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You'll Have a Green Christmas This Year

Posted by SEPCO

12/16/14 9:30 AM

green_christmasIt’s that time of year again; time to start your Christmas shopping if you haven’t already finished it. When you begin your shopping try to keep in mind how you can help your friends and family be green and still give them gifts they will love. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays but Christmas shopping on the other hands is my least favorite. I always worry rather my gifts will be right or if the receivers will like them and how eco-friendly my gifts are.

An easy start to Christmas shopping is to shop online. This prevents using gas for transportation and not to mention less stress from the Christmas craziness at all the stores. If you would rather go to the stores and brave the chaos try your best to buy all your gifts in 1 shot if possible. Here are some quick ideas for gifts you can give this holiday season. Hopefully these will be crowd pleasers and everyone will be able to enjoy the thought of helping the earth in every way possible.

For the home there are actually fairly simple ideas you can use. If you look at any farmer’s market or in even one of those center kiosks in the mall you will probably be able to find and echo friendly candle. Candles made with soy or beeswax are always an easy find and many now have cotton wicks which release less toxins than normal candle wicks. Along with candles there are many options out there for reclaimed items. You can find many items online or if you are crafty and give yourself a little extra time Pinterest is always a good place to get inspiration. Bamboo items are easy to find and can range from spoons, cutting boards to a nice bamboo plant in a glass pot that can be reused later.  Don’t forget about that person with the green thumb in your life, they are actually fairly simple to buy eco-friendly gifts for.  A real gardener will do just about anything to keep the blooms coming, even in the off-season. Satisfy their obsession with a gorgeous wooden crate filled with ready-to-pop bulbs or a simple all in one grow kit. A great site to check out with tons of options is Bambeco.

Kids_Wrapping_PaperFor the fashionista’s in your life there are a ton of options out there. Jewelry is always a hit and you can find pretty much anything from a necklace to a watch. Everyone loves clothes and a great place to find fashions that everyone is sure to love is ModCloth. Kids can actually be one of the easier people to shop for and clothes is always a great gift to give them, plus as parents that means one less toy to add to the collection. All natural and organic health and beauty products are agreat option as well. Some people can be hard to shop for when it comes to clothes so the tried and true gift is always a gift card.

Now that we have all our gifts in order what should we do when we present the gifts to the receiver? A way to stay green with these gifts it to put them in a nice reusable bag but if you want to wrap try to find recycled gift wrap. Try to avoid glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper because it can be difficult to recycle and can’t be used for much afterword because of the metal contained to make it. A favorite thing of mine to do for grandparents it use all my kids artwork that comes home and turn it into wrapping paper, less waste that way  and a great way to share your child’s work. Homemade cards are always nice and add a more personal touch to your gifts. Use last year’s calendar by using the great pictures and sticking them together to create a beautiful collage. Last try to use tape sparingly or not at all if possible. You can do use a pretty ribbon or even a little dab of glue instead.

Celebrating a green Christmas isn't about going without; it's about being thoughtful and considerate of not creating waste at a time of celebration. Most importantly remember the season is not all about the gifts and glam but more about sharing time with our friends and family.  If we all do our part little by little we can keep the earth a greener place so we have many more holidays to spend with them.

From all of us here at SEPCO may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

How to Have a Green Thanksgiving

Posted by SEPCO

11/20/14 9:30 AM

Green_Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again. The smell of turkey cooking, green bean and sweet potato casserole and of course grandma’s pumpkin pie, but while we are thinking of what we are thankful for don’t forget about Mother Nature. After all, without her we would not be able to enjoy the food on our plate. It may be a little too late to completely rethink your entire plan for Thanksgiving, but there is still time to make a few adjustments to keep your Thanksgiving green and maybe even start some new family traditions to pass on to our future generation.

