18. November 2014 · Comments Off on Home Energy Audit · Categories: Renewable Energy Training

What is an energy audit?

There are several meanings that come to mind when the word “audit” comes up. For college students, an audit would be taking a class that wouldn’t be credited. For businesses, it means inspecting or verifying official business accounts by an external qualified accountant. However when one speaks of an Energy audit, it is a methodical and thorough examination, review or inspection of the current energy consumptions of a particular location with scrutiny. But for what end? Simply put, an energy audit is done to check how much of the energy used for cooling or heating is effectively used or wasted in an effort to minimize and cut down spending on high bills. Households may have the dilemma when seeing their power bills sky rocket and puts them with options of either purchasing cheaper or low quality environmental systems which barely provides comfort or just crank up the power when heat or cold is insufficient, causing the machines to work double time and doubling the bill. An energy audit takes a look at the whole living containment system and not just the energy providers. Even the most advanced cooling or heating system will not work up to par if there are places where air simply slips out or due to inadequate insulation.

Basically an energy audit pinpoints areas in one’s home where the energy is leaking or seeping out. One will be amazed on the tremendous loss of energy with multiple gaps, cracks or improperly closed windows or doors all over the house. Energy Audit can be done either by the owners by doing what is called a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit while the other option is the Professional Energy Audit. The first one requires the home owner to make a diligent and careful walkthrough of the entire home, locating possible areas for air leaks. Window and door frames that rattle is a definite indicator there is air leakage. Electrical outlets, gaps in baseboards, poorly sealed openings where pipes are installed or cracks due to wear-and-tear are also possible areas where heat or cold can either sneak in or out. Practical methods such as using an incense stick or wetting one’s hand can assist in finding the air leaks. By turning off all heat producing machines and appliances, closing all doors and windows, and turn on exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms, air passing through the leaks will be stronger. As one walks through specific locations, the wavering smoke or coolness of the hand as the air hits it will help mark the spot that needs attention. There are remedies such as adding a rubber tape or door flaps that prevent air for leaking through the sides or under opening of the doors, or sealants to cover cracks.  Detecting and corrective sealing of leaks can give savings ranging from 5% to 30% on power. Poor insulation and ventilation is also a cause for running up the bills either by increasing the heat because it rapidly escapes or increasing the air-conditioner because the heat is trapped. Homes are built with an certain amount of insulation and older buildings are known to have lesser insulation.

For a more thorough and detailed audit, professional services can be used to go over each and every inch of the household. Data gathering is an essential step for professional auditing. Electric bills form the past months are studied, checking the thermostat readings per room and how much time are the rooms used and by how many people. The Blower Door Test is the most commonly used test. By sucking all the air out of the house using a fan and monitored by pressure gauges, with the data collated, the auditor can quantify how much air leakage is present. The Blower Door Test is also used to check if the sealing remedies are effective.

A Thermographic Scan is also an effective tool that auditors use. These tools use specially designed infrared video or still cameras that detect where there are heat build-ups, thermal envelopes, or drops of temperature in areas where heaters should be working. Both the Blower Door Test and Thermographic scans work well to give the most accurate picture of how the energy is being distributed throughout the household.

Having an energy audit done is a good investment for it will give savings for the future to come. Energy audits are also recommended for people who are scouting to purchase a new home. So before one thinks of replacing equipment to heat or cool the house, it may not be the problem. Devote some time to go around the house using the practical tools and it may lead you to a more comfortable home and a less empty pocket.

