Cart before the horse
We’ve all heard the expression the “CART BEFORE THE HORSE”. It’s an idiom used to suggest something is done contrary to the way it should be done, should have been done, or with the wrong emphasis. Using this phrase in relation to “Energy Efficiency and Solar” solutions is a very relative topic and is addressed daily as we consult with our clients and our own representatives.
Whenever I am conversing with people about their energy issues and educating them on the solutions that we provide, by default they immediately refer to renewable energy, wind, batteries, solar, etc. Of those items, the most expensive is the Solar option. While there is most definitely a significant need for renewable energy such as solar, it most definitely needs to be placed “BEHIND THE HORSE”! Purchasing solar for a house that is “energy-inefficient” is… putting the cart “CART BEFORE THE HORSE”. It would be the epitome of throwing dollars out of your vehicle window while driving down the road. It makes little sense to add solar panels to a home that has clapped out air ducts, poor insulation, no ventilation, no passive attic environment, unbalanced attic air and exhaust flow, 50-year-old windows, and/or other inefficient problems.
Typical home energy improvements need to be implemented before the plunge into solar, and there are a few steps that can be taken to make your home or business more efficient first. Examples are:
- Stop using some of the devices or units that are drawing substantial power
- Limit the daily use of units or items
- Find less expensive alternatives for the power consuming items that you have
- Ventilate your attic space properly and balanced
- Insulate your attic space with the proper solution(s)
- Create a positive/passive environment by way of exhaust fans that are solar powered
- Replace existing light bulbs (where most of the energy used turns into heat rather than light) with LED bulbs
- Upgrade your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
- Replace your old refrigerator and freezer with new, high-efficiency models (either energy-efficient or propane)
- Replace high energy consumption loads (high-wattage electric stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters, heating appliances)
- Make an external and/or an internal isolation of your home
- Utilize your large electrical loads (pool pumps, electrical mills, etc.) during off-peak hours
- Install solar water heaters and summer shading
- Utilize devices with timers and other home automation systems
- If you live in the U.S., when shopping for electrical appliances, look for devices labeled with Energy Star® labels
ACES provides many solutions and improvements with examples like sealing air leaks around floors, walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and fireplaces, to spray foam, and weather stripping, amongst many other things we do and offer. The energy savings from reducing drafts in a home alone, not including your attic, can range from 5% to 30%+ per year, and the home is much more comfortable and healthier afterward. What I have experienced is that 99% of the time, and I don’t use that number lightly, the energy efficiency solutions and repairs are less expensive, but most importantly necessary before adding solar.
They are also necessary for comfort, as well as the obvious fiscal benefits. Upon completing energy efficiency upgrades and repairs for our clients, across the board our clients experience an average savings of 30%, with some clients exceeding 40% or more! What does this mean? This means that instead of a solar system that offsets 100% of your power needs, you now would only need to purchase a system that offsets 70% of your needs. The energy efficiency upgrades and repairs will account for the 30% balance. AND… you now get to enjoy the comfort and health benefits on top of the pocket-book!
An Energy Efficient Solution
So let’s be honest with ourselves and just look at this subject from an elementary perspective. An efficient home before adding solar just makes sense simply because saving energy is less expensive than producing it. By improving energy efficiency the cost of the photovoltaic (solar) system you are going to install will be reduced. The more energy you need, the more energy has to be generated. This again means that to meet your daily electricity needs, you have to buy a system that is sufficient enough to offset what you need. So putting the comfort and health benefits aside for a moment, we must not forget about the fiscal benefits of energy efficiency and solar. They are definitely attractive!, but the cart needs to remain “BEHIND THE HORSE”.
The “CART BEFORE THE HORSE” concept is imperative to reverse or realign correctly so that your R.O.I. is quicker and so that it makes the most sense. While the amount of savings varies by state, even a small reduction in dependency on traditional energy sources can indeed have a profound impact on a household budget, especially over time. Many homeowners find that the benefits from solar far outweigh the initial costs, combined with the cost of installation continuing to drop each year as well. For our eco-conscious homeowners/clients, we know that they rely on a number of materials, installation techniques, and appliances that can help, but the one thing that has been increasing in popularity as it decreases in price is indeed solar. The single most significant problem that I see on a regular basis is that solar has to be, and must be, “Post Efficiency Solutions/Repairs and Upgrades”. That doesn’t mean that if you have solar already that you’re toast! Efficiency solutions should still be implemented with no hesitation. The point that I am driving home is that the ball is in your court if you haven’t installed solar yet! You’ll end up with less solar on your home and the same fiscal benefits, not to forget all of the comfort and health benefits.
So my invitation to everyone is this:
Do it the right way and accomplish your goals! If you already have solar, you still have the option to place the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE”, and improve the efficiency of your home! Your ROI will be longer but it still makes sense. If you don’t have solar yet, experience a quicker and more cost effective outcome and put the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE” starting from day one. Placing the cart “BEHIND THE HORSE”, making your home as efficient as possible first, allows you to experience increased savings, a quicker ROI, a healthier home, and a more comfortable home! This is indeed the way forward!