I have already bought my turkey, farm raised locally, and some of the other essentials for my traditional dinner, but I usually try to buy my vegetables and fruits as close as possible to my meal. There are few ways you can help the local economy and environment with very little effort. Let’s start before we even walk out the door. Grab your reusable bags of any kind to carry your haul home. Any kind of bag you have around will do even those old grocery bags you saved from your last trip to the store. I am guilty of always forgetting my cloth reusable bags when I go to the store so I do regretfully have a stock pile of plastic grocery store bags, since most of us already have them repurpose them. Reusing any extra bag you have lying around is greener than buying a new one, not to mention even easier on the wallet.

Where I live there are green markets that happen every Sunday or food co-ops, so it is easy to go pick up those last minute items that will be fresh and perfect for my Thursday meal. Most of the time not only is the food fresher, but it does not come with unnecessary packaging or chemicals and is usually cheaper. It is easy to grab a few containers along with your bags and put any loose items in them instead of the plastic produce bag. I can buy my lettuce without the plastic package and make sure I have all fresh leaves this way. Many times the farmers will have things like tomatoes, green beans, and blueberries in baskets that are already weighed out. Since it is going to be a big dinner buying in bulk should not be a problem and any extra you may have can be put in the freezer to use at a later time.

An obvious way to go green is to use regular plates and silverware versus the plastic utensils or Styrofoam plates that most of the time are not recyclable and can actually be harmful to the environment. If you don’t have enough of the same matching plates and silverware you could use the regular stuff for the kids table that way you don’t have to worry about the fancy stuff and kids usually don’t judge how pretty their plate looks. Use cloth napkins and repurpose those mason jars as flower vases or beeswax candle holders. Get creative and make some personal decorations. You can create your own potpourri by simply using cinnamon sticks and dried berries. My kids love making crafts and the family loves seeing what their works of art; my personal favorite is the traced hand turkey.

Over indulging is easy to do and something I am guilty of at every holiday meal, but food waste is one thing that can easily be avoided. Instead of stacking as much on your plate as possible start with small portions, it is easy to make a second trip and you are also less likely to consume as many calories. Try to make platters smaller so there is less leftover and not as much temptation to eat so much. I tend to drink water instead of soda as much as possible but it is easy to put more water in my glass then I consume. Any easy way to avoid water waste is to let guest refill their glass as needed and don’t worry about refilling when the glass is half full, or if there ends up being extra use it to water your plants.

Since we are putting smaller portions on our plate it is very likely we will end up with leftovers so try asking your guest to bring to-go containers and that way it doesn’t all end up in your fridge and thrown away because you can’t eat it all before it spoils. Being prepared with to-go containers will make you less likely to use saran wrap, Ziplocs, or a paper plate to send food home. If your family is anything like mine we always have a ton of desserts that we could not eat if we tried. A solution to this may be to plan accordingly so there are not as many made or give it to a neighbor, take it to work or even throw a dessert party for your kids’ friends.

Last comes the dreaded clean up. There are easy steps to take to reduce waste when cleaning up. First uses rags instead of paper towels and sponges and then hang them to dry after use. Turn the water off between wiping down counters and adding dish soap. In my home I try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products which are pretty easy to find and use much less harmful chemicals. Your guest can even get in on the action by properly disposing their waste into different containers that are marked recyclable or trash. Compost the food scraps like vegetable peels and eggshells which can be turned into garden soils. If composting is not an option check out different ways to use the remains for new meals like using vegetable scraps and the turkey carcass to make stock or soups by boiling them down. Leftover break crust or rolls can be used to make croutons for salads later in the week.

We would like everyone to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and try to keep in mind what we are thankful for and what is the most important, our family, friends and the earth we live on. Let’s all do our part to make sure that they are all preserved for years to come by doing all we can to keep it green.

Happy Thanksgiving from your SEPCO Family.

