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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

The Journey of the Sun (Infographic)

Posted by SEPCO

5/30/13 9:30 AM

In 1839 the first photovoltaic reaction was observed, 48 years later the solar cell was born. For the past century and more we have been harnessing the power of the sun to do everything from powering ATM machines in India to helping European nations become sustainable.

Our innovation has ensured the movement of solar technology into many aspects of our everyday lives; did you know that by 1962 we already had entirely solar powered satellites orbiting our planet? Or that in 2012 on a sunny day solar panels enabled one European nation to generate 50% of its energy for the entire nation?  This timeline guides you through many of the key moments in the solar journey, along the way you will find some interesting facts that you probably wouldn't know and some inspirational uses of solar energy that will inevitably leave you asking, if we have come this far, what will tomorrow bring for Solar Energy?

The History Of Solar Energy [Infographic]
The Eco Experts - Solar Panel Specialists Original article: http://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/the-history-of-solar-energy-infographic
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Topics: Guest Post, Infographics

Top 5 Ways to Green Your Home

Posted by SEPCO

5/23/13 9:30 AM

Greening the HomeNo man is an island. While it may seem like you are insulated from the outside world when you are in your home, you're not. The things you do in your home and the choices you make can have a big impact on the environment, which can then have a big impact on others in your community and in the world. Whether you recycle or not, whether you buy local foods or not, whether you choose natural cleaners or not -- all these decisions can have a big impact on your family and on the environment.

There are many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint in your home, helping to do your part to protect the environment and make the world a better place for everyone. Here are the top 5 ways that you can green your home:

Use Solar Lighting

The energy used to power our homes is not a renewable resource -- but solar energy is. You can choose to add solar-powered lighting to your home where possible, such as for outdoor lighting or for some indoor lamps, or you can install solar panels on your roof to harness even more solar energy. The more solar power you use, the less conventional energy you use, and the fewer natural resources you use.

Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances

Energy Star appliances are designed to use 10 to 50 percent less energy than traditional appliances. By replacing just one appliance, such as your refrigerator or stove, with an Energy Star model, you could reduce your electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint. By replacing all your appliances with energy-efficient models, you maximize your potential for energy and cost savings. Bonus: You'll even get a tax break for it.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

There are many fluctuations in temperature throughout the course of a day. When you are constantly turning the thermostat up and down to try to get your internal temperature to adjust to what's going on outside, you waste a lot of energy. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can easily keep the temperature in your home constant, helping you to reduce energy usage and to save money.

Install Low-Flow Toilets

A single flush of the toilet can use up to 3.5 gallons of water. That's a lot of waste every time you have to visit the potty! You can cut back your water usage by installing low-flow toilets. These models use only 1.6 gallons per flush, cutting your water usage by more than half. By making this simple switch, you can save dozens of gallons of water per day, reducing your home's environmental impact.

Grow a Garden

Buying food that are locally grown helps you to reduce your carbon footprint because the food does not have to be shipped to you from half way around the world. If you grow the food right in your own backyard, you minimize that footprint even more. By growing your own food, you can also control the use of dangerous pesticides and other chemicals, helping you to get healthier food and reducing the use of agents that are toxic to the environment. Also, when you have a garden, you can compost your kitchen waste to create a natural fertilizer. You get a healthier way to nourish your food and you reduce the waste of your household.

Finding ways to green your household can not only help you to create a healthier atmosphere for you and your family, it can also help you to reduce your overall environmental impact. That can have far-reaching implications for your health, as well as the health of your community and -- when enough people work together -- the world.

Author: Amber Satka writes on financial topics, and much of her research can be found at her app site: carloancalculator.org. Amber is a former office manager and current mother and writer.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

Why Custom Solar Lighting Solutions are Important

Posted by SEPCO

5/21/13 9:30 AM

Custom Solar LightingSolar powered energy is a fast growing trend and has been recognized worldwide as an affordable eco-friendly solution. It’s becoming common to see solar panels on the tops of buildings and now more often we see them popping up on streetlights.

Consumers can even go to their favorite hardware store and purchase small, inexpensive solar lights for applications like garden and accent illumination. These small units may require no more than taking them out of the box and pushing them into the ground. But for more vital lighting projects like illuminating public roads, parking lots, parks, security perimeters and freeways, a greater level of expertise is required.

A long list of important factors must be considered when choosing the best solar lighting solution, including, selecting the most appropriate fixture and light distribution for the specific application and evaluating the geographic location to determine sun hours and the length of the night. When there is a clear understanding of the specific sizing and application needs, the results will be satisfactory for the client and will function properly.

