Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

Latest posts by Mozaffar EtezadiFar (see all)

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels typically last about 20-30 years, including at least one swap of their inverter, which needs replacement every 10-15 years. 

There are a few different factors that can contribute to your solar panel’s wear and tear. Below you’ll find some of the most important things to know about a solar panel’s lifespan and how to answer the question “How long do solar panels last?” fully.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last on Average?

Most solar panels available on today’s market typically last between 20-30 years (1). The inverter mainly drives solar panels (also known as “photovoltaic, or PV, panels”). This is a component of the PV system that converts the sun’s rays into an alternating current, preparing it for use by the U.S. electric grid. 

The inverter consists of several pieces, including:

  • Active switches
  • Passive filters
  • Thermal management mechanisms
  • Weather-resistant packaging

All these elements are degradable. Once the inverter and its parts wear down past a certain point, it requires more repair and replacement than it’s worth. At this point, it’s more environmentally and economically responsible for replacing the panel altogether. 

So when you ask yourself, “How long do solar panels last on average?” Energy.gov puts it like this:

Solar panels on the market today can last for 20-30 years and now it’s time for their power electronics counterparts to evolve to help PV systems last even longer.

However, not all solar panels are of the same quality, so this range may change depending on your panel’s make and model and whether it’s been damaged or not. Knowing the average degradation rate for most solar panels can also help form your expectations for when you might need to look into a replacement for your energy system.

How Fast Do Solar Panels Degrade?

According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study, the average solar panel’s performance weakens by about 0.5% annually (2). Their work revealed that the famous “1% rule” of annual solar panel wear was significantly low and underestimated the technology’s longevity. 

Most people assume that solar panels degrade at 1% per year. This is an overestimation.

While this may have been the case for panels made several years in the past, the engineering has improved over the years and extended most panels’ longevity. Plus, the rate at which they break down depends on the material. 

For example, most commercial and residential solar panels use monocrystalline silicon, similarly to a typical 100-watt solar panel you’ll find for home use. Before 2000, these types would degrade at about 0.5%. As manufacturing techniques improved post-2000, this rate fell to 0.4%.

Engineering.com puts it like this:

A panel manufactured today should produce 92% of its original power after 20 years, quite a bit higher than the 80% estimated by the 1% rule.

That said, other products like solar attic fans can keep up with this timeline, especially when installed by a professional. This also stands true for other solar household necessities like solar pool heating systems (lasting about 20-25 years normally). In fact, here are a few more examples of the dramatically improved lifespans for various solar home goods:

  • Solar-powered waste compacting bin: 3-4 weeks, since it runs on a battery that is charged by the solar panel
  • Solar furnace or water heating system: 20 years (significantly longer than gas or electric system)
  • Solar pump: 2-4 years

Remember that another crucial factor in determining how long do solar panels really last is the environmental conditions in which it operates. 

Those exposed to more extreme conditions, such as exceedingly high UV exposure levels or heavy snowfall, will fall in quality much more quickly than a panel installed in a moderate climate. For instance, panels in the most moderate regions of the U.S. have been known to degrade at only 0.2% per year.

How Often Do Solar Panels Need to be Replaced?

The next step in answering our query, “How long do solar panels last?” starts with looking at their power generation performance.

To ensure optimal performance, you should replace solar panels as soon as their efficiency falls below an acceptable rate. For ballpark numbers to look for, you can think about it like this:

Solar panels should be replaced once they drop below 80% efficiency. Most manufacturers estimate this to be about 25 years.

Still, how do you know when your solar panel needs replacement or has fallen below the target efficiency level? Here are some things to look out for:

  • Voltage and output: Any readings that are 20%+ lower than the promised output is a sign that the panel is wearing down. 
  • Physical condition: If your panel was damaged by blunt trauma or a severe weather event, you might want to consider extensive repairs or getting it replaced. 
  • Mechanical components: As you learned, solar panels contain several different parts to gather and convert the sun’s energy. If pieces like the inverter, wiring, or battery start to wear, the entire system is compromised and won’t work efficiently. 

Remember to look for solar panels that come with at least a 20-25 year warranty. Also, make sure they’re built with durable materials to get the most out of your system with minimal maintenance. For example, Sun Power offers a 25 year warranty on their panels, and they’re flexible to the elements:

Ultimately, the advances in solar technology continue to increase their lifespan’s at a speed no one could have imagined just a few years ago.

FAQs

The clearest sign that your solar panels are going bad is if their output falls significantly far below the manufacturer’s listed standards. Specifically, if it’s more than 20% below what the maker guaranteed, it’s time to get a new panel.

The most common issue with solar panels after 25 years is that the inverter and its functioning pieces begin to break down. This prevents the necessary conversion of solar energy to usable energy for the grid, ultimately costing you power.

A solar inverter should last around 10-15 years and be replaced at least once during your panel’s lifetime. When the solar inverter and its components degrade over time, the replacement or repair becomes more expensive getting a new inverter that performs with more efficiency is the better investment.

  1. Extending solar energy system lifetime with power electronics. Energy.gov. https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/extending-solar-energy-system-lifetime-power-electronics
  2. What is the lifespan of a solar panel? by TomLombardo. Engineering.com. https://www.engineering.com/story/what-is-the-lifespan-of-a-solar-panel

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Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

Latest posts by Mozaffar EtezadiFar (see all)

Understanding The 100 Watt Solar Panel

you’re an RV owner, an avid camper, or a conservationist, solar energy is an excellent option to power your electricity needs.

