricity consumption if you use it smartly. As a result, your bill will reduce too. If you are looking to cut your electric bill, this article will give you some ideas on how you can do that.

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1. Get A Smarter Thermostat

In case you didn’t know, your heating and cooling system takes up almost forty-five percent of your total electricity consumption every month. So, if you can reduce at least some of your thermostats consumption, you will see a huge difference in your total bill.

Depending on your local weather, you may need to run your heater or cooler throughout the day. Though this is almost half of your total electricity consumption, that doesn’t mean you need to give up your comfort to reduce the bill. All you need to do is to make the job a bit easier for the thermostat. Control your urge to set the temperature too high or too low. For instance, put on a few extra layers of clothes to stay warm instead of setting the temperature too high on the thermostat.

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If you don’t want to take up the work to adjust the temperature from time to time continually, look into getting a programmable thermostat. With these thermostats, you can program the temperature for each time of the day. This way, you won’t need to change it frequently, but it will run in just the required temperature all the time.

2. Use Solar Power

As mentioned before, if you want to reduce your energy bills, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your comfort. A great way to reduce your energy consumption is not to use it all the time. You don’t need to use electricity all the time when you are getting unlimited solar energy every day.

Solar energy is also known as green energy. Using solar energy is an emerging trend worldwide. Solar panels are installed on the roof, and these panels then convert sun rays into solar energy. It is a pretty simple process, but it can work wonders for you. The best part is they are not overly expensive to install – but the energy savings are significant.

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You might be thinking that the sun will provide energy only during day time. How are we going to run our utilities at night? The answer is pretty simple. You can get solar battery storage. These storage cells store the excess energy that you don’t need in the daytime and let you use it at night. This way, be it day or night, you can get everything done using solar energy.

3. Use Ceiling Fans

If you live in a warm climate, most of your electricity consumption is used by your air cooler. Although new technologies are coming every day, and you can get energy-efficient air conditioners now, but they still consume a lot of energy. While you can’t get rid of your air cooler completely, you can sometimes use a ceiling fan to create an airflow that cools the room down.

A ceiling fan is a great cost-efficient option. These fans pull out hot air and circulate cold air. It may not give you the same effect as an air cooler, but it will surely make your room a bit more comfortable as it circulates cold air. But the best thing is a ceiling fan takes up a fraction of the electricity that air cooler consumes. So, even if you don’t use it all the time, you can alternate between the ceiling fan and the cooler.

There are a few hacks that can help you stay comfortable even with the ceiling fan. For instance, try keeping the windows and doors which are facing the east covered. This will minimize the heat that comes from the sun.

4. Minimize the electricity your laundry takes

Washing your laundry with hot water takes up a lot of energy. The heater has to work a lot to provide this much hot water to your washing machine. Try using cold water to wash your clothes. You would be surprised how using cold water can reduce almost half of your laundry cost.

The key here is to use appliances. So if you are using your washing machine, try using it as little as possible – save the laundry loads and do them all at once during off-peak hours. So if you are using your washing machine to dry your clothes, you need to reconsider that. Drying clothes is a chore that can easily be done without using any energy. Line drying laundry is an easy way that takes no electricity. It may take longer, but it is free.

5. Reduce Phantom Drainage

If you haven’t heard of phantom drainage before, you are in for a bit of a ‘shocker’! It is also known as standby power. You may think that it is unnecessary to remove the plug when you are not using the appliances. They are turned off after all. But the truth is, your devices consume electricity even when they are not in use.

According to a study, appliances consume almost fifty percent of the total energy when they are actually not used. So, this energy is going nowhere, and you are the one paying for it. Not only is it a loss of our valuable energy and degrading our environment, but it is also a waste of money. So always make sure to remove the plug when you are not using an appliance.

To Sum Up

Reducing your electricity bill is not something that can be done in a day. It’s a day to day practice. Following these simple tips will lower your electricity bill remarkably. But these are not the only things you can do.

There are many small things you can do to get better results. For instance, try to install energy-efficient appliances. They take up a lot less energy than regular ones. You should also be mindful of wasting energy by keeping lights or coolers on when they are not required. Last, but not the least, use a budget calculator to keep a tab on where your money is going.

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Power Bill is Skyrocketing

Working from home does have its perks, but one huge downside is dealing with energy bills that are higher than usual. However, the fact that you’re spending most of your time at home shouldn’t be a reason to simply accept skyrocketing energy bills. There might be a couple of ways you can still bring those monthly charges down despite your high consumption while working from home.

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Here are the top reasons why power bills spike and what you can do to mitigate the situation.

1. Failure to upgrade appliances

Most new appliances have been equipped with energy-efficient and power-saving features. Old appliances were not required to have these features, which is why ‘vampire charges’ were such a big deal in the past. Once you upgrade to newer appliances, you’ll find that you won’t even have to religiously unplug your devices since they stop consuming substantial electricity once they’re turned off.

Furthermore, old, rickety appliances lose efficiency as they degrade, so they might be consuming more power to do simple, everyday tasks. You might think you’re saving money by sticking to appliances that are decades-old, but you will undoubtedly feel an improvement in your power bills once you make the shift.

