Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Energy Minding? Not With Solar!

I got my solar energy system installed last week, and now I can’t stop turning off lights.

Weird, huh? Now that I have free energy, why would I care? Well, because the system came with an ingenious web-based tool: the Energy Minder. Once it got hooked up and I could see my energy use graphed out on the “eGauge” screen, I quickly got the energy-saving bug.

Every time I turned on and off a light, I could see the e-gauge go up and down. And when our 19-year-old refrigerator kicked on – whoa! When we used the clothes dryer – double whoa! This sort of thing really makes you think.

So now I’m replacing my few remaining incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, and I’ve been looking at the expensive but long-lasting LED lighting, which really sips lightly at the energy tap. We got a Community Power Works energy audit and we’re considering what else we can do – including replacing that refrigerator.

Of course, the coolest thing is seeing how much energy we’re making. The system produced energy – sometimes, as much as I was using – every afternoon last week, for at least a couple of hours when the sun was out. For at least that time, I was a solar-powered worker.

My solar system has me itching for summer too. Not just because we’ll be making energy like crazy. But we’ll be able to hang our clothes outside on the line again, like we’ve been doing for a few years. Gotta keep that dryer silent.

– Bill Thorness Bill is a PNA member and the volunteer outreach coordinator for the Solarize Seattle: Northwest program, which has two more free solar workshops this spring. He will also be on a tour of solar homes, coming in early April. Check back for details or see the program’s website,

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