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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Top Tips for Saving Energy in the Home

Posted by SEPCO

11/29/11 9:30 AM

Green Home Energy

Most of us are looking to reduce the amount of energy we use, whether for financial or environmental reasons – or both. If this sounds like you, read on for our top tips for saving energy in the home.

Cheap or Free

1.       Turn Your Thermostat Down

Reduce the temperature in your home by just three degrees and not only could you save yourself around 10% on your heating bill, but you’ll reduce your CO2 emissions by the same amount as if an average meat eater halved the amount of beef they consume!

Cost: nothing

2.       Draught-Proof Your Property

Most properties are afflicted with an abundance of small gaps and holes, most of which we’re not even aware of, despite the warmth they deplete from our homes.

Filling in these gaps should cost less than $150, however you can hire a professional to carry out the work for you for around $150 more.

Cost: $150 - $300

3.       Invest in Insulation

Relatively cheap and highly effective, if your home isn’t properly insulated, it should be. Insulation can start from as little as a couple of dollars a roll and fitting it is a relatively easy DIY job to complete. Grants and tax credits are available to those on a limited income.

Cost: $0 - $4,500 (dependent on grants, how much of the property you insulate and whether or not you do the work yourself)

Costs a Little Bit More

1.       Double Glazing

If you’re still suffering the perils of single glazed windows, it really is worth investing in an upgrade. Single glazed windows lose more than twice as much heat as their double glazed counterparts. Thus, replacing your old windows with two panes will substantially reduce how high you need your thermostat while significantly increasing how comfortable your home feels during the winter months.

Triple glazing is also an option for those with the cash to spare and if you do, they’re worth some consideration – they’ll reduce heat loss through the windows to almost zero.

Cost: from around $550 per window

2.       Solar Panels

Solar panels reduce your need to use and pay for electricity, allowing you to instead utilise the natural energy of the sun. In some cases, they could even see you selling energy back to the companies that previously provided you with it.

What’s more, disregarding the CO2 emissions needed to make the panels themselves, solar energy emits zero CO2.

Sadly, this sort of eco-friendliness does not come cheap.

Cost: $10,000 – $30,000 (grants or incentives may be available)

3.       Upgrade Your Boiler

Many households are relying on old and inefficient boilers to heat their homes throughout the winter, yet an upgrade could see them enjoying savings of up to 40%.

While a new boiler doesn’t come cheap, they will last for many years while dramatically increasing the comfort of your home. They’ll probably be safer too.

Cost: upwards of $2000

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Stormclad who fit double glazed windows in Nottingham. James is always looking for ways to reduce his energy bills as well as his impact on the environment.

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Topics: Guest Post

5 Ways to Go Green this Thanksgiving

Posted by SEPCO

11/22/11 9:30 AM

Green Thanksgiving

The holidays are fast approaching with Thanksgiving coming first in just two days. I wanted to share a couple tips for keeping your Thanksgiving celebration as green as possible.

1. Open Up – With all the cooking and people, homes get very warm. Open up the house and let some cool air in. If it is too cold outside, use the oven heat to warm up the house during the cooking and after all the cooking is done. This reduces heating and cooling costs while keeping everyone comfortable.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Reduce the amount of goods used for dinner by purchasing just enough food for the guests or have each guest bring their favorite dish. Also, decorate with items found in nature like fallen leaves, pine cones, fresh flowers, etc. and reuse items from last years decorations. Finally don’t forget to recycle all the packaging materials from purchased items. This doesn’t just help the environment, but the wallet as well.

3. 100 Mile Thanksgiving Challenge (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/10/treehugger_100.php) - Participate in the 100-Mile Thanksgiving challenge from Treehugger. The challenge is over for this year, but it has a lot of great ideas on how to purchase ingredients from local farmers and would be a great challenge to participate in next year.

4. Plant – Plant a tree or a plant that produces something that you can consume during the year. Next year you may even be able to cook most of your meal with items in your new garden.

5. Give Thanks!

From all of us here at SEPCO, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Topics: Holiday

Outdoor Signs: A Variety of Options to Get Your Business Noticed

Posted by SEPCO

11/17/11 9:30 AM

Outdoor signs are a way of announcing the presence of your business to the world. An outdoor sign is a marker, a signature, and an extension of your brand.

Because this kind of signage is so highly visible, it’s important to choose the right kind of outdoor sign for your business. There’s an entire language of outdoor signs -  what’s the different between a pylon sign, a monument sign, and channel letters? And how do you know which one will be a good fit for your company? Read on to find out…

Monument SignMonument Signs: Monument signs are the perfect sign for making a statement about your business. These freestanding, easy-to-spot signs are large and solid looking, typically made out of materials like stone, brick, carved sign foam, or aluminum. The only limitation on monument sign designs and looks is your creativity!