2. Overusing ‘big’ appliances

Even with new appliances, frequent usage is still a major problem. This is especially true for power-hogging devices such as your washing machine or dishwasher. The best strategy is to wait until you have enough laundry or dirty dishes to run your machines at full-load or capacity.

This will lessen the frequency with which you run these major power-hugging appliances, therefore reducing your overall power consumption in the long run. If there is an urgent need to free up some clean dishes or clothes, handwashing them is a better alternative than running the washer just for a few items.

3. Late detection of leaky ducts

Poorly sealed or weakly insulated ducts can add thousands of dollars to your yearly power bills. This is because they release hot air into unheated spaces in your home. Make sure you are not spending more than necessary for your home’s heating or cooling systems by maintaining vents and ducts.

Aside from sealing or insulating ducts, you also have to ensure that your airflow is not restricted by furniture and other large objects. Keeping registers clean can also help optimize ducts, therefore helping with the power bills.

4. Higher rates

If you live in an area where electricity markets have been deregulated, like in Connecticut, then know that you have a choice regarding your third party power supplier. Now, unless you’re closely watching spot market news, you might not have noticed that your energy provider has been secretly hiking rates.

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To take better control of your power bills, compare the rates charged by power suppliers in your area, then change electricity providers so that you will get the most value for your money.

5. Not exploring cheaper power sources

If you’re already subscribed to the cheapest energy provider in your area but are still struggling with power bills, then you might want to check alternative power sources like installing solar panels or keeping solar batteries at home.

Now, unless you have an industrial-level solar energy system, it’s highly unlikely that you can cover all your power needs using PV panels, but this would at least reduce your dependence on provider-supplied electricity, thus substantially reducing your power bills.

Wrapping Up

Of course, there are several other tips and tricks that could chip away at your huge power bills like replacing your lights with LED bulbs and setting a timer on your A/C, but if you really want a substantial reduction in what you’re paying for energy, you have to make big changes around the house, such as the ones mentioned and discussed in this article.

As more and more companies mull letting employees work from home permanently, you must be able to do so without forever stressing about those monthly power charges.

5 Money-Saving Upgrades To Make Your Home Energy-Efficient

Did you know the average American household spends about $2,000 annually for utilities? What’s more, $200 to $400 is money wasted due to drafts, air leakage, and outdated HVAC systems. That’s a lot of money, right? You can save that money by making energy efficient upgrades to your home.

Let’s take a look at these money-saving upgrades, shall we?

1. Insulation

A very cost effective way to save on energy is by adding more insulation in the attic, or switching out the typical blanket insulation for either cellulose loose-fill insulation or spray foam insulation. The spray foam insulation is the most effective type of insulation for energy efficiency.

home-insulation

With that in mind, installing spray foam insulation requires professional installation and it can range anywhere from $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

2. Energy efficient appliances and HVAC system

Older appliances tend to use a of energy and are nowhere near as energy efficient as newer models. Look for appliances and electronics that are ENERGY STAR approved products. By replacing the refrigerator, washer and dryer and even the ranges, you can save 15% on how much energy your home uses.

The same with heating and cooling. When you upgrade your HVAC system, you can save up to 20% to 50% on your energy bills – providing you make some of the other upgrades on this list.

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3. Programmable thermostat

It seems like everything is a smart device doesn’t it? Smart thermostats are an excellent way to reduce the amount of heating and cooling is used, especially when you’re not home. In the winter, you can decrease the temperature when you’re not at home and increase it to a comfortable temperature about 30 minutes before you get home, and vice versa.

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If you don’t want to go the smart thermostat route, there are programmable thermostats where you can change the settings so the temperature is where it’s set to at the desired time.

4. Eliminating air leaks

One of the biggest culprits of wasted energy is air leakages. A whopping 40% of a home’s heating or cooling is lost due to drafty doors and windows and ill-fitted air ducts. You can prevent this by upgrading your doors and windows to high energy options. Not only are the new doors and windows themselves energy efficient, but the new seals will prevent air leakage.

If you cannot afford new windows or doors, you can always use exterior-grade caulking and new weatherstripping to seal up cracks or gaps you may find.

5. Install ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are a great way to add a bit of style to a room, but they can also help circulate the air, regardless of the season. Most fans have a switch that allows you to change the direction the fan moves. In the summer, it should rotate counterclockwise to push the cooler air down, therefore making the air feel cooler than it actually is. In the winter, it should rotate clockwise to pull the cool air upward and push the warm air downward.

Keeping your home’s energy costs as low as possible isn’t just smart as a homeowner, it’s also a good way to increase the value of your home. And, according to HomeLight’s Q2 2020 survey, we are in a seller’s market! 60% of agents who participated in the survey said there were 60% more bidding wars in June 2020 and the market doesn’t seem to be slowing.

That means if you’re looking to sell, these energy efficient upgrades are a great way to pique a buyer’s interest – maybe even more than one!

Palm Kernel Shells: An Attractive Biomass Fuel for Europe

Europe is targeting an ambitious renewable energy program aimed at 20% renewable energy in the energy mix by 2020 with biomass energy being key renewable energy resource across the continent. However, the lack of locally-available biomass resources has hampered the progress of biomass energy industry in Europe as compared with solar and wind energy industries. The European biomass industry is largely dependent on wood pellets and crop residues.