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

Going Green for Halloween

Posted by SEPCO

10/28/14 9:30 AM

green-halloween

Who said Halloween has to be all orange and black? With a little do-it-yourself work and imagination, All Hallows' Eve can go green, too. Like any holiday, Halloween offers an opportunity to go green without sacrificing an ounce of festive fun. Going green for Halloween is also a nice way to cut down on spending, as the average American is projected to spend over $75 toward the October 31st festivities.

diy_halloween_costumeGoing green is actually much easier than some may think. Making your own costume has to be one of the easiest things we can don not to mention it will probably save you some green as well. Another thing to think about with that wonderful store bought costume is how they are made. The truth is many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe. Use some of those old clothes in the back of the closet or shop a local thrift store and make something unique that only you will have no copy cats here. You are able to get creative this way and who doesn’t love a little arts and craft project. I don’t know about you but Pinterest is one of my go to places when I need a little inspiration.

The next easiest item to do for a green Halloween is easy. Back when I was young we used pillow cases to collect our candy, cheap and always available. Once again you are not spending money on a plastic pumpkin that usually only last about half way through trick or treating before it breaks but you are keeping the potentially toxic plastics away from our children and the landfill. Pillow cases can be fun since they too can also be decorated and made your own and you can pick some extras up while you are at the thrift store getting your costume supplies. If you don’t want to use an old pillowcase a reusable grocery bag would do the trick as well.

When decorating there are so many options to help with a green Halloween, these are just a few but there are always more. LED lights are the easiest solution for saving energy this holiday. Even though some may not decorate as much as they would for Christmas the decorations are getting more and more elaborate each year. I can even say I have added more to my collection this year. Don’t forget the pathway lights that can be solar powered and you can even choose from a wide variety of colors to match your theme. There are companies that specialize in eco-friendly decorations vs. the “made in China” plastic ones sold at most convenience stores. Did you ever wonder what you might be able to do with those old stockings that have the runs in them, how about turning them into spider webbing? When you receive a package go ahead and save those boxes and cut them into tombstones and you can always paint the packing peanuts to make them look like worms. I use paint sticks glued to the back to my tombstones to hold them up. Even better if you have the storage and are a crafty wood worker grab some plywood and cut the graves from that and they will be able to be used for years to come.

diy_decorationsLet’s not forget about one of the most important symbols the pumpkins we get to carve.  The first thing you should do is buy pumpkins from local farms or farmers markets. Even better, grow your own, what kid doesn’t love to watch something they planted grow.  Something I just learned this year is that if you dunk your perfectly carved pumpkin in vinegar it actually preserves them longer so no need to worry about the sloppy mess that can be left after Halloween. Also those solar lights you picked up can be used to make the inside of your pumpkins glow, no need to worry about lighting a candle. Don’t forget when it is time to get rid of your pumpkins use them as compost. If you choose to paint your pumpkin instead of carving it cut it open when all the festivities and consider using it to make pumpkin pies, bread or even muffins, what a great prep for Thanksgiving. My favorite is roasting the yummy pumpkin seeds as a treat. A little sea salt or honey will make a treat both you and your kids can enjoy. Last who could forget the candy? As with most food these days the easiest solution to going green with candy is to buy organic and also chocolates that are fair grade certified. Many times you can find homemade candy at local farmers markets which helps the local economy and is not only usually better quality but tends to have much less packaging to worry about.

Speaking of packaging, try your best to buy the candies with the least amount therefore creating less waste, there is even some that is made of recyclable material. There is no way to avoid taking home some packaging so a great idea for these would be to get creative. You can make picture frames, purses, jewelry and more, if it can be done with duct tape why not candy wrappers. To help create less waste try handing out only 1 piece of candy per kid vs. a whole handful.  Every kid loves tattoos, bubbles and even that loose change that you have lying around why not pass these out instead of the candy. While it may not be the most popular item in the candy bag an apple is great or healthy snacks are also an option. Not only will this make you feel better about what the kids are getting, many times it is easier on your wallet as well. Halloween is meant to be enjoyed, but somewhere in between “planning” and “cleanup,” many parents find themselves feeling overwhelmed. It might seem that attempting to consider the Earth while planning a great ghoulish party is just too much work and way too expensive. Some fear it might even zap the fun right out of the day. But creating an eco-savvy Halloween doesn’t have to be scary, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg so go out and enjoy the night.

