What You Should Know Before Buying Solar Panels for Your Home

What You Should Know Before Buying Solar Panels for Your Home

Although solar panels have been used on satellites since the 50’s, it’s only been in the last 5 years we have seen a 300 percent increase in solar panels on homes. However, education has lagged with the consumers. As a REALTOR with a GREEN designation, and a leader in my industry on green living topics, I have seen a variety of issues crop up with how solar panels are affecting the consumers negatively with their homes. Issues ranging from their inability to sell their home with the solar systems; having grossly mis-size the systems that are put on their homes by solar companies; solar companies going out of business and not fulfilling their warranties; and not being able to net meter with the local energy company.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for solar panels on a home and saving as much as possible in electrical consumption. The idea of living off the grid makes me giddy, however, many city laws prevent the consumer from being “off the grid”. In order to operate a solar system, panels are needed, inverters and racking the system for the ideal location, and being tied to the city electrical grid for energy storage and net metering. So, if the grid goes down, you will not be able to access the solar energy you are producing.

In order to determine the kilowatt-hour (KWh) size you need for your home, you would calculate your year’s consumption of electricity. The rule of thumb is to use a system that generates not more than your average KWh a year. I have seen solar companies put larger systems than needed on homes and it turns out more costly than needed.

You will find that solar companies get creative in making solar systems affordable. There are a variety of ways to finance a solar system, leases and even sell your energy back to the electrical company. In real estate, solar systems only add value to a home if the system is owned, not leased. An owned system is when you buy it with cash or get a loan on it to purchase it. A leased system is when it’s still owned by the solar company and you are leasing/renting the system. These systems are generally 10-20 year leases. If you sell your house in the meantime, the new buyer will be required to assume the lease – which opens a pandora’s box of issues depending on how the lease is written. If buyer doesn’t want to assume the lease than the seller/current homeowner is required to pay a fee to have the system moved to the next home they purchase.

Needless to say, if you are looking into putting a solar system on your home, be sure to do your homework and research to make sure you are getting the most efficient system. Pick a reliable company and that whatever you choose to do, it will suit your long-term needs. You can still harness this beautiful Southern Utah sun to your benefit and avoid common pitfalls.

What We Eat and Our Environment Related?

What We Eat and Our Environment Related?

About 2 months ago I started eating a vegetarian diet and 2 weeks into that shift, I watched The Game Changers. It’s the new trendy documentary on eating vegetarian and how athletes perform. It was very compelling. Even my dad, who is a family physician and holistic doctor in Las Vegas, emailed the whole family to watch it. In this documentary, there was a 10 minute blip that by eating less meat, we’ll create a less toxic environment. It piqued my curiosity so I did a little researching.

The obvious fact was that the more whole foods and less processed foods we ate, the less waste and by-products we created. But did eating meat harm our environment? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), raising animals for food is the number one source of water pollution. To feed animals for consumption, corn is primarily used. Corn is prized because it can be efficiently grown on vast farms but it depletes the soil and forces the farmers to use more pesticides and fertilizers. Of which eventually affect our water supply. For example, there is currently a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico the size of 8,543 square miles where no fish or other animals can thrive because the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that have flowed out of the Mississippi River. In 2009, a study found that four fifths of the deforestation in Amazon rainforest could be linked to the cattle ranching.

Not all experts are convinced of these facts. Frank Mitloehner, a animal scientist from the University of California, Davis is vocal about his view that meat has been disproportionately linked to climate change emissions. “What concerns me the most is that, while livestock has an impact, the report makes it sound as if it was the leading source of the impacts. By far the use of fossil fuels are the leading source of carbon emissions,” says Mitloehner.

There is so much data and research to be found with compelling arguments that I encourage to do a little picking around and see what sits right with you. David Pimentel summarizes in Scientific America: “For those who can’t give up meat fully, cutting back goes a long way toward helping the environment, as does choosing meat and dairy products from organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals. ‘Ultimately, we need better policies and stronger regulations to reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production,’ says EWG’s Kari Hammerschlag ‘But personal shifting of diets is an important step.’”

 

Mini-Home Living: Creating a Smaller Footprint in our Environment

Mini-Home Living: Creating a Smaller Footprint in our Environment

For 8 months, I lived in a 29 foot RV bumper trailer with just a little less than 200 square feet of living space. I truly loved the simplicity of it and didn’t miss any of my personal items, except for my piano. I learned to downsize my closet to what I only needed and not buy so many grocery items! I had very limited storage and cupboard space in my mini-home. I found myself making use of my living space outside and soaking in the great outdoors. I enjoyed my quality of living while needing and consuming less.

Eight months ago, I sold my small home of 1300 square feet and packed most of my stuff up in a 10×10 storage unit. I thought I had done an amazing job of clearing out the clutter in this home and keeping it minimal. But it wasn’t until I had lived so minimally in an RV that I realized how much stuff of my stuff I didn’t need. As my helpers moved the items from my storage unit to the moving truck, I would stop them and read my labels and wonder how I ended up moving this stuff into the storage unit in the first place. I felt the burden grow larger and larger as each item was moved out of the storage unit. “What in the world had I stored for 8 months and why I am paying movers to move it from place to place?” I wondered. I started having them make a pile to aside for donation. Once everything was loaded up in the moving truck I stopped immediately at Goodwill and donated a 1/3 of my stuff I realized had no need for.