These big signs work best for businesses that have a little space. Medians, lawns, and landscaped areas near your entrance are best for monument signs.  Monument signs also look great with a little illumination, think a couple of small lights pointed at the sign to keep drivers aware of your business come nightfall.

Illuminated Wall CabinetPylon Signs: While monument signs tend to be sturdy and low to the ground, pylon signs are all about height. A pylon sign is any outdoor sign that is mounted on a high pole or pylon structure. Pylon signs for shopping centers often feature more than one business, with each company getting its own acrylic sign face area.

Pylon signs for solo businesses work well when you want to be seen from a distance – pylon signs are particularly useful for businesses near a highway or roadside attractions. Pylon signs work well when they’re illuminated from within.

Channel Letter SignChannel Letters: Channel letters are custom formed three-dimensional letters mounted to the wall of your business. Channel letters are essentially letter shaped boxes, with space inside for mounting hardware and illumination. Channel letters can be formed to meet any specifications and they come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes imaginable.

Channel letters are extremely professional looking, and can be mounted to just about wall surface. Keep in mind that some leases, particularly those for businesses in shopping centers, include specifications about what style of channel letters are acceptable. Before you get too creative, be sure to double-check any limitations.

Lightbox SignLightbox Signs: Lightboxes are the more pared down relative of the channel letter. Essentially large rectangular boxes with an acrylic sign face, light boxes are a popular choice for many business.  Your acrylic sign face can be covered with simple cut vinyl lettering or a more complex design.

As you can tell by the name, light boxes are a type of illuminated sign. The lights are housed within the box structure, and helps to make these outdoor signs easy to spot at any time of day.

Commercial Awning SignCommercial Awnings: Environmentally friendly and very visible, commercial business awnings are another effective outdoor sign option. These awnings can be printed with simple information about your business or they can feature colorful logos or images of your products.

Awnings have the added benefit of keeping out the rain and the wind on stormy days. Awnings come in all manner of shapes and sizes and can be custom assembled for any storefront.

Vehicle Wrap SignVehicle Wraps: If your business is often on the go, but still craves local outdoor visible, a vehicle wrap is an awesome mobile option. Vehicle wraps are large format vinyl stickers that are wrapped around vehicles to transform your truck, van, or trailer into a billboard on wheels.

With countless eye-catching design options available, a vehicle wrap is an ideal fit for just about any business.

Adam Sokoloff is the owner and president of Sunrise Signs - Custom Wraps and Graphics. He writes passionately about vehicle graphics, indoor signs, and outdoor signage.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Guest Post

Solar Roadway Lighting at the US EPA Facility in Raleigh, NC

Posted by SEPCO

11/15/11 9:30 AM

Solar Roadway Light EPA

The US EPA Facility in Raleigh, NC Research Triangle Park installed 68 solar roadway lighting systems in 2001 along with two solar sign lighting systems. Most press releases and project articles happen when the installation occurs, although a new and developing technology, there has been some longer well established projects proving the longevitiy cost savings, and impact the technology can offer as we progress forward. This project showcases reliability, performance, and overall cost effectiveness of commercial solar roadway lights.

The EPA worked with the local power company on a lease-purchase arrangement for the 70 solar lighting systems along the site roadways. This was one of the largest solar roadway lighting projects in the US at the time. The power company was able to take advantage of the 35% tax credit from the State of North Carolina for the solar power equipment which reduced the system cost making it cost-justifiable. 

IESNA Award Solar Roadway Lighting

The roadway to the EPA was lit with solar shoebox lighting systems and includes a mile of photovoltaic powered street lights that light the road from dusk to dawn. Chris Long, the EPA’s Project Manager commented, "We're extremely pleased with the installation.  We're committed to using cost-effective technologies that reduce our air pollution impact, and this project speaks volumes about our commitment to clean, renewable energy." This project also won the IESNA Award and has provided the EPA 10 years of reliability and quality lighting with little maintenance. 

The project was initiated by the EPA's Green Lights program. The program helped transform the market for energy efficient electronic fluorescent ballasts concluded a study by Marvin J. Horowitz. His findings were published in The Energy Journal. The Alliance to Save Energy also completed a report called Economic Indicators of Market Transformation: Energy Efficient Lighting and EPA's Green Lights that can be downloaded from the Alliance to Save Energy website.