When it comes to this type of critical solar power project the concept of a “one solution fits all” can result in defective results and, unfortunately, create the impression that the solar lighting industry is not ready to play a prime role in illumination of our streets and roads. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When the appropriate system is applied correctly, solar powered lighting systems provide reliable, efficient and cost-effect solutions for a wide range of illumination projects. 

It is very important that subcontractors, project managers and end customers demand their solar lighting vendor treat each project unique and to take the time and analyze all of the details. Experienced and reliable solar lighting companies, like SEPCO, do this with every project no matter how big or small. Customers should insist the same from all of their potential solar vendors.

The basic operating principle at SEPCO is, “not all solar lighting projects are created equal.” We take the time to learn about and evaluate every aspect of each individual project to develop a customized solution. Understanding the goals of our client and exceeding their expectation is our number one goal.  Only trust experience and expertise when selecting a solar lighting solution.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

4 Factors That Could Affect a Solar Street Light Proposal

Posted by SEPCO

5/14/13 8:30 AM

Solar Street Light ProposalThere are many different factors to consider when putting together a solar street light proposal. Not many people know all the considerations required, but here is a list of a few little-known factors that can make the specification process a little less stressful.

1. Traffic Hours

What are the main traffic hours on the street? Does the traffic become minimal after a certain time? When does the traffic pick up again? If there is little to no traffic between 1 am and 5 am, there are no safety concerns with lowering the wattage of the fixture to conserve energy; therefore, reducing the size of the solar required to run the fixture all night.

2. Shading

Is the main road covered by trees? Solar requires direct sunlight to charge the batteries that operate the fixture at night. By making sure the lights are not going to be installed under shade will prevent future operation issues. If the lights need to be mounted under a tree, the solar can be remotely mounted in a sunny area to keep the light pattern even.

3. Lighting Level Requirements

What are the lighting requirements for the street? Is this a two or four lane street? Depending on the lighting requirements and width of the street can determine how many solar street lights are provided in the proposal. With aimed optics, a wider pattern is available in most applications and can reduce the overall number of fixtures needed. This can affect the overall project proposal cost including both the material and the installation.

4. Mounting Requirements

Are there specified mounting requirements such as wind loading? Making sure your solar is mounted to the appropriate pole can change many aspects of the proposal. Wind loading ratings are used in a variety of areas, especially those prone to large storms or hurricanes. Having a high wind load rating will provide a lasting light no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

With all the parts of a solar street light proposal, making sure all aspects are covered will make sure you get the most accurate proposal available. Talk to your solar lighting professional and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Outdoor Sign Lights for Nighttime Marketing

Posted by SEPCO

5/9/13 7:30 AM

Environmental Study CenterIs your business open after dark? Or located on a main roadway? Lighting your business’ sign up at night provides inexpensive marketing and lets passerby’s know where your business is located. There are many different styles of signs available and making sure yours is properly illuminated at night will provide optimum visibility to travelers on the road. Here are some great tips on getting maximum exposure at the least cost.

Solar outdoor sign lights provide a great way to light the sign without added electricity costs to the business. This allows the sign to be visible all night after initial installation. It is also great for the environment as well.

The solar sign light fixtures can be either mounted to the sign on a bracket, out a few feet in front of the sign on the ground or internally illuminated by LED strips or long fluorescent lamps. Depending on the type of sign changes the lighting needs. Most signs only require a single fixture, sometimes one on each side.

The solar power systems can be mounted directly to the sign, integrated into the sign top or mounted to a pole nearby. The solar power assembly size depends on the needed lighting levels and number of fixtures required to adequately light the sign. This can be determined by speaking to a sign lighting representative or solar lighting specialist.

Finally, determining the time you would need your sign to be lit at night. Is the traffic practically gone after midnight? Then have your sign light turn off at midnight to save on energy. You can always turn the light back on a couple hours before dawn so that early morning travelers see your business, even if you aren’t open yet.

Keeping your brand in front of potential customers is a great way to market your business. One of the easiest is with your business sign. Make sure it is visible to your potential customers and make it work for you.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Sign Lighting

Illuminate Your Yard with Landscape Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

5/7/13 9:30 AM

landscape lighting LEDDuring the day, your flower beds, blooming bushes, and bird baths, all gorgeous parts of your yard, are showcased by the sun. However, come evening, a little electrical assistance may be necessary to give your yard the attention it deserves. Enter landscape lighting.