Happy Halloween

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit 2014

Posted by SEPCO

9/25/14 9:30 AM

peoples climate march 2014

Last Sunday was one of the largest climate rallies ever, the People’s Climate March in New York City. Climate changes have been on the mind of people since the 60’s and 70’s, but realizing that we need to do something now is pushing people even harder, as we have already damaged the climate permanently and there is worse to come.  Many big names were out there in the crowd along with everyday citizens to demand action in the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sept 23.

Leonardo DiCaprio made one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a long time, see here:

I think my other favorite video this week was Jon Stewart’s video Burn Noticed:

So now what? Well some great ideas were put up and set to be put in action. The Green Climate Fund, which was established in 2009, was set into place to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels; however, it has not been kept up with and is not meeting the goals set forth. Pledges were taken at this year’s Climate Summit to push this program further ahead; however, most of the wealthier countries, including the US, needs to get on the boat and make their pledge.

Carbon emissions were of course one of the largest topics. Countries including Ireland and Chile are working towards reducing their carbon emissions; however, we need large industrial countries such as China and India to jump on board to make a real impact. So are they doing this? 2014 Was the lowest coal consumption year in the past decade for China and they are working to lower their consumption even more. As for India, no one knows as they didn’t show up to discuss their input, but we will see in time what they do.

Food security was another hot topic on the list along with deforestation. Deforestation is on a track to be cut in half by 2020 and finally ended in 2030. Will there be forests or even trees left by 2030? I guess we will see. One of the worst deforestation is due to the Palm Oil industry; however, large companies are finally getting involved and making zero-deforestation pledges and deforestation-free sourcing of palm oil.

As for the future, The UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants leaders to strike a deal in Paris. He states “We must agree to a global deal in Paris next year, we simply cannot afford to put it off any longer.” Maybe this is a good idea, a yearly meeting instead of every 5 years; help keep everyone accountable of their actions and on track for a global change.

All in all, the rally helped raise awareness and showed the people’s support  for action as well as showing  the UN how much everyone (well most everyone) wants change to happen immediately. We all want a green and clean world for our children for generations to come, but we need to start somewhere. Every drop in the bucket towards making the world better is a step in the right direction.

For more information, check out: UN Climate Change Summit, Vice News, The Guardian, Mashable

Img Source: Grist

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Topics: Green Ideas, Renewable Energy

Making a Switch: Is Your Business Able to Switch Electric Providers?

Posted by SEPCO

9/18/14 9:30 AM

SwitchSwitching electricity providers is possible now, but many businesses are hesitant because of some of the roadblocks that have been presented for other companies. Research is essential to understanding the plan and ensuring that you get good quality service from your provider. Here's what you need to know if you're considering switching: 

1. Only Customers of Licensed Retailers Can Switch

Your choice of electricity companies are only limited by the number of retailers available. If you're in an area with only one provider, then you have no choice but to select that provider. Some retailers will only supply to business customers. This could be an advantage for business owners. If you do have a choice, you're considered a "contestable customer."

2. Must Meet Certain Criteria to Switch

To switch, you must use more than 50 MWh of electricity per year. You may also qualify if your distributor is not Western Power. You cannot combine the amount of electricity you are using at each property to make yourself eligible as a contestable customer. If you use less than 50 MWh per year or pay less than $12,600 per year, and you are already connected to Western Power's network, you will not be allowed to switch. Any non-contestable customer in the SWIS network will receive electricity from Synergy. 

3. Find an Approved Provider

You must select a retailer that's been approved by the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA). The ERA website will list all of the retailers that have been approved to provide electricity to consumers. Contact these retailers when you decide which one is best for you. The new retailer will arrange the transfer on your behalf. Once you switch, your old retailer may not bill you for any electricity used. 

