The Neufeld home has been solar powered for one year! The year has gone by quick and we're so glad we made the investment. Our electric bill for the last twelve months - $145! Of course we're still making payments to our bank for the system for a number of years (approximately the same amount we would have been paying the electric company per month), but, depending on how fast PG&E raises its rates, we'll probably start benefiting from free electricity in about eight years.
As equally impressive, we have reduced our energy consumption by a third. In the previous year we used about 15,000 kilowatt hours; this last year we only used 10,000 (as a point of reference, consider that environmental guru Al Gore used 221,000 kwhs in 2006 at just one of his four mansions; but he's one of the new ecological hipsters who prefer to buy their environmental conscious through carbon offsets rather than practice conservation). It really wasn't hard to find ways to reduce our consumption:
- I bought a Kill-a-Watt meter and began plugging in everything to see how much power each item in the house uses.
- I determined that the ancient freezer in our garage was using something like 2000 kwhs per year costing us $400-$500 annually. The new freezer I replaced it with should cost us about $50 and use around 400 kwhs!
- We've gradually replaced our incandescents with fluorescent bulbs.
- We make good use of our whole-house fan in the evening and morning.
- We use the dryer less by drying on a rack when the weather is nice.
- We only turn the spa on when we know we're going to use it.
By far the three most important changes we made were getting rid of the archaic garage freezer, managing the use of our spa better, and reducing the use of our electric dryer. We haven't done anything all that dramatic and still live very comfortably.
If you want to see an original post with pictures of our system you can read this post.