Benefits of Energy Efficiency + Solar
When the solar panels on your roof or property are generating renewable electricity in your home, you may start to look at the energy you use at home a little differently! By implementing these energy management upgrades and making your home as energy efficient as possible, you can reduce the upfront cost of solar installation, further increase how much you’ll save with solar panels, avoid or reduce demand response charges, and stretch your solar energy as far as possible.
Energy Management With Energy Efficiency Upgrades
Before you upgrade to solar power in your Phoenix home, here are a few ways to save energy here in Phoenix:
Seal air leaks around floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and any other openings with caulking, spray foam, and/or weather stripping. Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a lot of your energy, which equals money. The potential energy savings from reducing structure leakage may range from 2-5% to 20-30% a year. Sealing up air leaks can also make your home or business much more comfortable.
Add or replace insulation in the attic or crawl spaces. Exterior walls are important to consider in conjunction with air sealing to help keep your cool air in during the summer and warm air in during the winter. Increasing your structure’s R-value or insulation value is typically one of the fastest and most cost-saving ways to reduce energy waste.
Program or install programmable, or smart thermostats that save energy by automatically regulating your home or business’s temperature when you are there or away. Today’s smart thermostats are not like they used to be—the NEST has auto programming features that allow the system to basically program itself. You can potentially save as much as 10% a year on your cooling and heating bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10-15% for 8 hours.
Because Arizona homes rely so much on air conditioning, ensuring AC ducts are sealed, straight, and properly connected is an energy efficiency upgrade in your home that will pay off nearly year-round. Many duct systems are not insulated properly, or worse yet, have gaps or holes where air is leaking into your attic space. You can potentially lose up to 60% of your cooled and heated air before it reaches the space it’s intended for. Stop cooling or heating your uninsulated attic!
Heating and cooling uses more energy than any other system in your home—typically 65% of a home utility bill. By combining proper HVAC equipment and regular maintenance with the appropriate insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can cut your heating and cooling energy use from 65% to 45%—or sometimes even as low as 20%!
Install an energy-efficient hot water heater, such as an energy-efficient tank water heater or an on-demand tankless water heater. Water heating is another large energy expense, typically accounting for roughly 10-25% of your utility bill. Also, consider putting your recirculation pump on a timer. Do you really need instant hot water at 3 a.m.?
Upgrade household appliances to ENERGY STAR products. Appliances are another large user of energy. Especially that 15-year-old clothes dryer that you never want to move again.
There is a lot to choose from these days when it comes to LED lightbulbs, so start updating slowly. If you change 5 to 10 a month, it will take no time to have them all changed out. One 100 Watt incandescent bulb of yesteryears is equal to ten LEDs of comparable Lumens and light!
Install more energy efficient windows, doors, and skylights by looking for ENERGY STAR products. Usually, this replacement has more to do with the installation than the window itself. And, yes … dual pane is better than single and triple pane is better than dual. It could be argued that window replacements are over-prescribed, but when it’s 110 degrees outside, there is a difference. Just always be aware of the price.
Consider All Your Options for Home Energy Upgrades in Arizona
Too often, the improvements with potentially large benefits aren’t always obvious. Air barriers, insulation, and air sealing may not increase the curb appeal of your home, but they can make a significant impact and a better return on your investment than higher-priced improvements such as new windows or a solar plus storage system. Plus, if your plans are to go off-grid with your solar energy by using solar energy storage with solar batteries and whole-home generators, your home will require fewer backup power solutions and solar panels when you upgrade its energy efficiency first.
It’s best to start with where and how you use energy and power with energy monitoring. Then you have a sure-fire way to measure the small incremental upgrades you will be making.
At SouthFace Solar & Electric, we’ve developed our own proprietary software to analyze your energy usage. Based on your home’s actual energy usage, we can simulate different equipment and compare rate plans to find the best combination that fits your energy goals and your budget. In many cases, we can lower your bill without sacrificing comfort or convenience by finding you a better rate or by showing you where energy is being wasted.
Once you understand your energy usage, how can you begin the process for making energy efficient upgrades? An energy audit should do the trick!
After doing an initial utility bill analysis, we always recommend people should get an Energy Audit. The cost of these audits is fairly inexpensive—from $100 and up, depending on the size of the structure you’re testing.
An energy audit is essentially a very thorough examination of your home or business structure. They include such tests as: Blower door test looking for whole structure leakage; HVAC ventilation testing on both supply and return sides looking for leakage and flow; Checking gas lines for any gas leakage, etc. They will also be evaluating proper insulation and R-value levels.
We recommend you always find a Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified energy auditor and talk directly with them to verify everything they will be looking at and testing. Some auditors do more than others. Just remember, when they are done, you will receive a certified report of your structure’s strong and weak points. Think of it as a report card for your home or business’s performance.
Typically, an energy auditor will also show you what corrective action or upgrades, if any, you can or should be taking. This is great information, especially when looking at the design phase of a solar only or solar with battery system.
When someone chooses to reduce energy waste prior to installing a solar system, there is always a significant increase in the return on investment. At Southface Solar, we will use this energy audit report to analyze and design a solar system, based on your upgrade choices ranging from none to every upgrade recommended.
Remember that regardless of your budget, home energy upgrades can always be an ongoing process that will improve the comfort and quality of your indoor environment. Becoming “Energy Efficient” will lead to savings in energy consumption and, ultimately, money.