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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Street Lighting

Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 2

Posted by SEPCO

11/10/11 9:30 AM

Wind energy is one of the most used sources of renewable energy world wide. Wind farms are starting to pop up all over. These wind electric systems use turbine blades to capture the kinetic energy in wind. When the blades turn it spins a shaft that leads to the rotor to a generator. This generator turns the rotational energy into electricity. Sounds pretty simple huh?

Windmills have been used to help production since 500-900 AD, but these were not used to produce electricity but to crush grain and pump water. Electric generation didn’t start being produced by windmills till much later in time.

brush l

Charles F. Brush figured this out in 1888. He built the first large windmill used to generate electricity and it was the first windmill to incorporate a step-up gearbox in order to turn a direct current generator. This windmill produced 12 kilowatts of electricity.

In 1891 Dane Poul La Cour developed the first electrical output wind machine and produced 25 kilowatts of electric. During WWI these units were used throughoutDenmark. By the 1920s both fan and sail type rotors had been developed but were insufficient for generating predictable amounts of electricity.

The development pretty much had a standstill during the 1930s and 1940s for a couple reasons; the great depression and demand of more power. But what if we kept working and striving for more out of the windmills? What if we pushed forward? Would every large piece of land have a slew of windmills? Would we have developed smaller windmills to generate electricity for homes and businesses?

Wind Power

Modern wind power systems started to become more developed in 1979 and wind power generators today are becoming more popular by the day. The ability to produce megawatts of power from a single source is amazing, with all the power being able to be fed directly back into the grid for everyone to use. But what if we figured this out 100+ years ago? What do you think?



Illustrated History of Wind Power Development
Wikipedia: Wind Power
How Stuff Works: Wind Power
Wind Energy Timeline 


Want to read Part 1? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 1 

Or how bout Part 3? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 3

Here's the latest Part 4: Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 4

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Topics: Green Ideas

Solar Lights for Your Community

Posted by SEPCO

11/8/11 9:30 AM

With the many communities being developed all around there are steps the individuals living within the community can get together to have implemented, either at the beginning stages or years after the development is completed. Talking to the contractors and community board to show them the savings both environmentally and financially will have a great impact on many decisions. Here are a few things that can be changed over to renewable energy to lower cost and reduce the overall environmental impact.

Solar Roadway Light

Solar Roadway Lights

Most developments have lights on the streets. These light provide security to the residences while also improving the overall look of the area by being architecturally friendly. There are solar options that eliminate the electric costs while keeping with the security and architectural integrity. These lights can provide the same lighting levels as the standard electrical lights, and if on a coastal area, can be turtle friendly as well. The same types of lights can be used for golf cart pathways and sidewalks around the community.

Solar Parking Lot Lighting

Solar Parking Lot Lights

Most communities have a pool, clubhouse, golf club, and other gathering structures where parking lots exist. These parking lots need adequate light for security of the residences and vehicles. Solar parking lot lights provide the same lighting levels without the additional trenching of installing traditional electric. The lights also can still meet the architectural integrity needs of the community.


Solar Sign Light

Solar Sign Lights

The entrance and directional signs around the community can also be lit up by solar power. Solar sign lights provide illumination to any size sign from monument signs to smaller signs around the community. Even banner signs can be illuminated by solar. One of the largest benefits of these types of lights is the lack of trenching needed to bring in standard electric as these signs are typically in median and remote locations. Just drop the pole in the ground and mount the solar and fixture, no additional digging required.

Solar Landscape Lighting

Solar Landscape Lights

Communities like to showcase their landscapes around the development by adding lighting. These lights can also be powered by solar, and since multiple fixtures can be powered by a single solar power system there is no need for a single solar power system for each light.

There are also landscape lights available for the individual homeowner. These lights do not provide the same lighting levels as commercial solar lighting systems; however, provide atmospheric lighting and can outline walkways, driveways, and other landscape areas. Residential style solar lights can be found at any hardware, big box store, or online. These lights typically only provide a few hours of illumination and do not provide a backup for times of inclement weather or winter months, but are perfect where the illumination is not required to meet specific lighting requirements.


So next time there is talk about lighting in a community, remember solar lights can provide the same lighting needs while reducing the impact on the Earth and the wallet. For large scale projects like the ones motioned above, make sure to seek a reputable manufacturing company. Different types of solar panels, batteries, control electronics, and fixtures will make or break the solar lighting project. By making sure the lighting levels required by the project are met and the companies providing the lights have high quality parts will save you time and frustration in the long run by lowering the maintenance and increasing the life of the systems purchased.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Security Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Landscape Lighting

Good News from FPL 2012 Solar Incentives Application is Back

Posted by SEPCO

11/3/11 9:30 AM

Solar Rebate Program

FPL has opened the application period for the 2012 solar rebate program on October 27th. This is an ongoing pilot program to help reduce energy consumption and peak demand, but you have to hurry as it is first come, first serve. The rebates include solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heating systems.