4. Always Ensure That You're Getting the Best Rate Possible

You want to ensure that you get the best rate possible at all times when you switch electricity providers, therefore shopping around is crucial. When you find the best rate, follow the procedures to switch. Most companies will require that you enter into a contract for a specified period of time. Once that time lapses, you're welcome to find another provider. 

Keep in mind that surveys have been conducted demonstrating the sentiment regarding this issue. When a group was surveyed, 413 had changed their power companies in the past three years, but only 52 percent were confident that they made the right choice. Comparing offers is not always easy, and there may be some hidden costs that you're unaware of until the bill comes. 

Every bill may have off-peak offers and peak-usage offers. Some companies offer discounts for on-time payments and others do not. You must know how you'll be affected before you make a decision. 

5. Be Aware of Unauthorised Switches

Five percent of people have been switched from one provider to another without authorization. For this reason, many people are sceptical of sales people when they knock on their doors and request a change. You must know at all times what the terms are and ensure that no person switches you without your permission. 

6. Most People Switch When They Move

Most people don't consider switching providers until they move. If they move to another location, they have more or sometimes, fewer options available. While a move may force you to switch providers, you should always perform due diligence to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.

7. Beware of Penalties

If you're renting your building or apartment, be sure that your rental agreement coincides with the length of your electricity contract. If you break the contract before the agreed upon time, you may have to pay exorbitant fees. If you want to avoid fees and problems, you should ensure that if you are renting for a year, your contract with the electricity company should not exceed one year. 

Making the Switch Can Be Profitable 

If you remove all of the caveats, switching can be profitable. You can save more money that can be re-invested into your business. This is desirable to most people in this situation. While there are some organisations available to help you, they are more focused on helping residential consumers. Find the organisations that are willing to help you and avoid those that may switch you without your knowledge. In general, do not sign anything until you read it fully because you may be switching your electricity service without knowing it. Switching can be a good practice if it's executed properly. 

Author Bio: This article is written by Aidan Jenkins, Managing Director of Infinite Energy, business electricity provider to Perth and South West WA. Connect with Aidan on Google+ or LinkedIn.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

Harness the Sun to Power Your Home

Posted by SEPCO

9/9/14 9:30 AM

SunThere has been a growing trend in recent years towards clean, renewable energy. Many consumers have explored the benefits of meeting some or all of their energy needs through renewable energy, such as wind or solar energy. One of the most common and popular options is the installation of home solar panels. When done properly, these solar panels can generate a large amount of electricity, greatly reducing the bill being paid to the electric company.

Over time, it is very possible for the investment in solar energy to pay for itself and more, all while being clean and renewable. The first consideration when looking in to solar panels is the upfront cost. Depending on the size of your house and the amount of energy you are looking to produce, this can be a sizable investment. In addition to investigating the cost of the panels themselves, you will want to look in to the cost of getting the panels installed on your roof and connected to your home's electrical system.

While it is possible to do the installation yourself, most consumers will want to hire professionals to make sure the job is done correctly the first time. The amount you pay for a professional installation can be significantly less than having to redo the project later. In certain areas, especially northern latitudes which gets fewer hours of sunlight, you may not generate enough energy through solar for it to be your only source of energy. Be sure to carefully monitor your energy usage to determine if you can get by with just solar energy, and reach out to other homeowners who have made the switch to solar. They will be able to give you an estimate on how much energy you can expect to generate through solar panels.

Other homeowners can also be an excellent resource on where to buy panels and how to install them. If need be, you can also look in to options such as wind, or see if your electric company offers any partial-year options; you may be able to use solar energy throughout the summer and just need the extra electricity during the winter months.

In addition to the actual installation, you will want to look in to any laws in your area regarding solar panels for homes. While solar panels are becoming increasingly prevalent, there may be rules or regulations which can come in to play in your particular case, so you will want to be aware of them. In addition to any laws, you will want to check with any homeowners association, landlord, or other entity which has any say in your home to make sure you can install your solar panels. It is also worth looking in to any tax credits you may qualify for by switching to solar energy.