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Europe is the largest producer of wood pellets, which is currently estimated at 13.5 million tons per year while its consumption is 18.8 million tons per year. The biggest wood pellet producing countries in Europe are Germany and Sweden. Europe relies on America and Canada to meet its wood pellet requirements and there is an urgent need to explore alternative biomass resources. In recent years, palm kernel shells (popularly known as PKS) from Southeast Asia and Africa has emerged as an attractive biomass resources which can replace wood pellets in biomass power plants across Europe.

What are Palm Kernel Shells

Palm kernel shells are the shell fractions left after the nut has been removed after crushing in the Palm Oil Mill. Kernel shells are a fibrous material and can be easily handled in bulk directly from the product line to the end use. Large and small shell fractions are mixed with dust-like fractions and small fibres.

Moisture content in kernel shells is low compared to other biomass residues with different sources suggesting values between 11% and 13%. Palm kernel shells contain residues of Palm Oil, which accounts for its slightly higher heating value than average lignocellulosic biomass. Compared to other residues from the industry, it is a good quality biomass fuel with uniform size distribution, easy handling, easy crushing, and limited biological activity due to low moisture content.

Press fibre and shell generated by the palm oil mills are traditionally used as solid fuels for steam boilers. The steam generated is used to run turbines for electricity production. These two solid fuels alone are able to generate more than enough energy to meet the energy demands of a palm oil mill.

Advantages of Palm Kernel Shells

PKS has almost the same combustion characteristics as wood pellets, abundantly available are and are cheap. Indonesia and Malaysia are the two main producers of PKS. Indonesian oil palm plantations cover 12 million hectares in Indonesia and 5 million hectares in Malaysia, the number of PKS produced from both countries has exceeded 15 million tons per year. Infact, the quantity of PKS generated in both countries exceeds the production of wood pellets from the United States and Canada, or the two largest producers of wood pellets today.

Interestingly, United States and Canada cannot produce PKS, because they do not have oil palm plantations, but Indonesia and Malaysia can also produce wood pellets because they have large forests. The production of wood pellets in Indonesia and Malaysia is still small today, which is less than 1 million tons per year, but the production of PKS is much higher which can power biomass power plants across Europe and protect forests which are being cut down to produce wood pellets in North America and other parts of the world.

PKS as a Boiler Fuel

Although most power plants currently use pulverized coal boiler technology which reaches around 50% of the world’s electricity generation, the use of grate combustion boiler technology and fluidized bed boilers is also increasing. Pulverized coal boiler is mainly used for very large capacity plants (> 100 MW), while for ordinary medium capacity uses fluidized bed technology (between 20-100 MW) and for smaller capacity with combustor grate (<20 MW). The advantage of boiler combustion and fluidized bed technology is fuel flexibility including tolerance to particle size.

When the pulverized coal boiler requires a small particle size (1-2 cm) like sawdust so that it can be atomized on the pulverizer nozzle, the combustor grate and fluidized bed the particle size of gravel (max. 8 cm) can be accepted. Based on these conditions, palm kernel shells has a great opportunity to be used as a boiler fuel in large-scale power plants.

Use of PKS in pulverized coal boiler

There are several things that need to be considered for the use of PKS in pulverized coal boilers. The first thing that can be done is to reduce PKS particle size to a maximum of 2 cm so that it can be atomized in a pulverized system. The second thing to note is the percentage of PKS in coal, or the term cofiring. Unlike a grate and a fluidized bed combustion that can be flexible with various types of fuel, pulverized coal boilers use coal only. There are specific things that distinguish biomass and coal fuels, namely ash content and ash chemistry, both of which greatly influence the combustion characteristics in the pulverized system.

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PKS has emerged as an attractive biomass commodity in Japan

Coal ash content is generally greater than biomass, and coal ash chemistry is very different from biomass ash chemistry. Biomass ash has lower inorganic content than coal, but the alkali content in biomass can change the properties of coal ash, especially aluminosilicate ash.

Biomass cofiring with coal in small portions for example 3-5% does not require modification of the pulverized coal power plant. For example, Shinci in Japan with a capacity of 2 x 1,000 MW of supercritical pulverized fuel with 3% cofiring requires 16,000 tons per year of biomass and no modification. Similarly, Korea Southeast Power (KOSEP) 5,000 MW with 5% cofiring requires 600,000 tons per year of biomass without modification.

PKS cofiring in coal-based power plants

Pulverized coal-based power plants are the predominant method of large-scale electricity production worldwide including Europe. If pulverised fuel power plants make a switch to co-firing of biomass fuels, it will make a huge impact on reducing coal usage, reducing carbon emissions and making a transition to renewable energy. Additionally, the cheapest and most effective way for big coal-based power plants to enter renewable energy sector is biomass cofiring. Palm kernel shells can be pyrolyzed to produce charcoal while coal will produce coke if it is pyrolyzed. Charcoal can be used for fuel, briquette production and activated charcoal.