Landscape lighting involves well-placed lighting fixtures that illuminate both key design elements in your yard and walkways that allow visitors to both make their way to and from your front door and enjoy the visual beauty of your green space.

When it comes to installing landscape lighting, what are your options?

The availability of LEDs, low-voltage lighting, and even solar-powered units has changed the outdoor lighting game tremendously over the past 15 years. When seeking out bulbs for your landscape design, your best bet is to look online and at specialist companies, rather than home improvement stores, which carry some but not all of your many options.

Most outdoor lighting requires a connection to an electricity supply to stay operational. Low-voltage transformers are the safest option for your garden, as mixing water and electrical currents by using a wall socket is highly dangerous.

Ready to choose your outdoor lighting? The following are the most common options for a spectacular visual experience right in your own backyard.

LEDs:

These energy efficient wonders work perfectly as pool lighting, twinkle lights, recessed lighting, or even spots. Their output is bright and can be softened using diffusers. While purchasing the lights initially will be more of an investment than buying traditional lighting, LEDs are a cost-effective option when energy efficiency and longevity are considered. Maintaining LEDs is simple, as the bulbs last longer than standard light bulbs or compact fluorescent bulbs.

Electric lighting:

Fluorescent bulbs provide excellent landscape lighting when used as lamps and post lights. Halogen flood lights offer spot-on lighting for security and colored effects. While the bulbs themselves are not expensive, running costs are, so opt for low-energy bulbs and fluorescent strips or halogen lights when possible. Replace bulbs as they burn out and be sure to maintain clean wall lamps and infrared sensors. Call your trusted electrician for the safest initial installation.

Fiber Optic Lighting:

Best used for a dreamy starlight effect in paving, decking, and water features, fiber optics may require installation assistance. Low maintenance, these gorgeous bulbs are emit low heat and UV output and can be washed with gentle cleansers.

Solar Lighting:

Solar-powered lighting suits any area on your property, but works particularly well at the edge of pathways and patios, in ponds as floating or rock lights, on walls, and near plants. It can also be used for spotlighting. While the downside of solar powered lighting is a low reach, it can provide gentle lighting for pathways that is preferable to brighter types. Initial cost is expensive but the convenience and non-existent running costs, coupled with its longevity, make this lighting type an excellent choice. With easy DIY installation, these lights need only a sunny place to operate. Solar lighting’s photovoltaic cells require regular cleaning, but batteries last years.

Lighting your yard should be an inspired activity that allows key features to shine, even after hours. Consider the above types and remember to consult your local electrician for installation advice or to troubleshoot issues.

Author: Chelsea Terris provides “illuminating” online content for Prairie Electric, an electrical contracting company based in Portland, OR.
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Topics: Guest Post, Landscape Lighting

Solar Lighting Out of the Shadows at LightFair International

Posted by SEPCO

5/2/13 9:30 AM

Solar Lighting LightFair InternationalThis year’s LightFair International conference in Philadelphia was proof that solar lighting is becoming more and more mainstream. My colleague Stephanie Holloran and I attended the conference April 21 through the 24th. According to its website LFI “is the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting trade show and conference.” The conference consists of numerous lighting industry related classes, informational seminars, and a huge tradeshow.  Solar Lighting technologies were at the forefront considerably more than in years past.

While walking through the tradeshow, I observed frequent examples of solar lighting. Several of the major players in lighting manufacturing were exhibiting solar paired with their light fixtures, including Hubbell Lighting with SEPCO’s solar power assemblies. One or two booths exhibiting only solar lighting were also present. All of the solar lighting systems I saw included LED fixtures.  This demonstrates how much LED fixtures have permeated the solar lighting industry and is a testament to the cohesiveness of the two technologies.

Tuesday afternoon, Stephanie and I attended a seminar titled The Art and Science of Solar Lighting.  This seminar was mainly an introduction to the solar lighting industry for people who were either not familiar or had limited knowledge of solar lighting. Stephanie and I were able to share our input and knowledge of the industry when needed or requested. The seminar ended with the introduction of the Consortium for Solar Lighting (CSL), an organization working to develop industry-wide standards and guidelines for solar lighting. The implementation of defined standards will benefit the solar lighting industry by weeding out certain deceptive and cost-cutting practices in the industry that have the ultimate effect of degrading performance and reliability.  The existence of this organization is another example of how the industry is emerging from the shadows to become more mainstream. 

I am excited to see solar lighting becoming a larger part of the lighting industry as a whole.  For next year’s LightFair, I hope to see solar lighting having an even bigger presence.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Energy Show

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