100-watt solar panels are compact, moveable, and easy to find, making them great energy sources for camping, RV traveling, or cutting electricity bill costs. Here, we will explore all aspects of the 100-watt solar panel, so you know exactly what you’ll get if you purchase one.

100 Watt Solar Panel Cost

100-watt solar panels vary in cost because you can either purchase them as a singular product or by a solar panel kit which provides everything you need to install and connect the panels to a battery or your power source.

If you already have brackets, cables, and charge controllers, then you don’t need the kit and can pay significantly less for the panels alone. A 100-watt panel averages around $100, while a 100-watt solar panel kit costs $300 or more.

It’s important to note that many solar panels and kits are not of the same caliber. Remember to keep durability and efficiency in mind.

100 Watt Solar Panel Size

100-watt panels come in different sizes, influencing their harnessing capacity. Different brands design panels in varying sizes, each one proclaiming optimum efficiency. 

The standard dimensions for a 100-watt solar panel that you can expect are around 40 x 20 x 1.5 in.

100 Watt Solar Panel Power Capacity

100-watt solar panels are small and portable, which is incredibly convenient for camping trips and RV owners whose energy needs are significantly lower than an entire household. To help put this into perspective, the U.S. Department of Energy puts it like this:

A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system can reliably produce electricity for your home or office. These small or distributed solar systems are often installed by home or business owners to offset their electricity costs.

Taking that into account, let’s now answer address the big question of “What can a 100-watt solar panel power?” Ultimately, there are many factors involved in a 100-watt solar panel’s power capacity including:

  1. The size of your battery
  2. The energy each device you power requires
  3. The number of devices you want to power simultaneously

Generally speaking, you can think about the power capacity of a single 100 watt solar panel like this:

A 100 watt solar panel is best for powering small electronics rather than household appliances like microwaves, AC units, or refrigerators.

100 Watt Solar Panel Manufacturers

Various companies produce 100-watt solar panels, the most popular of which is Renogy, whose panels consistently rank as best sellers.

Again, companies manufacture panels and solar panel kits with varying designs that provide different degrees of efficiency, so it’s always advisable to read through customer reviews and manufacturer specs.

Our favorite manufacturers of 100-watt solar panels includes companies like Coleman, Eco-Worth, Newpowa, WindyNation, HQST, and Richsolar.

For my RV owners out there, you can find the Best Solar Kits for RVs Here with our list of curated manufacturers that we trust.

100 Watt Solar Panel Networks

If you want more wattage for your electrical needs, you can always buy multiple panels and link them together in a series. Logically, for every panel you add, you receive an additional 100-watts of power.

With 300-400 watts, you can effectively power larger appliances like Energy Star rated refrigerators. If you’re not sure of the exact power draw of your refrigerator you want to power, check out our full guide on how many solar panels you need power a refrigerator.

100 Watt Solar Panel Energy Production

The solar energy production of a 100-watt solar panel depends on the amount of sunlight it harnesses, and consequently, the weather. The sunnier the climate, the more energy you will reap from your panels, considering how solar energy works. One hundred watts is the maximum amount of power you can harness, but it is hardly 100% achievable.

However, you don’t need 100% efficiency to generate a large amount of usable power. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, Space X, and many more innovative companies said it best when discussing the sun:

It just works. It shows up every day and produces ridiculous amounts of power.

That said, while the sun does its thing, there are ways to maximize your system’s efficiency including the accuracy of installation. You must ensure the panels point directly into the sun. Additionally, the sun produces varying amounts of energy throughout the day, with dawn and dusk making only a fraction of non-sun energy. (3)

100 Watt Solar Panel Energy Storage

A watt is the measurement of energy output, and an amp is the measurement of electrical current. Watts are the product of multiplying voltage and current. An amp-hour is the electrical charge measurement in a battery, and a watt-hour measures energy consumed in one hour. 

It’s essential to know these measurements because you will want to pair a battery with a 100-watt solar panel to store energy, optimizing energy usage. To help all this sink in and better understand battery storage, check out this clever video by RFTechGuy C.A.D.:

With (x2) 100 watt solar kits, including (x4) 35amp batteries, he managed to take his coffee maker off the grid. Now that’s energy on demand!

FAQs

No, you technically can not use a 100 watt solar panel without sunlight.

However, a battery will let you use power from the sun when it is no longer shining, which you couldn’t do if you relied solely on the panels for your power. When purchasing a battery, it needs to store twice as much energy as your panels can produce on any given day. 

We already know that, under optimal conditions, 100-watt solar panels produce 100 watts of power, but how many amps does a 100-watt solar panel produce?

A 100-watt solar panel can produce a maximum of 5.5 amps per hour (4). With this information, you can calculate the amount of time it will take to charge a battery of any given size.

The amount of time that you can use a a 100 watt solar panel to charge small electronics ranges, but generally speaking, for several hours to 24 hours under optimal battery conditions is fine.

Just remember to have a proper solar charge controller, and you’ll be able to charge smartphones, laptops, routers, lamps, and LEDs with a single 100-watt panel. For more solar tips to help you harness the sun’s natural energy, click or tap this for our homepage.