18. November 2014 · Comments Off on Benefits of Home Insulation · Categories: DIY Energy Saving

In an effort to increase savings on power and heating bills, home owners are being more perceptive and aware that devices that change the temperature to living comfortably are not the sole focus for scrutiny when trying to decipher why the utility bill has run up so high. It has come apparent that the proper care of the entire living sphere contributes to whether ample heat or cold is available without under or over utilizing air-conditioners, water heaters and alike. Insulation of homes is a very wise investment if one studies and strategically locates and places the correct type of insulation as needed. An analogy of how insulation works is blowing up a balloon. If even a tiny hole is present and unnoticed, the person blowing it up would have to increase the frequency and force of breath in order to meet the desired size. However, even if it does meet the desired size, it won’t stay long. In the end, it would leave the person exhausted, without anything to show for it. Insulation is keeping unwanted heat and cold out, while keeping the needed warmth and coolness in, without over exerting machines and maximizing the needed temperature in the homes, and in the end creating 20% to 30% percent savings on power bills.

Upgrading one’s windows to modern dual pane are beneficial. These windows have an insulating gas between the two panes that reduces the temperature of the sun’s rays on hot days.  Reflective coatings such as E Low are also available as well as tints that prevent heat from being transferred inside while keeping the coolness in. Even specially designed frames of vinyl are an option for they diffuse heat better than traditional wooden ones.

Attics and ceilings are also of concern since the sun’s ray directly strikes them causing the home to get hotter due to the heat penetration and by the evenings, quite the opposite happens as the heat moves out thus creating cold. By using flexible materials or fibers, rock wool and others with insulating properties, blankets can be laid out beneath floor boards and under the roof to keep needed temperatures stable and consistent.

Cavities in walls can also be targeted as they can contain heat pockets and allow heat to pass through them. Loose-fill insulation that is composed of cellulose, fiber pellets, fiberglass and even rock wool can be blown into these places to make sure cavities are insulated. Hard to reach or fill places utilize this kind of insulation.

Water heater’s use can be maximized by having the pipes wrapped in foam insulation that prevents the heat loss when the water travels through the pipes and out the faucets or shower head. Even the heater itself can be covered properly to keep the heat in. However when dealing with machinery, it is best to consult the manufacturer or installer as to avoid any accidents.

It is important to note that going on a total renovation of adding insulation everywhere is not the key. A careful study and energy audit should be done to find the exact locations where energy is transferred and lost. Like do you need to insulate windows where the sun doesn’t strike? Also the type of insulation should be considered as well as the R-value. R-value is the measurement of the insulation. The higher the number, the more heat resistant it will be. Getting the right one is also the solution in helping lowering the power bills.

With all things in consideration as well as the proper maintenance of the home, machinery and insulation, one can expect a 30% or more drop in power consumption. So in the long run, getting insulation for one’s home is truly a wise investment and at the same time, you are working with nature and balancing it in everyday living.

18. November 2014 · Comments Off on Solar Energy Safety · Categories: Solar Energy

When you work with PV systems you often find yourself in the outdoors either on rooftops or possibly remote areas for vacation homes and other off-grid projects. Not only that but you will be working with power tools and hand tools on various materials such as metal and wood. On top of that you will be dealing with electricity and possibly even batteries. All these things bring into play safety hazards that range from cuts and bruises to electrocution and chemical burns.

The first set of hazards I will be talking about are the physical ones. This includes exposure, creatures, cuts, falls, sprains, burns of various types.

To start with let’s talk about exposure. You will often find yourself outdoors under the sun when installing or repairing PV systems. This poses its own set of hazards. Being in the direct sun can lead to heat stroke, sun burns and other heat related injuries. To prevent this you will want to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, preferably water. On top of this wear a hat and keep yourself covered best you can and if your skin is exposed make sure to wear plenty of sun block. If the temperature gets high take hourly breaks in a shaded area. Now the sun is not the only hazard it is just as dangerous in the cold. Make sure to stay warm and well hydrated. Just because it’s cold and you do not think you need much water does not mean you cannot become dehydrated. More people become dehydrated in the winter than the summer because they think they do not need to drink as much water.

