Thanks to federal tax incentives and a growing concern for the environment, many Americans are installing rooftop solar panels to cover or offset the cost of their utilities. In the last ten years, the solar industry has grown by an unprecedented 1,600 percent and it shows not signs of slowing. As solar becomes more affordable, however, debates have opened up around the use of solar power and its effect on older ways of producing electricity (like coal-fired and nuclear power plants). Solar power is a complicated process that is part of an even more complicated industry. If you’re thinking about making the switch, consider this your crash course in rooftop solar power.
Climate change may turn out to be the defining issue of our time. As global temperatures continue to rise, many of us are looking for small ways that we can make a difference. What better place to start than right in your own home? Making your home eco-friendly can seem daunting. Installing solar panels and replacing windows aren’t an afternoon project. They take time and financial planning. However, there are many changes we can make without spending a penny, and those small changes add up. The two main areas we’ll focus on are power and waste. Cut the Power A costly utility bill isn’t only hurting your wallet. It also means power plants need to burn more coal and natural gas, emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Your home is probably full of opportunities to conserve electricity. One thing we all do that uses a huge amount of power is washing and drying our clothes. 85-90% of power used by washing clothes goes to heating water. Set your machine to cold wash when you can to cut down on energy consumption. When the weather’s fair, take advantage of it by hanging your clothes on the line. It doesn’t have to be a cloudless summer day to dry clothes outside, and it will drastically reduce your power consumption. Another cost-free way to save on electricity is to unplug your devices when they’re not in use. You probably have at least 50 items in your home that use electricity. Many of them are always plugged into the outlet. While this is necessary in some cases, like your refrigerator or alarm clock, oftentimes those objects are left on standby, slowly leeching electricity. One way to easily cut the power to multiple objects is to keep them plugged into a power strip. Start in the living room where you might have a TV, DVD player, cable box, and lamps all plugged into one strip. Simply power off the strip at night to start saving. Take out the Trash Up to 70% of waste from U.S. households goes into landfills. That’s double the rate of many European countries. Just like conserving power, reducing waste can be done at no cost to you and can sometimes save you money. A good place to start? Food items. In the U.S., up to 40% of food purchased will never be consumed. All of that food took a huge amount of energy to grow, process, package and ship. Even worse, much of that food is over-packaged and then placed into unrecyclable plastic bags at the checkout line. How can you save?
- The next time you need to go grocery shopping, make a list beforehand so you only buy what you will eat
- At the store reach for items that are less packaged, like fresh vegetables
- When possible, buy items like rice and beans in bulk. You’ll throw away less packaging and save at the register
- Get a few reusable shopping bags and keep them in your car. Grocery stores are happy to use your bags. It saves the store money on bags and, in some states, saves you money where there are additional charges for using plastic bags.
- Ask for no bag. Most store employees assume customers want a bag, even for small purchases at CVS. Cut down on waste by saying “No, thank you” to plastic bags