  1. Environmental Impacts of Solar Power. Retrieved from: https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/environmental-impacts-solar-power#.WEV3IPkrJkg
  2. Tesla’s Elon Musk Lights Up Social Media With A TED Style Keynote. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2015/05/04/teslas-elon-musk-lights-up-social-media-with-a-ted-style-keynote/
  3. Solar Performance and Efficiency. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-performance-and-efficiency
  4. WHAT SIZE SOLAR PANEL DO I NEED TO CHARGE A 12V BATTERY? Retrieved from: https://www.renogy.com/blog/what-size-solar-panel-do-i-need-to-charge-a-12v-battery/

Let your friends know too:

Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

Latest posts by Mozaffar EtezadiFar (see all)

How Much Does Solar Pool Heating Cost?

Heating a swimming pool can be costly, especially if you run thousands of gallons of water through a gas or electric heater. After spending around $3000 on a solar heater, the return on investment is substantial. 

But, the question is “How do you get there?”

Here we’ll breakdown all the costs you should expect with solar pool heating including upfront costs, installation costs, monthly costs, and FAQ to get the most out of your investment.

Upfront Costs 

The first step in answering the query, “How much does solar pool heating cost?” starts with knowing the upfront costs to expect.

Knowing how much pool solar heating costs helps you prepare your budget.

Solar heaters cost, on average, between $2000 and $4000.

The price depends on the size of your pool and the type of solar panels you purchase: glazed solar panels or propylene mats. 

You can save even more money if you buy a solar pool cover instead of purchasing solar panels or propylene mats. Solar pool covers range between $100 to $300, depending on their dimensions. Plus, you can install a solar pool cover yourself, like in this helpful video to minimize your upfront costs:

Alternatively, if you do choose to have a solar heating system installed, know that the panels are more durable than the mats. The panels and mats need pipes to run pool water through the heated system. The pool water can lose some heat as it passes through the pipes (1).

Solar panels have tempered glass in an aluminum frame. The panels collect the heat, and water moves between the glazed glass panels inside of copper pipes. Glazed solar panels are more expensive than propylene mats, and they heat water more effectively.

Energy.gov states:

Glazed collector systems are generally made of copper tubing on an aluminum plate with an iron-tempered glass covering, which increases their cost. In colder weather, glazed collector systems—with heat exchangers and transfer fluids—capture solar heat more efficiently than unglazed systems.

On the other hand, solar mats stretch across a roof, and PVC pipes hold the mats down and pass water through the lines. While slightly less effective, this method still works to warm your pool with a minimal impact on your energy bill.

Installation Costs

Pool solar panel installation costs between $3,000 and $4,000 on average and includes the system purchase (1). To find out how much solar heating costs to install in your area, contact a local pool company for a quote.

Your local installation company will visit your home to determine if your pool is positioned appropriately for solar heating. Your pool should face south or west to get the most light from the sun.

If you choose to use a solar blanket to heat your pool, you do not need anyone to install it for you. However, if you have a customized pool shape, you might need someone to measure your pool to cut the blanket to fit. 

Monthly Costs

Once you’ve installed a solar panel or mat, the last step in answering “How much does solar pool heating cost?” is determining your monthly costs. It’s important to note, you will have to pay for electricity to run water through the pipes.

Keep in mind that you are already using electricity to run your pool pump, so the cost to expect is around $10 max per month.

However, if you choose to use a solar pool cover to heat your pool, you shouldn’t incur any added monthly expenses. Energy.gov puts it best:

As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming an economical energy choice for American homeowners and businesses.

You can also reduce your monthly electric bill by using a solar panel to power your electric pump. The solar panel and electric pump will need a conversion kit, and you might be able to do the work yourself. 

Along with electricity, many pool owners pay higher water bills when they run their pools. Pool water evaporates, so pool owners use their outdoor hoses to refill their pools. Pool owners also need to keep their pools clean, so the cost of running the pool includes chemicals, too.

FAQs

Yes, in our books solar pool heating is worth it.

Solar pool heating can have a higher up-front cost than other heating methods. That said, with low operating costs, since solar energy is free thanks to the sun, you can significantly reduce pool heating costs over time with a solar heater for your inground pool (1).

Yes, you can heat your pool for free with solar, but some minuscule costs may remain.

Once your solar panels are installed, energy costs should drop (versus gas or heat pump pool heaters). However, while your solar heater can run independently of your electrical system, the pump may require electricity, and that involves an ongoing cost.

One option to further reduce costs is to ensure your pump receives solar power, too — then, water costs are your only remaining expense. For more ways to reduce your monthly energy costs, for your pool and all over your home, Check Out our Homepage.

A solar pool heater will cost around 0-$10 per month to heat your pool. On the other hand, other pool heaters like heat pumps, propane, gas, and electric resistance heaters average over $100 to heat a pool per month (3).

  1. Solar Swimming Pool Covers. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/solar-swimming-pool-heaters
  2. Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-6-things-you-didnt-know-about-solar-energy
  3. How Much Does It Cost To Install A Pool Heater? Retrieved from: https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/swimming-pools-hot-tubs-and-saunas/install-a-swimming-pool-heater/

Let your friends know too:

Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

Latest posts by Mozaffar EtezadiFar (see all)

What Size Inverter Do I Need to Run a Microwave?

The last thing you want to do is set up your off-grid system only to find that your inverter isn’t powerful enough to run your trusty microwave.

All microwaves are different, but the average 1,000-watt microwave will run using a 1,500 to a 2,000-watt inverter. To make sure you end up with the right inverter, let’s take a look at how to determine what size inverter you need to run a microwave.

Determining What Size Inverter You Need to Run a Microwave

At some point, many of us who enjoy off-grid living have asked, “What size inverter do I need to run a microwave?”

Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to figure out what size sine wave inverter you need to run a microwave. Naturally, you’ll start by taking a look at the microwave itself.

