Solar in Cincinnati

One often asked question is, “Does solar really work in Cincinnati”? The short answer is yes it does indeed. Every day the sun comes up and we see our solar power systems come online and start generating power. Now every day is not a great blue sky day here in Cinci, but we still have enough sunshine to generate some power. During our winter months we can have long stretches of gray weather, but our solar power systems still wake up with the sun and harvest all the available sunshine. The production graph below provides some insights.

This chart shows production and consumption data for a home in the Cincinnati area. We commissioned this system just before Christmas 2019. You can see that on most days the homes consumption exceeds the solar production. This is typical for our area in the winter. You can also note from the graph that New Years day was nice and sunny, and the solar production exceeded the homes consumption. As part of our solar installation service we work with the utility provider to get a net meter installed for the system. This allows the utility to look at the net consumption (utility provided power – solar provided power) and the customers bill at the end of the month will reflect only the net of power consumed from the utility. Looking at the graph above we can see that even with poor solar resources during the period the system produced roughly 30% of the homes energy needs. This will only improve as our days get longer and we head into summer. This system is expected to produce all of the homes electrical power for 10 months out of the year and offset the other 2 months. So yes, solar works in Cincinnati, and when we have a huge solar energy spill here we just call it a nice day.

Energy Vampires

There Are Vampires Among Us

Before installing a solar power system for your house, homeowners should become more aware of their household energy use,  and try to cut back whenever possible.  There are many little things that you can do to improve your energy efficiency.  One of these involves controlling your vampires.

What are Energy Vampires?

Vampires are not only in romantic movies.  As you walk through your dark house at night, the vampires will light your way.  Energy vampires are electrical products that have a stand-by mode and cannot be completely switched off unless they are unplugged.  They suck small amounts of energy 24 hours a day.  Some examples of vampires include cable and satellite boxes, digital clocks, and video game consoles.  The wall chargers for cell phones, power tools, or hand-held vacuums will use energy even though the device has finished charging.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has studied the energy consumed by these gadgets.  Although the energy used to power these devices is relatively small, when all the household products are added together, the standby power can amount to 10% of the residential energy use.  Here is a list that they have compiled that shows different products and their standby energy usage.

What’s a Mortal to Do

Unplug–Although it is not always practical, the best way to save energy is to unplug the devices when they are not in use.   For something like digital clocks, or cable systems, this is not always practical because of the time that it takes to reboot.  If you are going to be gone for long periods of time, it is worthwhile to unplug everything.   Items like cell phone or power tool chargers can be easily unplugged when the item has finished charging.  The trick is remembering that they are there.

Use Power Strips–Plug your items into a power strip that can be turned off when you leave the house, or go to sleep.  Power strips will help save time where you have multiple gadgets plugged together.  There are even smart power strips available that will turn themselves off when the items are not being used.

Turn on the Energy Saving Features–Some devices, like personal computers, have energy saving devices built into them.  Take some time to look for the settings, and set them for the lowest possible energy usage.

Look for the Energy Stars–When buying new appliances or gadgets, always look for energy star labels.  These don’t just come on big appliances anymore.  Even phone chargers, and ceiling fans now come with a rating.  The energy star website has a big list available.  Gadgets with an energy star certification mean that the products have reached a high level of energy efficiency and have met requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Controlling your energy vampires is a good place to start when trying to cut back on your household energy usage.