Even if you’re not an environmentalist, rising utility and fossil fuel prices are prompting most of us to change our behaviors, and start looking for practical alternative sources of energy. Some have traded in their SUVs for hybrid and electric vehicles; others have invested in new home technologies like high efficiency washing machines or LED light bulbs. As consumers, these products are certainly useful because they use far less fossil fuels than their older counterparts, and will cost us less on our energy expenses overall; but what about that free source of energy that’s always overhead? How about utilizing the power of the sun?
In the Northwest, especially for those of us that live west of the Cascade Mountains, this proposal is often met with blank looks or scoffs. “Isn’t it too cloudy out there?” is one of the most common protests to utilizing solar energy in the Northwest. It’s true that much of the Northwest really doesn’t see much of the sun before Memorial Day and after Labor Day; in fact, there are even parts of Oregon and Washington that have been classified as rainforests by climatologists.
However, this question represents one of the most common misconceptions about the viability of solar power in regions that experience a lot of cloud cover. We may not be able to see the sun when it is covered by clouds, but that doesn’t mean that the solar radiation the sun is constantly emitting isn’t reaching us here on the Earth’s surface. Whether you have solar panels installed in sunny Phoenix or rainy Seattle, the sun’s radiation can still be collected and used as a free energy source.
It’s true that installing solar panels can be an expensive project. Luckily, Oregon’s Department of Energy (ODOE) is a backer of this renewable source of energy, and offers tax credits and incentives for a variety of solar applications. You may even qualify for additional federal tax credits to help offset the initial cost.
If you’re interested in using solar power, but aren’t quite ready to retrofit your roof with solar panels for use throughout the entire house, ask a qualified plumbing contractor like Home Comfort about installing a solar water heater. Solar water heaters use a combination of storage tanks and solar collectors to heat stored water for use throughout the home. There are a variety of different brands and models on the market, and a professional plumber can help you select the best water heater for your climate and your family’s projected water use.
Deciding to convert more of your energy sources to solar power can be a big decision, but there are a lot of incentives, and plenty of professional assistance to help you make the switch and start saving money on your utilities. If you’re ready to learn more about how you can utilize this efficient and abundant energy source, check out the resources below or contact our knowledgeable staff at Home Comfort. We can help you get on your way to lower utility bills and a more sustainable lifestyle.