Figure Out the Microwave’s Continuous Wattage Rating

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is how many watts the microwave uses while running, which is usually as easy as finding where it’s noted. This can be on:

  • The inside of the microwave door
  • The serial number tag on the back
  • The user manual
  • The manufacturer’s website

If you’re unable to find it after looking in all of these places, you can get a pretty good idea using the USDA recommended method: “Time-to-Boil Test.” It involves placing one cup of ice-cold water in the microwave and waiting for it to boil.

If water boils:

in less than 2 minutes = very high wattage oven (1000 watts or more).
in 2½ minutes = high wattage oven (800 watts or more).
in 3 minutes = average wattage oven (650 – 700 watts or more).
in 3 – 4 minutes = slow oven (300 to 500 watts).

Now you should have a pretty good idea of your microwave’s continuous wattage rating. However, there are other factors to keep in mind when answering the question “What size inverter do I need to run a microwave?”

Power Consumption Versus Cooking Power

It’s important to note that a microwave’s cooking wattage is lower than the wattage it consumes, so take that into account when choosing an inverter size.

Most microwaves use energy with about 80% efficiency (2). So if you’re unable to find your microwave’s power consumption noted anywhere, multiply the cooking wattage by .8 and add the total to the cooking wattage.

Say you have a microwave that cooks at 700w.
700w x .80 = 560w
560w + 700w = 1,260w
That means your actual power consumption is around 1,260w.

Interestingly, even though they require more power to run than they use to cook food, microwaves are still one of the more energy-efficient cooking methods, making them ideal for off-grid living. Scientific American states in a recent article:

Cooking or re-heating small portions of food in the microwave can save as much as 80 percent of the energy used to cook or warm them up in the oven.

That said, your microwave’s power consumption is what you need to worry about when choosing a sine wave inverter size, not the cooking power.

Conversion Formula

If you’re not able to determine your microwave’s wattage but know how many AMPS it uses, there’s an easy conversion formula that will help you figure it out.

Just multiply the AMPS by AC voltage, which is 120. The product is your wattage.

So if your microwave uses 12.5 AMPS, the formula would be:
12.5 AMPS x 120V = 1,500w

Factor In the Microwave’s Peak Wattage

Now that you know everything there is to know about determining your microwave’s continuous power usage, which is the power it consumes while running, it’s time to take a look at its peak wattage or the maximum amount of power it utilizes.

Peak wattage usually occurs during startup and lasts for less than a second, but your inverter needs to be able to handle this surge in power. The process should look something like this, if you need a visual:

Ultimately, when you’re looking for sine wave inverters, you’ll notice on the specs sheet that both continuous and peak capability are listed, so it should be easy to tell if it’s large enough.

Your microwave’s peak energy requirements should be listed on the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website. If not, it’s a good idea to choose an inverter that can handle two to three times its continuous wattage just to be on the safe side.

FAQs

A 1500-watt power inverter should be able to run a 700-watt microwave with no problem. You can use a pure sine wave inverter or modified sine wave inverter, but the modified sine unit may cause your microwave to run less efficiently.

You can use a modified sine wave inverter or a pure sine wave inverter to run a microwave, as long as they have a large enough capacity, aka battery power. Although, modified sine wave inverters tend to shorten appliances’ lives, so that’s important to keep in mind.

For more tips to get the most out of your home’s appliances, check out our Homepage.

Your inverter is big enough to run your microwave if it can handle its startup surge, and continuous wattage draw while it’s cooking. If your modified sine wave inverter or pure sine wave inverter can handle both successfully, you’re all set for your next road trip!

  1. How Do You Determine the Wattage of Your Microwave Oven? Retrieved from: https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/how-do-you-determine-the-wattage-of-your-microwave-oven
  2. Physics of the microwave oven. Retrieved from: http://clas.sa.ucsb.edu/docs/default-source/tutor-resources-files/physics_of_microwave_oven.pdf?sfvrsn=17582bfb_2
  3. Stove versus Microwave: Which Uses Less Energy to Make Tea? Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stove-versus-microwave-energy-use/

Let your friends know too:

Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

Latest posts by Mozaffar EtezadiFar (see all)

Heat Pump vs Solar Pool Heating

Do you ever feel like your pool is just taking up space in your yard during the majority of the year? With a heat pump or solar pool heater, you can take advantage of your personal oasis year-round.

In this article, we’ll compare the two and their associated costs, heating speeds, eco-friendliness, and lifespan to help you better understand these systems. Now let’s dive right in.

Heat Pumps

The general population most frequently purchases heat pumps for their pool heaters because they use electricity, making them quite efficient. While warmer temperatures make your heat pump’s job easier, they can operate in temperatures as low as 45 degrees in most cases. (1)

Since heat pump systems hook up to your electrical system, heat pumps often require regular maintenance to keep performing well throughout the years.  

Solar Pool Heating

Solar pool heating, just as the name states, uses solar energy to heat your pool. It pulls water through a filter where a solar collector uses its power from the sun to heat the water and transfer it back to the pool. Ultimately, solar pool heating systems are eco-friendly and will help reduce your energy bills. 

Comparing the Details: Solar Pool Heating vs Heat Pump

There are many benefits to each but there are also some disadvantages, let’s get into them. 

Upfront Costs

Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for either a heat pump or solar pool heating system. Angie’s List estimates in a recent article:

Labor alone runs $500 to $1,500 in most cases.

