May 14, 2009 – Vol.14 No.8
SIMPLE, PASSIVE, SOLAR ENERGY (YOUR WINDOWS).
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Lofty goals. That seems to be the direction the green movement is headed at the moment. Plug-in cars for all. Solar panels on every roof. A wind turbine in every back yard. It’s good to have dreams. Lofty goals are great. Reaching for the sky lifts the spirits.
Reality says that electric cars and home generated power for all are a long way off for most of us.
That’s OK. though. Doing the best with available tools can be an equally rewarding goal. It’s fun to be clever, to beat the system, with what you have, with what’s available now.
Take solar energy. Everyone is exposed to it. We use it every day. Everyone can use solar as a practical energy source as well as save energy by controlling it to meet our needs. Surprisingly, tapping solar energy probably requires the least investment of any renewable energy source and it doesn’t require installing semiconductors on the roof. It requires opening and closing wind blinds, shades, curtains or shutters to let sunlight in when we need it and keep it out when we don’t.
Sunlight streams in the windows of our homes warming everything it touches: the floor, the furniture, the cat in the sunny spot. In turn, the floor and furniture release that thermal energy into the air, heating us even when we’re not sitting directly in the light. On a cold winter day the warmth of the sun keeps a house warm and cuts energy bills. On a hot summer day that same warm sunlight-drenched room can cause the air conditioner to run more often, using up energy, adding to greenhouse gas emissions and adding to the electric bill.
Houses – which are responsible for more global warming emissions than cars (because they “run” 24 hours a day) – can easily be tamed energy wise, and in these slow economic times save considerable money.
I broke the addiction to central air conditioning a few years ago by going cold turkey, no longer using it, shutting it down. My summertime utility bill, which includes electricity as well as natural gas for heat and hot water, has dropped from more than $200 a month in the summer, to around $50, and that’s living in Baltimore, Maryland where summers are anything but cool. Fans and one small window air conditioning unit help keep the solid masonry, brick oven house comfortable. I attribute much of the energy savings to keeping sunlight out with the use of window blinds. True, the house is a little dark on bright sunny days but it’s only for a few months and the savings are worth it, for me and the environment.
Not only is sunlight control the least expensive renewable energy you can buy, the government will now help you do it by helping financially to make your windows more efficient. Windows, of course, not only let sunlight in, but being the least insulated part of a home let heat out, which we don’t want either.
At least one window treatment company, EcoSmart Insulating Shades, says one of its product lines, its Sidetrack Insulation System, is certified for a federal tax credit in 2009 and 2010. Owners of existing homes can earn a tax credit up to $1500 by installing the ComforTrack Energy Saving Sidetrack Insulating System this year or next.
The Sidetrack Insulation System features insulating honeycomb fabric with an integrated sidetrack system that seals off the gaps between the shades and the window to create a solid insulating barrier to drafts. Further, using light-blocking window shades with this simple system, sunlight can be blocked as well.
The tax credit is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Stimulus package. Under section 25C of the Internal Revenue Code, homeowners can now receive a 30 percent credit on the cost of qualified energy efficiency improvements. Tax credits are available for many types of home improvements. You can spend it all on one improvement or divide it through other qualifying improvements.
EcoSmart builds its shades in their factory in Essex Junction, Vermont. Every shade is hand signed by its craftsperson, actually a green job.
Using something as simple as a window covering to control sunlight infiltration and heat loss is no less important than mounting solar electric panels on a roof. And it’s considerably less expensive, especially with a break from Uncle Sam.
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