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.’”

 

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.

Indoor Air Pollutants in Your Home

Indoor Air Pollutants in Your Home

Little may you know, one of the key factors to green living is creating an indoor living space that is free of pollutants. Many of us are aware of our outdoor air pollutants but as consumers we are putting little effort into protecting our indoor living environment. In America, we spend about 50% of our time in our homes – this is an environment we can control.

If I asked you what are some common indoor pollutants, you may answer with asbestos, radon, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke and mold. But there are other items that are contributing significantly to your indoor air quality that you can control easily. You won’t believe it……air fresheners and candles! Those decorative plug-ins that continuously release scent is continuously polluting your home. In fact, if you research it a little more, you will find that they are releasing carcinogens. Even if they tout themselves as green, healthy, organic, they can emit potentially hazardous chemicals. Also, the ingredients found in air fresheners are largely not disclosed. Best way to avoid the pollutants that air fresheners emit? Don’t use them at all.

 

In regards to candles, not all of them are toxic like air fresheners. The ones to stay away from are paraffin-based candles, which are the most popular kinds. They emit toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene. However, soybean and beeswax candles are an exception. Can I hear a “hallelujah”? I certainly enjoy the coziness of candles in the cold months of the years.

 

Other culprits are household products, such as cleaning products and hair products to name a few. Keep in mind it’s not just the scent that is toxic – it is the actual chemicals used in the products. To cut down on the pollutants from these products, I like to make my own cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. You can find some great and simple recipes online that will save you money and cut down on the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that you are putting in your home.

 

Even after taking all these measures, be sure to ventilate your home. Open windows and let the fresh air in. With extreme temperatures and heavy use of the furnace or air conditioner, take a break and open some windows for a couple of hours. That will make a bigger difference than using an air purifier. There are many other elements in the building material of the home that will also contribute to indoor air quality, but these simple measures listed above can easily improve your quality of living at home and create a safer and greener environment within your control.