Solar pool heaters typically range between three and four thousand dollars for an upfront cost. Still, they will vary depending on your pool size, your solar resource available, and your local rules and regulations. 

On the other hand, the heating pump costs on average about $6,000 but will vary anywhere between three and $10,000 depending on the energy efficiency, pool square footage, and overall system quality.

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Operating Costs

Over time, heat pumps and solar pool heating systems can both save you money on your utility bills. An efficient heat pump won’t be a huge draw on your energy bill, but it will require a payment each month, at a higher cost in winter, especially.

In contrast, a solar heating system goes even further to reduce your bills and gives you back the money you spent on the system in the first place. 

On average, with the amount people save, a solar heating system will pay for itself in anywhere from 1.5 years to 7 years (3).

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Heating Speed

What pool owners really want to know is, how soon can they jump in the warm water? The exact timeline of a heat pump vs solar pool heating will depend on the size of your pool, plus the power your heating source offers. However, heat pump systems are often faster at warming up the water because you can “crank up” the heat.

It’s not uncommon to wait one to three days for a solar heater to warm up your pool. A heat pump could take as long as a week, depending on the local climate and other factors.

Winner: Heat Pump

Eco-Friendliness

Heat pump systems rely on electricity, while solar heaters rely on solar energy. While both options are far more eco-friendly than the alternative gas heating pump, which burns fuel to heat your pool, the solar pool heating system is more eco-friendly than the electric heating pump.

The solar pool heating system converts the sun’s natural heat into energy whereas heat pumps demand energy straight from your grid. This makes solar pool heating much friendlier to the environment and more sustainable over heat pump systems in the long run. 

Winner: Solar Pool Heating

Lifespan

When considering solar pool heating vs heat pumps, you want a system that will last a while. A heat pump, on average, lasts around 15 years with adequate, regular maintenance. Manufacturers typically give solar pool heating, extremely durable systems, a warranty between 10 and 12 years.

However, to get the most out of solar pool heating, you can make sure to avoid these seven common mistakes:

With the right amount of care, solar pool heating can operate efficiently up to 20 years.

Winner: Solar Pool Heating 

Overall Cost

While both heat pumps and solar pool heaters have a considerable upfront cost, they also often require an installation cost and some maintenance throughout your ownership. Ultimately, both systems’ prices increase when adding these costs together.

The difference is that heat pumps will have a larger impact on your monthly energy bill.

The heat pump’s usage, while energy-efficient, is still hooked up to your electrical system and will require power to run. Depending on how frequently you use the system will change the billing price.

On the other hand, while solar pool heating has some extra costs after the initial pricing, they don’t affect your utility charges much. Around $10/month is the max to expect from most in-ground pool solar heaters. Due to their energy efficiency and eco-friendliness, in most cases, you will end up getting back the money you spent on the system in the long-run.

Energy.gov puts it like this:

You can significantly reduce swimming pool heating costs by installing a solar pool heater. They’re cost competitive with both gas and heat pump pool heaters and they have very low annual operating costs.

So, in terms of overall cost, solar pool heating has done it once again.

Winner: Solar Heating System

Final Verdict

For homeowners who live in an area with ample sunlight, in the battle between “heat pump vs solar pool heating,” solar pool heating wins. Solar pool heaters have a better overall cost efficiency, eco-impact, and lifespan when compared to their competitor.

It’s worth noting that heat pumps can help you to enjoy warmer water, sooner, as long as it’s above 45-50 degrees outside when you want to swim. (1) However, with solar pool heaters, you’re more likely to end up getting back the money you invested in it, given a favorable climate; making solar a solid choice for many home pool owners.

FAQs

Deciding whether pool heaters like heat pumps and solar pool heaters are worth it, depends on your needs.

If you want to use your pool year-round and if your pool doesn’t typically get much heat from the sun organically, then you might want to consider getting a heater. If you find yourself not using your pool enough, adding one of these systems is a great way to help you get the most out of owning a pool.

No, you should not run a pool heater overnight unless you have to. To save money on your energy bill, and be the most efficient, you want to use your heating systems as little as possible ideally.

The nighttime is usually the perfect opportunity to give your system a rest.

Yes, solar pool heating does work in the winter. The problem is that solar pool heaters won’t generate quite as much hot water as during colder months for obvious reasons.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, are more well-suited to warm your pool during the winter months because they’re tied to your electrical grid and don’t rely on the sun.

  1. Heat Pump Swimming Pool Heaters. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-swimming-pool-heaters
  2. How Much Does It Cost to Install a Swimming Pool Heater. Retrieved from: https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-much-does-it-cost-install-swimming-pool-heater.htm
  3. Solar Swimming Pool Heaters. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/solar-swimming-pool-heaters

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Mozaffar EtezadiFar

Founder at Energykade
Mozaffar owns degrees in electrical engineering as BSc and power management as MSc. He has worked in fields of energy and e-commerce. He believes that energy and IT can help each other to save more energy and our planet. So here is energykade...

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How To Cool An Attic

If a ridiculous amount of heat prevents you from enjoying your attic, there are solutions available. Whether you’re struggling with a scorching summer or you live in an area where it’s hot all year round, it’s safe to say it’s time to find a solution. Keeping an attic cool can be incredibly easy if you use the right tools, but where do you start?

Continue reading below to discover 11 easy hot attic solutions.

1. Consider Adding a Solar Attic Fan

If you Google “best way to keep attic cool,” Solar attic fans are likely to be a top recommendation. With a solar attic fan, you can take your worst enemy in this situation (the sun) and have it work for you. Solar attic fans harness the sun’s energy to remove hot air from the room, allowing cooler air to flow in from the outside.