Being outdoors and exposed to mother nature is not the only hazard. You have to keep an eye out for various creatures. Insects, snakes, spiders and other creatures all pose a danger when you’re working outside. Control panels and junction boxes are great hiding places for spiders and if the openings are big enough there is no telling what may try to make its home there. If you have mounting equipment staged for installation make sure to watch out for snakes and spiders here also. Check under roof ledges and work areas for wasp nests and other creatures. Ground arrays provide shade and snakes will use this area. If you have to route wiring or anything under decks or other structures check them and make sure they are clear, raccoons, possums and other creatures may be napping there.

Cuts, bumps, bruises, falls, sprains and strains. These are all common hazards of dealing with PV systems. Sharp edges on panels, control boxes, mounting racks all pose a hazard that can cause you serious cuts or bumps and bruises. To help prevent cuts wear gloves when working on the system to protect your hands from sharp edges, screws, nails and other dangerous edges. Sometimes systems are installed in remote locations like a hill side and you have the potential for a fall or sprains and strains from moving equipment up and down the hill or other location. Check the area you will be working in for potholes and other physical hazards such as branches and debris on the ground that could pose a trip hazard. When moving equipment make sure to lift properly and wear a back brace if necessary to help support your back when dealing with heavy equipment. PV modules like to pick up the wind also, make sure to be cautious of this when walking with panels and especially when bringing them up onto a roof via ladders and lifts.

Burns can occur not only from the sun but from materials left out in the sun. Be cautious when dealing with metals and other PV components that have sat out in the sun all day as they can be a source of serious burns. Wearing gloves helps prevent this along with many other hazards that you may not be thinking about.

Next up are electrical hazards. Electrical shock is no laughing matter and is quite painful. However it poses even more hazards when dealing with it on a PV system. If you get shocked it could lead to a fall that could be just off your feet and onto your bottom or it could be off a multiple story building. When you get shocked your muscles will contract and you will spasm and if you’re working around others with power tools or other electric equipment this can lead to multiple victim accidents if you are not careful to begin with.

Electrical shock can occur when wiring up systems, connecting modules together. When performing repair on PV modules be cautious as there are 2 sources of electricity. Not only do you have the system power that you need to shut down but the panels will continue to produce a charge as long as they are exposed to light. Cover the panels if they are in the direct sun so the system can be fully de-energized. If you do not this can lead to shock and arc flash. Arch flash can occur when disconnecting two panels that have a charge running through them creating an arch of electricity between the two connections as they are pulled apart.

Other hazards revolve around batteries in PV systems. Batteries pose the potential hazard not only electrical shock but chemical burns and hazards along with acid burns and hazards depending on the type of batteries being used. Sulfuric acid is the most common type of electrolyte in lead-acid batteries which are usually what is used in a system. This type of acid is very hazardous and can be spilled when dealing with the batteries or when it is being charged. This will cause chemical burns if it comes in contact with your skin and will burn holes in your clothing. This is why you need to have proper personal protective equipment when dealing with batteries. PPE for batteries includes a special apron, gloves and face protection. You do not want anything that is absorbent and should use only approved battery safety protective equipment because putting on your jacket and a pair of work gloves and safety goggles will not do as the acid can eat right through this and absorb into the material making the situation worse. You can pick up battery safety kits and spill kits online. Spill kits provide added components for cleaning up the hazard after it has occurred and usually include 1 or 2 sets of PPE for personnel.

Batteries can also be the culprit of explosions and fires. During the charging process hydrogen gas can be released and if brought into contact with a flame or spark could cause an explosion or fire. So make sure to be aware of your surrounding and not to take anything that can cause flames and sparks with you when working with batteries.

18. November 2014 · Comments Off on New Online Renewable Energy Training Course Offerings · Categories: Renewable Energy Training

We are now offering Renewable Energy Training Courses. If you are looking to take some courses through an accredited organization and that are NABCEP approved and can qualify you to take the NABCEP Photovoltaic Entry Level Exam at a computer based testing center near you then we have a solution for you. We have teamed up with a Solar Training Provider to offer you course access on a monthly basis. You can take the courses as quickly or slowly as you want. Text books are sold separately and links are provided to the Amazon listing for said books.