About the AuthorShashank Kirloskar is a professional business analyst. Apart from his profession he is a freelance writer for Lancosolar.com. He loves writing and sharing articles related to solar energy and companies offering solar panel for homes and commercial buildings.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Solar Power

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: What about Repair?

Posted by SEPCO

8/14/14 9:30 AM

Repair

I know since I was a little kid that we have been learning about the 3 R’s of living a more green life; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Something that seems to have fallen into the shadows many years ago is Repair. Instead of getting rid of that broken item, repair it to allow it to continue to be useful. A lot of things you can repair at home, others may have to be taken into a shop or have a technician look at it, but in almost all cases, the item can be repaired.

I came across this great article, The Forgotten ‘R’: Repair by Elizabeth Royte a while back and it got me thinking. How much stuff do I myself, a green professional and person, get rid of over the year that is broken but can actually be easily repaired? Now, instead of just throwing out that carpet shampooer that won’t do what it needs to, or the drawer of the fridge that is cracked, it is time to get out the tools and fix this stuff. If I can’t do it, I’m sure there is a repair shop somewhere in my town that can fix things.

One thing noticed in the article is the disappearance of repair shops. Manufacturers are making products that they want you to throw away once they break so that you purchase new products. There is something really wrong with this mentality. We have become a wasteful society, and with the increase of global warming and waste being a huge contributor to this, we should be looking for ways to reduce our impact by repairing items. Now, repair shops are starting again, popping up all over.

What to do with that item that just isn’t repairable, where no amount of glue, wiring, screws, etc. will ever make it perform the way it was intended again? We recently looked into Upcycling where you take unusable items and turn them into something new and amazing. If that item really can’t be repaired, look at it from a different angle and see what it may be able to become and breathe some new life into it. Save the unused tiles from a project and create a new top for that scratched up table that you don’t know what to do with. Go online; there are thousands of ideas all over the internet. Don’t know what to do with that broken item and don’t have the time to turn it into something new, advertise it on Craigslist or Freecycle and let someone else take a crack at it.

The takeaway: Let’s all work together to expand the iconic 3 R’s and add a forth by repairing items that break. 

photo credit: Daniel Y. Go
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Topics: Green Ideas

Amazing Changes Happening Now for Sustainable Living: Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

7/31/14 9:30 AM

Renewable-Energy

Renewable energy has been booming, especially in the last couple years. Renewable energy resources have been around for a long time; however, their popularity has increased with the ongoing movement towards trying to slow down global warming. There are many forms of renewable energy that have been used, developed and installed even as I write this. Here are the largest forms of renewable energy and a little bit about their usage today.

Solar Energy

We are a solar company so of course solar is our favorite. Solar panels provide energy during the day, from practically sun up to sun down. There is so much solar energy to be harvested, that like many statistics and memes say, so much solar energy hits the earth that if we could power the needs of the world for 25 years or more in a single day of sun. The only problem with that is creating enough solar panels to harvest all that energy and then storing the power so it can be accessed after the sun goes down; however, there are people working on energy storage as we speak. Solar energy can also be used for other applications such as water heating or heating a building / home.

Wind Energy

Wind energy can provide a ton of energy day and night as long as the wind is moving. Today’s wind power is generated by a windmill turning a turbine that generates power to feed electricity to power lines; however, wind power has been used in the past for grinding grain and pumping water. Wind farms can be installed in a large open area or offshore and provide a lot of power to nearby areas. Storage of this power is still being developed, just like solar power; however, seems to be a more popular approach to large scale power generation. New developments in wind power are being made to harness wind power when there is little wind and windmills that protect wildlife from harm.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal power extracts steam from underground and uses that to power turbines to generate power. The water is extracted during this process and fed back under the Earth’s surface to generate more steam. The main drawback to this form of power generation is the steam can carry a mixture of gases that contribute to global warming, bad smells and acid rain. These gases need to be contained and not put into the atmosphere.