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

2. Improve the Insulation

One essential step in learning how to keep the attic cooler is figuring out how to keep cool air in. You can start with insulation. Attics have insulation because they typically work as a giant shield against weather extremes for your home’s interior. Having the proper insulation will keep your attic cooler and reduce your energy costs. 

When choosing attic insulation, you want to consider the following:

The material
The density
The thickness

3. Radiant Barriers

The use of radiant barriers are a common way to help keep attics cool and prevent radiant heat from forming. The barriers contain reflective material that inhibits the electromagnetic transfer of heat. In short, radiant barriers reflect sunlight out of your attic so that the sun’s powerful rays don’t turn it into an oven. Most companies use aluminum foil for their radiant barriers, but you can also find other more durable materials as well.

4. Upgrade the Ventilation

Adding ventilation to a hot attic is one of the most effective ways to keep it cool since it allows heat to escape on hot days. If you don’t have a ventilation system, hot air and radiant heat can fester within your attic and lead to wood rot, mold, and other critical damages over time. There are numerous ways you can add ventilation to your attic, and some are relatively inexpensive.

5. Try the “Texas Cool” Technique

The “Texas Cool” technique is an energy-efficient method that not only keeps your attic cool but other rooms in the house as well. At night, when the weather drops, open up the window and place a fan to blow the cold air inside. When the sun comes up, close the window and use a shade to block any sunlight from getting in.

6. Sun Blockers

A significant amount of sunlight gets into the attic through the windows. You can use curtains or blinds to block the windows, keeping your attic cooler, and more energy-efficient during the daytime. Curtains and blinds are relatively cheap and easy to install.

7. Close Off Any Leaks

Air leaks are a leading cause of losing nice cool air and wasted energy. Take a flashlight and try to spot any air leaks in your attic that might let cold air escape. Once you find a hole, you can get expanding foam to fill them. This is how to remove hot air from the attic and other rooms long-term. 

Here’s where you’re likely to find air leaks:

Attic hatch
Windows/doors
Wiring holes
Plumbing vents

8. Use a Zoned Thermostat

Using a zoned thermostat can allow you to control your attic’s duct system individually, according to set temperatures. Using an individual system is far more convenient for keeping your attic space cool, mainly if you use it as a living space. In some cases, you can even get a zoned thermostat like Google’s Nest Thermostat for free to help keep your attic cooler.

9. Use a Portable AC Unit

If creating new ductwork in your attic isn’t a viable option, you can always go with a portable air conditioning unit. One excellent aspect of mobile AC units is that they come in several shapes and sizes. Therefore, you can find one suitable for your space.

10. Examine the Roof

The roof is the first line of defense against the sun. If you feel that your roof is letting in too much heat, you can consider investing in reflective shingles to deter some of the sun’s rays away from your attic. 

11. Oscillating Fans

Oscillating fans do a great job of keeping your attic space cool since you can buy as many as you want. We recommend finding one that rotates so that you can provide each area of the attic with cool air all day long. 

Oscillating fans provide better cooling because they rotate, thereby allowing better air flow around the room. The air in the room is moved around, as compared to stationary fans that only move the air straight ahead.

FAQs

Since attics sit just below the roof, they are the first room to get hit with the sun’s heat. Your attic space could also be too hot because you don’t have proper ventilation and hot air rises from the floors below.

Yes, mainly in three areas. Cooling a hot attic can help you feel more comfortable during the summer months during use, help protect your home’s structure from future damages, and increase your home’s overall energy efficiency.

For more tips on lowering your home’s overall energy usage: Read more here.

There’s no set amount of time you need to run an attic fan to stay cool, but in general, you want to run it as little as possible to be the most energy-efficient. Some hot attics may require a fan for several hours, where others only need 15 minutes.

  1. Thomas A. Edison Quotes. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/69333-we-are-like-tenant-farmers-chopping-down-the-fence-around
  2. Add an Oscillating Fan to a Room: 8 Advantages. Retrieved from: https://www.doityourself.com/stry/add-an-oscillating-fan-to-a-room-8-advantages

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Mohammadreza Golzari

Mohammadreza Golzari

Electrical Engineering PHD student at Tehran University
Mohammadreza is a real computer geek and also energy efficiency lover. His favorite hobby is coding on MATLAB. :)
Mohammadreza Golzari

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MIT Discovers New Material: To Harness Energy, Generate Electricity With Water, Without Waste

MIT Discovers New Material: To Harness Energy, Generate Electricity With Water, Without Waste

If there’s one thing most people can agree on, it’s that the world needs to embrace renewable energy to reduce environmental pollution. As of 2018, renewable energy only accounted for 11% of all the power consumed in the U.S.Yet 77% of Americans wanted more investment in renewable energy (1).

A couple of guys over at MIT discovered a way to harness the energy and generate electricity with water without waste.

How It Works

Scientists have been researching thermoelectric devices — devices that generate electricity when there is a difference in temperature on either side of the machine (2). Research shows that heat produces power in such devices without external inputs.

However, the guys at MIT have gone the extra mile with their research. Instead of using thermoelectric devices, they use a thermal resonator to generate electricity from fluctuations in temperature. Instead of using two separate temperature inputs, the thermal resonator uses the swing in ambient temperature throughout the day-night cycle to generate power.

This new project could eliminate the need to charge remote sensing systems by providing uninterrupted electric power for years. External power sources, such as batteries or grid connections, would be redundant.