As a REALTOR, I have seen many clients feel the same burden when packing to move and going through their homes. Many times, I’ve seen family members go through the homes of their late relatives and get rid of EVERYTHING. We spend our adult lives accumulating items but for what reason? We have collections of things, items that have been passed down through families, HUGE pantries of food stuff. These items become a burden as we need larger homes to put them in, more garages, a storage shed, a storage unit and etc. There is incredible freedom in not having lots of things. I have found that I am able to keep my cost of living low and have the flexibility and financial freedom to do lots of things. I am able to save more and live simply. And most importantly, I have learned to enjoy the little pleasures in life.

I moved into another small space just recently – a 1200 square foot condo that will require little upkeep and maintenance. It has all the basic elements I need yet it doesn’t require a lot of things to fill it and I am able to live more sustainably, consume less in electricity, gas, water and other non-renewable items. By doing this, I am creating a smaller footprint in our environment and still able to enjoy all the wonderful things our 1st world country provides. I encourage you to do the same; evaluate the items you have collected and the spaces you have to hold these things. When was the last time you used it or even looked at it. In this world of consumerism, ask yourself, do I need this?

Simple Steps to a Sustainable Lifestyle

Simple Steps to a Sustainable Lifestyle

Living a greener, more sustainable lifestyle really doesn’t take drastic measures. You don’t need to be living off the grid, eating most of your produce that you’ve grown yourself, and make everything from scratch – although the thought seems delightful to me. But, there are very simple things you can do living in an urban area. Here’s just a few:

  • When not in use, turn it off! In fact, even when it’s turned off, like small appliances, they are still using electricity. My kids and I have gotten in the habit of unplugging small appliances we aren’t using. Or plug them into a power strip that’s easy to turn on and off with a flip of a switch.

  • Don’t be a consumer. Start being mindful of the things you buy. At the grocery store, buy less prepackaged foods; start making dinner; pack your own lunches for the day; buy things in bulk and put in re-usable containers for everyday use. Frequent the thrift stores and second hand shops; and buy used clothing and items. You are saving lots of money and re-using items that usually are in perfectly good condition.

 

  • Simplify! How many of you have lots of different cleaning products? Water and vinegar cleans most things around the home and I put it in a re-usable spray bottle. If you don’t like the scent of vinegar, add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil. Also, baking soda is a great item to have as well for some of those hard to clean things. It’s cheaper, easier and better for the environment also! And go through your home and de-clutter. Donate or giveaway the items you are not using and don’t need. When you go to the store refrain from “consuming”, a.k.a. buying things. You can even find websites and classifieds where you can barter and trade. There’s one on KSL.

 

  • Eat local, fresh foods. We are lucky to live in an area where we can get local produce and other locally made items. One of my favorite places to go to is the Downtown Farmer’s Market in St. George. You can get locally made breads, cheeses, fresh produce, and great items produced locally. By doing this, you are creating a smaller environmental footprint: less refrigeration, less gas for transportation, less packaging. Pat yourself on the back.

 

  • We live in a desert. We should probably start acting like we do. Although it may not seem like we have a water shortage, we are using a limited resource in our area. Start being active in using minimal amounts of water. Time your showers or put in a water-saving shower head. Taking baths actually uses less water. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Get rid of your grass and do water smart landscaping – it’s so much prettier! When washing your dishes, fill up the sink; don’t let the water run.

I hope these tips spark some ideas of simple steps you can do starting today! Get your family on board, tell your friends and neighbors. As a community we should be actively preserving the amazing lifestyle we have in Southern Utah by one little action at a time.

Gardening in St. George, Utah

Gardening in St. George, Utah

One of the best ways to practice green living is to have a garden! Even you don’t have a large yard or yard at all, there are many opportunities to get your hands into the dirt and grow edible things – even if it’s just herbs.

First you need a spot on your patio or in your yard that get at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. This will facilitate in larger vegetables and stronger plants. Plan on the orientation of your garden. Do you want your vegetables in pots, raised garden beds for example? If you are planting them in rows, it is ideal to arrange the rows to run North – South for best sun exposure and growth.

Next consider the soil condition. If you are planting in pots or in a raised garden bed you are completely controlling the soil elements and nutrients. If you are planting in the ground you will want to supplement the soil and enrich it to make sure the plants have the nutrients they need to grow and fruit. You will want the soil to be well-drained and rich in nutrients. I love adding steer manure to my garden and do it religiously at the beginning of each new growing season. Compost is amazing for your soil as well. I like to use organic matter in my garden. Your local nursery can guide you in the products they have. Also, be sure that you supplement your soil at least 2 weeks prior to planting. This ensures time for the soil to stew in all those wonderful nutrients and rest prior to going to work – feeding your plants.

There are many different elevations in Southern Utah. I have a garden in Leeds, UT and the gardening season starts a little later in the year. Whereas, in the greater St George area, the gardening season can start as early as January. To know when’s a good time to plant your veggies, visit your local nursery. They will have guides on planting time.

What to plant? Plant vegetables you like to eat! And try new things. Every year I experiment with a different vegetable or fruit. I like to get starters at the nursery if they interest me or I will look online on seed catalogues and play around with heirloom veggies and fruits. One year, we grew a mysterious melon that tasted fabulous!

Don’t forget to set up a watering system. You can set up a drip line that’s attached to your automatic sprinkler system or you have a system set up on a hose that you turn on and off. I like to have mine on an automatic drip system so even when I am out of town, my plants ware being watered. Your local nursery or hardware store will have the necessary supplies.

There’s so many more details I could get into but these are the basics to get your started thinking and planning your next garden. It’s best to start off small and then add to your garden so you don’t get overwhelmed. It’s addicting and you may find yourself adding a new pot or gardening bed to your yard. Get your kids involved also! Some of our best memories are out in the garden enjoying the fruits of our labor.