Hydropower & Tidal Energy

Both hydropower and tidal energy uses the natural flow of water to turn turbines to generate power. Dams have been set up on rivers and underwater windmill looking devices have been setup on shores to harness this power. Since tides are more predictable than the winds or sun, tidal power is growing in popularity as a great way to harness power; however, there is still controversy in changing the natural flow of water and disturbing natural habitats.

Every form of renewable energy has its pros and cons; however, by combining forces and utilizing each form to its capacity, we will one day be able to move towards a more sustainable world. Here in sunny south Florida, solar will always be my favorite source of energy. What is your favorite and why?
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Topics: Green Ideas, Renewable Energy

6 Questions to Ask Before Going Solar

Posted by SEPCO

7/24/14 9:30 AM

Before_Going_SolarAs with any investment, purchasing solar panels for your home is a decision that shouldn't be made lightly. You will need to consider many factors and avoid the numerous pitfalls. By hiring the right company and asking the right questions, you'll be able to benefit greatly from solar panels.

It is important to decide if having solar panels installed on your house is the right decision for your situation wants and needs. Solar panels offer many impressive benefits, but there are other factors to consider. We take a look at what questions you should ask before you make the switch, and the pitfalls to avoid.

1. Is the company and brand of solar panels you’re considering reputable?

You should ask the companies if they use a reputable brand of solar panels. If you can't find much information about the brand or manufacturer, then you shouldn't use those particular types of solar panels. The solar company you go through should have fully trained employees, with skilled technicians and installers to help you with the process.

Don’t be afraid to ask how long the company has been in the business. An established company that has served many customers with a portfolio of work and testimonials tends to be a company that you’re able to trust and relay on. Years of satisfied customers means good work and a reputable company will be more than willing to show off their good work and previous clientele.

In the solar business, there are unfortunately many people trying to sell cheaply made solar panels and rip customers off. Opting for a cheaper solution or a company that doesn’t appear reputable will only lead to inexperienced installer doing the job for you, additional and costly repairs, and a service that won’t follow up on you and the product after it’s installed.

By concentrating on quality above anything else and working with the right company, you’ll be able to determine whether solar panels is a good investment for your home and avoid costly mistakes.

2. Should you lease or buy solar panels?

Depending on your goals, there difference between purchasing your own solar panels and leasing can vary dramatically. Because every homeowner has different goals, the “right” payment option for each person can change.

Whilst the initial cost of purchasing solar panels yourself can be expensive, most homeowners prefer to do so. The ongoing savings on power bills solar panels offer ensure the initial expensive of them are paid off in 10 years, depending on the home. Cash rebates can also reduce the cost of the system by 10%-50% and with government incentives in place, tends to be the better option for most people.

For those that choose to lease solar panels, the long-term financial benefits will be less than those of purchasing. The advantage though is that the upfront costs are lower and any maintenance or repairs become responsibility of the leasing company, not you. Lease terms are generally for 20 years but some can range from 10-20. To find out what option is best for you, it’s best to speak with the solar power company about your specific situation.

3. Does the cost outweigh the benefits?

There is no point in investing in something that doesn’t serve you and so weighing up the cost and benefits is crucial. For homeowners that haven’t yet experienced the benefits of solar power firsthand, making the switch can be fairly daunting with the costs involved.

On the brightside though, (pun intended) the savings through solar power are significant – not to mention the environmental impact it has too. Over the last few years, everyone has fallen victim to the ongoing utility costs on the rise and we’re all looking for ways to cut down on how much we spend. Installing solar powers and taking advantage of the sun’s energy is one of the best ways to do this.