The research has been undertaken by Anton Cottrill and Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering Michael Strano plus seven more from MIT’s chemical engineering department.

One of the key advantages of using a thermal resonator is that it can draw power from waste heat, such as solar panels or batteries. It is also not affected by small environmental changes such as cloud cover or wind conditions (3).

The team established that the thermal resonator far outshines the commercial pyroelectric alternatives by a factor of three. The thermal resonator generates more power per area.

Besides Strano and his team, another team from Stanford and MIT has been working on a battery that utilizes the thermo galvanic effect. Yi Cui and Seok Woo Lee from Stanford and Yuan Yang and Gang Chen from MIT have developed a thermoelectric system that takes advantage of the thermo galvanic effect to charge batteries. The thermogalvanic effect states that a rechargeable battery’s voltage is dependent on temperature (4).

The MIT-Stanford team utilizes heat waste to generate electricity through heating a battery, charging, cooling the battery, and discharging. Once the battery has heated, a voltage is applied to it as the battery cools down, the voltage increases because of the thermogalvanic effect.

While this method of generating power using a battery was advanced in the 1950s, it was not as efficient as today. The heat-charge-cool process has significantly improved thanks to the improvements in technology and electrodes in batteries.

Although efficient compared to thermoelectric devices, the thermogalvanic effect generates a smaller amount of power per weight.

One of the challenges of storing thermal energy has been a high need for insulation. However, thanks to another research study by MIT’s postdocs Grace Han and Huashan Li as well as Professor Jeffery Grossman, thermal heat can be efficiently stored in thermal batteries and later on be used for cooking or for light.

Whereas the popular direction has been to use Phase Change Material (PCM), PCM loses heat fast without proper insulation. PCM is where a material changes form while storing from solid to liquid and releases the heat once it cools down to solid (5).

The new system is a hybrid of PCM and molecule switches that react to light by changing shape. The hybrid systems allow the phase to change the new material to maintain thermal energy beyond the melting point of the standard material.

This new system can be used not just with solar but with other sources of heat. Lots of industries and processes generate waste heat.

Conclusion

Thermoelectric devices have proved to be an incredible source of clean energy. The research by the MIT and Stanford teams shows that the thermoelectric power can be taken a step further.
Once harnessed, the applications are limitless. The energy generated can not only be used for cooking or lighting in less developed countries, the thermogalvanic effect can be used to power sensor systems as well as rovers and individual rover components.

Learn more energy saving tips through YourEnergyBlog.com.

  1. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2019/11/25/u-s-public-views-on-climate-and-energy/

  2. https://sites.suffolk.edu/shahadalsudais/2016/02/29/thermoelectric-devices-what-they-are-examples/
  3. http://news.mit.edu/2018/system-draws-power-daily-temperature-swings-0215
  4. https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/may/waste-heat-battery-052114.html
  5. http://news.mit.edu/2017/new-way-store-thermal-energy-1117

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Driving Utility NUTS: Squirrels Power Outages?

Driving Utility NUTS: Squirrels Power Outages?

There are many causes of power outages: storms, falling branches, and lightning. But you probably won’t believe us when we tell you that one of the most common causes of electrical power loss is the nut-loving squirrel you typically find in your backyard. In fact, squirrels were placed second in the list of “Top Causes of Power Outages” that The American Public Power Association published. The main questions are: how and why?

How do squirrels cause power outages?

Electric power disruptions caused by squirrels are widespread and common in various states. These furry menaces are reported to cause electrical damage by tunneling and chomping through electrical wires.

According to Joe Gehrdes, director of Huntsville Utilities, squirrels usually mount utility poles and make contact with electrical equipment at different electrostatic potentials. He said that the body of the animal becomes an energy conductor. With one bite or slip-up to the power line, the ill-fated squirrel meets an untimely death while causing a blackout to an entire community.

While some people may joke about the occurrences, the scope of this threat is rather grave. Cris Thomas, a strategist at Tenable Network Security, spearheadeda project called CyberSquirrel1. The project shows a petrifying map of squirrel attacks on America’s power grid. As of today, the website has already listed 1,252 power grid damages caused by squirrels. The reports on the map are based on published news reports.

Although some people may not be aware of the electrical damages that are caused by squirrels, these aren’t a new problem for utility companies. According to The Washington Post, The American Public Power Association, which constitutes community-owned electric utilities, actually tracks power failures on a “squirrel index.” The service organization claims that storms cause larger and longer power outages. However, squirrels are still the most common reasons for outages.

Perhaps the only good news is that squirrel-caused power outages are inclined to be more confined or localized. They can also be fixed quickerthan the disruptions caused by violent storms. This is because these tiny animalscan only chew through a few lines.

How many power outages are caused by squirrels?

The most significant number of outages was probably recorded in 2016. According to The American Public Power Association, there were about 3,456 squirrel-related power outages that cut off the electricity of more than 193,873 customers in 2016 (1). A lot of those electrical outages took place in Gastonia, the biggest city in Gaston County, North Carolina.

In 2018, Joe Gehrdes reported there were 260 power outages caused by squirrels.

Animals aren’t really a surprising nuisance for us, it’s just a fact of doing business in the electric industry,

Joe Gehrdes

These numbers are alarming, but they are only the tip of the iceberg.

According to Cris Thomas, animals not only cause dangers to our power grids. They also kill people. He published that in January 2017, there have been eightdeaths in the US that are related to the interference of animals with electrical infrastructures.