How much is available?

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized $15.5 million for 2012 and the program will be available from October 2011 through September 2012. Half the funds were issued on October 27th, but the remainder is going to be issued in Spring 2012, so there is still time to get your application in.

FPL’s vice president Marlene Santos states “These rebates can help significantly defray the upfront cost of a customer’s investment in distributed renewable energy generation, but the annual funding is limited and first-come, first-served so we continue to encourage interested customers to make sure they have the necessary components of the application ready.”

What is available?

Residential Solar Water Heating: FPL’s program for residential solar water heating provides $1,000 per installation.

Business Solar Water Heating: Businesses will be eligible for variable rebate based on the size of the system equaling $30 per 1,000 BTU / day of the maximum rated output of the new system, up to $50,000 per site. Businesses with multiple sites can receive up to $150,000 for the year.

Residential Solar PV: The incentive for solar power installed on a home is $2,000 per kW of the rated direct-current (DC) output up to $20,000.

Business Solar PV: Businesses will be eligible for variable rebate based on the output of the system up to $50,000 per site and is calculated at $2 per DC Watt of the solar panel rating up to the first 10 kW, $1.50 for 10 kW to 25 kW, and $1 for every kW above 25. Multiple locations can receive a total of $150,000 per funding year.

What about Non-for-Profit Organization?

FPL has a limited number of rebates available for qualifying non-for-profit organizations that install solar water heaters in new construction for low income families. FPL also provides education programs while producing energy at schools and other educational facilities. FPL plans on installing at least oneNextGenerationSolarEducationCenterin 28 school districts inFlorida.

What to do next?

Visit www.FPL.com/solarrebates for more information on the application process and checklists. Also contact your local PV or Solar Hot Water systems installer. You can also look up more information on technology advancements and information at www.fsec.ucf.edu.

What if you are not an FPL customer?

Don’t worry; there is still money available through Federal, State, and Local tax incentives. Visit www.dsireusa.org for more information on tax incentives. You can also contact your local energy company to see what is available locally.

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Topics: Solar Power, Funding

Banners, Kiosks, Signs, Oh My! Use Solar Lighting to Light Them

Posted by SEPCO

11/1/11 7:48 AM

Solar lighting can be used for many different applications. Some of the most common are banners, kiosks, and signs. We have completed many projects that show the versatility of solar lighting on all of these types of applications.

Solar Banner Sign LightSolar Banner Signs Systems:

The City of Arlington Heights uses our solar banner sign lighting systems for the banner signs throughout their downtown areas. These banner signs have the solar power and fixtures mounted to the top of the banner shining down. These solar powered banner signs light up from dusk for 3 hours and provide information to residences and tourist in the area. The project also showcases the city's green initiative.

Solar Powered Sign LightSolar Sign Systems:

The City of Port St. Lucie uses our solar sign lighting systems throughout the city. These solar powered sign lighting systems provide dusk to dawn lighting for all signs located throughout the area. The City of Port St. Lucie shows their green initiative not only through their solar sign light systems, but also many other projects located around the area. The city says it perfectly by stating on one of their solar powered signs "Keep Port St. Lucie Beautiful" and they are doing just that by helping the environment with solar lighting systems.

Internally Illuminated Solar Sign LightSolar Internally Illuminated Sign System:

Solar can also be integrated in the sign for internal illumination as seen with the Mediterranean Community. The solar power for this sign lighting system is integrated in the top portion of the monument sign with the lamps located within the sign. When just driving by the solar is flush mounted and many are unaware of the solar that powers the sign, but still allows for a green alternative for the community.

Solar Powered Kiosk LightSolar Kiosk System:

Kiosks are located throughout colleges, parks, and cities. These kiosks provide a great place for solar powered kiosk light systems as their roof can be mounted with the solar with the light fixtures wired underneath for lighting at night. Auraria Higher Education Center has been installing solar powered kiosk light systems throughout their campuses to provide lighting for students seaking information after dark. These systems provide lighting from dusk for 6 hours to help lower the size and cost of the system as no students are on site later. 

Benefits of Solar Banner, Kiosk, and Sign Systems:

All of these systems provide many benefits including no need for power to be trenched to the location, free energy provided by the sun, and a tax incentive provided by Federal, State, and Local authorities. Next time you are in the position for lighting a banner, kiosk, or sign, think solar.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information

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