Government incentives and tax breaks sweeten the deal for homeowners wanting solar a little more, the system and panels add value to your home and the sustainable energy is a growing and beneficial industry. Whilst the initial cost can seem like disadvantage, solar power systems are one investment that will pay off and give years of enjoyment. Always ask your solar company to go through the individual costs with you. You can bring a copy of the last few utility bills too to determine if the cost will really outweigh the benefits in your home.

4. What is the type of panel mounting system that’ll be used?

Understanding the type of panel mounting system for your home, and the materials it’s made of will ensure you’re getting a durable system. Look for mounting systems that are made from either stainless steel or aluminium.

When solar panels are installed, the mounting system is what balances everything and holds it into place. Check with the company whether roof mounts, ground mounts or pole mounts would be best for your home and how this can impact on the system quality and price. The most common style of system mounting is on the roof and this is held together by metal brackets between the solar panels and roof to ensure the panels do not overheat.

5. Will you be able to produce enough power in your location?

The biggest advantage of solar power is that it relies on the sun for its power source, making it absolutely free. But, this would be pretty useless if your sun gets little to no sun right? Cloudy days can be an issue and locations that suffer all year round winters can be very indecisive about making the switch.

To accommodate for lack of sun, a large number of solar powers can be needed to produce greater amounts of electricity. This can require more roof space and money so it’s best to check with your company if this will affect you.  If you’re unsure, ask a reputable solar power company. Most companies will come to your home and conduct a site examination, including shade analysis which helps to determine whether solar is the best solution for you.

6. How long will the solar panels last for?

No homeowner wants to fork out money for an investment that won’t last the distance. This is why choosing a company that is reputable and trustworthy, and that uses quality a product is of the upmost importance. 

The lifespan of solar panels depends on several factors including the quality of the materials, and the specific manufacturer. Look for products that come with a long warranty, and this shows the manufactures commit and belief in the product. Companies that offer only a few years warranty on their products is best to stay away from, you should be looking at least 10 years.  A durable and reliable solar panel inverter and mounting system will last the distance.

Author Bio: This article is written by Aidan Jenkins , Managing Director of Infinite Energy, Australia’s market leader in quality solar power systems. 

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Solar Power, Renewable Energy

Amazing Changes Happening Now for Sustainable Living: Tiny House

Posted by SEPCO

7/17/14 9:30 AM

Tiny-HomeHomes have become larger and more spacious as time progresses; however, there is a new movement away from those expensive and inefficient homes towards tiny houses. This is great for single people or small families that want to utilize every inch of their home and have more freedom than we’ve had in years. Instead of spending $450k, more and more people are opting to spend $30k or less to build a tiny house that they can even pick up and move wherever life takes them.

Tiny homes are on a huge up rise. These homes range from under 100 sq ft to around 350 sq ft. It is amazing what you can do when you slim down all your “stuff” to your most basic needs, compact your requirements to fit into such a small place, and then build the most functional, multipurpose spaces you could even imagine. There are many benefits to a tiny house including environmental friendliness, easier to clean and cheaper to heat and cool.

Tiny homes can be powered by traditional grid by plugging in to a power outlet, or be completely off grid by installing solar power. Since these homes are so efficient, they do not require a lot of power and only need a 1k solar system or less to completely power the requirements of the home. This combined with some propane or other form of fuel for heating and cooking is about the only costs associated with living in a tiny home.

There are tons of resources available online if you are interested in building a tiny home. You can purchase complete blueprints to just inspirational ideas to create your own unique custom design. Make it as functional as possible to fit exactly what you would need and listing the most important features to the least important to get the most from the space.

If you have a family, maybe you can’t build your tiny house on the back of a trailer like some mobile tiny homes; however, you can still stay with the smaller ideals and have plenty of room for everyone. Or live in an urban area; turn your studio into a lot more by maximizing its design. There are so many options that allow you to live more efficiently in less space than ever before. You just have to look around and get your creative juices flowing to find what would fit your lifestyle best.

What are some of your favorite tiny home resources, ideas and designs? Share them with us in the comments.

Img Credit: Over Grow the System

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Topics: Green Ideas

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