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Where is the biggest bang for the buck in solar energy?

Solar Energy Concepts

Tonight I thought I would start pointing the direction we will be going toward solar energy. Like in all projects the first thing to determine is where do we want to go.   I am going to make the first assumption.  We want to use our money in the most effective way to save on energy costs.   That puts us looking at the Final Use portion of the diagram to left.


Without doing any work at my house yet to determine where the energy costs are going the easiest and quickest way is to do a web search for “household energy consumption”.   That search brought up many sites and I scanned them looking for ones that didn’t seem to have a sales pitch and provided information.  (As usual the government sites were next to worthless.)  The three sites I ended up with are:   My Energy Solution, Portland General, and an Australian site, Sokitt which seems to be an activist site.

All three sites have similar data.  Heating and cooling is the highest cost with heating being the highest of the two where it is broken out.  Hot water is also a high cost.  From there it goes down to several other items and the sites break these out differently.  So our most effective use of our money is to keep the heat in our house in the winter and keep the heat out in the summer.  We can also look at the cheapest way to get heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.

For keeping the heat where we want it, insulation, weather stripping and calking will be the first line of attack.   In my case I have doors that are no longer fitting tightly to the weather stripping.  My first line of attack is obvious.    Solar energy is probably our enemy during the summer.   While I worked for an engineering firm doing some commercial air conditioning design there was one case where a large amount of heat gain was saved in a building with south facing windows by installing an awning on the window.   The awning was placed so it provided shade in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky and allowed sunlight to enter to window in the winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

One we have the energy conservation measures in place, the next place to look is solar energy heat collectors.   These will collect heat from the sun and provide the heat directly to the house.   After we get that in place the next thing to look at is storage of the heat so we can add more of these collectors and store the excess for when we need it.  Heat storage mostly means mass.  This can be either water or some other massive material such as rocks.

As you probably have noticed I have yet to talk about photovoltaic solar collectors.  While we are all used to being able to flip a light switch and getting the energy when and where we want it, lighting and things such as the computer I am using right now are way down on the list of energy consumption.   Storage of electricity is an expensive item.  Many now are selling the excess back to the power company when they make excess during the daylight hours, and buying it back when they need power at night effectively making the power grid the storage device.   To do this will require a licensed electrician and possibly a licensed engineer to design the system and get it approved.  Again this will be more expense.

In summary it makes sense to go after the high payback and least cost items first.   This will be solar heating systems and that is where we will proceed.

I have a few announcements about the site.   I have turned off the ability to post comments on the Welcome page.  I may have to turn it off on some other pages as well.   I had over 200 comments on the Welcome page yesterday and almost all of them were spam

Related to the spam,  I also have changed settings so all comments have to be approved by me before they are displayed and I am approving very few comments.

Last night I completed a test of the popsicle crane.   The boom passed but the ropes I was using did not.  I will have to repeat the test with some better method to hold up the crane boom, but this test was recorded and I should have the video out tomorrow.  That is the reason to test; to learn.

This last weekend, I now have wordpress running on my local computer so I can test some changes before actually affecting this site running on a server through a host.   I have yet to install a copy of this site on the local implementation.

I have an arduino on order and will be testing and learning from it this weekend.  I have also ordered some books about solar energy and will be doing a review and probably a recommendation very soon.

I apologize for being slow on getting posts out.  I have been a little sick lately and not able to keep up the schedule.

Thank you for your time.




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