What is the percentage of power outages caused by squirrels?

The American Public Power Association reports that squirrels caused more than 8% of outages in 2018. This figure is based on reports by 277 public utility companies.

Costly Damages

Cantega Technologies Inc. released a report on the cost of animal-induced outages. According to the article, electrical outages caused by animals have direct and indirect damages to utility companies, residential energy consumers, and vital public establishments. They published the cost of the outages, which range from “Low Impact” to “Catastrophic Plus Impact” (2).

The average cost for Low Impact scenarios is around $0-$250. On the other hand, the average cost for Catastrophic Plus Impact is approximately $1M or higher.

According to Cantega, the variables change based on the following factors:

  • Animal Type
  • Location
  • Load Type
  • Protection Schemes
  • Equipment Design
  • Time of Day
  • Weather Conditions

What Electricity Companies Do

Some electric companies now apply plastic coverings on electric poles where wirings interconnect. They also use arrester caps so the rodents won’t clutch on the power lines longer than usual.

Conclusion: Watch Out for Squirrels Power Outages

In general, squirrels are pretty harmless as there are very few accounts of squirrel attacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also doesn’t consider squirrel attacks to be a significant threat to human health and safety (3). However, it’s not the case when you see these rodents mounted on electric wires. You might want to shoo them off when you see them scurrying across a power line.

  1. https://www.publicpower.org/blog/defending-against-outages-squirrel-tracker

  2. https://cantega.com/the-cost-of-outages-how-much-damage-can-an-animal-cause/
  3. https://townandcountrysolutions.com/history-of-inexplicable-squirrel-attacks-on-humans/

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Mohammadreza Golzari

Mohammadreza Golzari

Electrical Engineering PHD student at Tehran University
Mohammadreza is a real computer geek and also energy efficiency lover. His favorite hobby is coding on MATLAB. :)
Mohammadreza Golzari

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FAQ: What’s the Difference…Brownout Vs. Blackout (REVEALED)

FAQ: What’s the Difference…Brownout Vs. Blackout (REVEALED)

In most cases, a temporary light-out is not much cause for concern. However, electricity outages can sometimes have devastating effects, such as causing damage to equipment. The summers, especially, are prone to lights out. But do you really understand what happens whenever the lights go out? What is brownout vs. blackout electricity?

A brownout is a drop in electric voltage caused by a higher consumption load than the supply. Brownouts can be a result of natural causes or intentional interruptions by power suppliers to avoid a blackout. On the other hand, a blackout is a total power loss, sometimes on a large scale, that stems from equipment failure or bad weather.

How to Prevent Electricity Blackouts Vs. Brownouts

Brownouts and blackouts can damage equipment and electrical appliances. As such, it is vital to take precautions to avoid or mitigate outages. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent a brownout or a blackout.

How to Prevent Blackouts

Blackouts can be brought about by natural courses as well as electrical faults that may not be preventable. However, to play your part in preventing blackouts, here are some things you can do.

  • Reduce energy consumption, especially during the summer. You can achieve this by turning off lights and switching off appliances that are not in use. Additionally, switch to energy-saving bulbs and energy-efficient equipment.
  • Trim trees and get rid of anything that might damage power lines during a storm. Work with your local council or energy provider for advice and directions
  • Get a smart meter to keep you informed on your home’s voltage and current.
  • Create a schedule for your home consumption. For example, when it is shower time, it is best to pre-heat the water and store it hot. That way, if you need to make breakfast while other family members take showers or iron clothes, there will be a stable energy consumption rate

Precautionary Measures to Take During a Blackout

  • Turn off all devices and only switch them on when your service provider restores power
  • Always have energy reserves.

How to Prevent Brownouts

Brownouts sometimes result from a problem with the electrical grid system. If the grid system is the issue, there is nothing much you can do to prevent its occurrence.

One thing you can do to prevent a brownout is to reduce electricity consumption in your home.
To avoid being in the dark, you can transition to renewable energy options such as solar. Stanford University researchers proposed a shift to renewable energy sources (1). This 100% shift would keep the grid’s consumption lower than the amount generated, reducing chances of brownouts
In addition to easing the pressure on the national power grid, alternative renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are up to 75% cheaper! (2)

Precautionary Measures to Take During a Brownout

There are some precautionary measures you can take in the event of a brownout to prevent damage to your electrical devices. Here are some tips.

  • Unplug all devices with the first flicker. If you have a voltmeter, it will give you the early signs of an impending brownout.
  • Install electrical surge protectors and power strips. These devices help stabilize power supply with a constant voltage despite an impending problem. This measure allows you to safely shut down or switch off all sensitive devices to prevent damage

You might want to get alternative energy sources if you are in an area that is prone to brownouts and blackouts. There are times that brownouts result in long term blackouts. In such cases, you must have a backup energy source, such as propane.

Blackout Vs. Brown Out: What the Government is Doing

The US government has put in measures to ensure that citizens receive protection in case of blackout vs. brownout energy supply interruptions. According to Steve Hauser, who is the VP of grid integration at NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), the government has some power plants that generate power non-stop. In contrast, other plants are used as back up.

Since brownouts increase when the consumption is higher than production, these backup power plants boost generation, ensuring no brownouts or blackouts.

Wanna know how you can save energy at home? Read YourEnergyBlog.com.

  1. https://news.stanford.edu/2018/02/08/avoiding-blackouts-100-renewable-energy/

  2. https://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewables-cheaper-than-75-percent-of-u-s-coal-fleet-report-finds

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