Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.
Guest post by Lauren White
The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.
Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.
Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.
Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.
The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.
One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.
Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.
In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.
Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.
Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.
The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.
Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.
Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.
Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.
Get What You Pay for—and Then Some
In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.
Calculate Your Estimated Savings
If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.
While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.
Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter Blog
Armed with a little know how – you can make your pool season trouble free!
1. Evaluate the Task at Hand
Always check for leaks at the start of the season—all you need is a bucket. Just fill it three-fourths of the way full and mark the water line inside, place it in the pool, mark the line on the outside and let it float for a couple days. If the water goes down the same amount inside and out, it is from evaporation, but if it goes down more on the outside, there is a leak and you’ll need to call a pro.
2. Keep It Clean
- Skim Debris – If you have trees, bushes or other plants nearby, the wind can blow debris into the pool. To keep it clean, increase the water circulation and use fewer chemicals, and use a skimmer to scoop out the debris out on a weekly basis.
- Vacuum Frequently – Not all debris floats on top, so to get the hard-to-reach debris, you should vacuum the pool on a weekly basis for about half an hour. You can always buy an automated vacuum that runs on a schedule, so you don’t have to worry about it.
- Filter and Pump – To keep water clean and save energy, run the pump daily for every 10 degrees (e.g., if it’s 80 degrees outside, run the pool pump for eight hours). Keep water healthy and clear by cleaning the filter every other week. Simply empty the filter bag or remove the filter and hose it down. If the pump is unusually loud, leaking or doesn’t hold pressure, it’s time to call a professional. If you have a home warranty with pool coverage, you’ll also save time and energy not having to find a qualified service professional yourself.
3. Get an A in Chemical Chemistry
Test water levels weekly with a home pool water test kit to make sure chemicals are balanced and safe. Optimal chemical levels vary depending on the season and weather conditions, but the pool’s pH levels should fall between 7.2 and 7.8 consistently for the cleanest water. This will also help protect your pool equipment. Water becomes more acidic with lower pH levels, which can cause costly damage to your pump, filter and anything else that it comes in contact with.
These projects are what you should be focusing on this summer regarding maintenance on your home.
Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money! Focus on maintaining these 5 areas.
With the bright sunlight and warm temperatures that accompany summer, you may be spending more time outside — and you may be noticing areas of your home’s exterior that need repair. But there’s more reason to tackle your home maintenance projects this summer than simply cosmetic appearance. Maintaining your home will prevent major leaks and damage that may eventually require professional help, usually when its most expensive and inconvenient for you.
Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money, and it makes sense to do it when you’re more likely to be outdoors in the comfortable summer months. Here are five areas of your house that are most important to keep updated.
Start by cleaning the exterior of your windows with hot soapy water and a sponge or squeegee. If you’ll need a ladder, make sure to review safety guidelines.
While you’re washing, inspect each window pane for cracks. Double or triple glazed windows with damaged seals or cracks may need to be replaced. Think back: Have your windows had excessive condensation inside through the winter and spring? That’s another sign that the seal might have been compromised and that your window might need to be replaced.
You’ll also want to inspect caulking and weatherstripping around your windows. Recaulk any spots where the caulk is loose or chipping away, or consider applying new caulk for a tight seal. Summer is a perfect time to do this because the warm temperatures and low humidity will help the caulk set perfectly.
Finally, wash window screens and replace any screens that have rips or holes.
Visually inspect your roof every summer for missing or broken shingles, shakes and panels. Again, if you’ll be using a ladder and climbing up to your roof, make sure you follow safety guidelines. If you have any concerns about using a ladder or moving around on your roof, or if you’re unsteady on your feet, call your roofing company. Most roofers will make inspections and do basic maintenance for you.
While you’re up on your roof, you’ll also want to check flashing and seals around vents, chimneys and skylights. Apply caulk around any areas that haven’t been re-sealed in the past year.
Algae and moss can plague even new and well-maintained roofs. Apply a moss killer designed for roofs or install zinc strips that can help keep algae and moss from taking hold.
Your gutters should be cleaned and checked for holes or other damage. Look for water stains around your gutters and downspouts that indicate a problem.
Check high and low over your exterior and look for holes, gaps and cracks in your siding. It’s less expensive to replace siding that is just starting to deteriorate than to wait until it’s broken down completely and impacted your home’s structure, insulation and inside walls.
While you’re walking around your home, look for any signs of pests. Termites and carpenter ants can be devastating to your home’s structure, while ants and wasps can be a nuisance and cause minor damage to your home’s exterior. Check vents and crawl-space access doors to make sure rodents and other wildlife can’t get in.
Check your foundation for any cracks and signs that there has been a leak, such as water stains. Any small cracks can be repaired, but larger cracks should be inspected by a pro. Once you repair small cracks, re-seal the foundation with a good waterproof masonry sealer.
Pull out any larger plants growing close to your home that might impact the foundation. Besides the risks of roots growing into your foundation, watering plants close to your home can cause water to pool around the foundation and lead to damage.
Heating and Cooling
You’re going to want to make sure your air conditioning is ready for the heat ahead, so replace filters and remove and clean your unit’s fan and condenser. Make sure you turn off power to the unit before you tackle any work.
At the same time, your furnace should be checked and readied for use again at summer’s end. Vacuum out the burner and blower cavities, and vacuum and brush the blower blades. Change the filter so the furnace is all ready to go when it’s time to turn it on again.
Your home is a big investment, and it’s important to keep it in good “health.” Spend some of your summer days inspecting and making minor repairs and you’ll reduce your chances of needing a big repair later.
Source: CB Blue Matter
Shipping containers have long been found to have a myriad of uses, from storage to houses. Who knew a shipping container would make a terrific pool!!
One Canadian couple is making a splash transforming shipping containers into backyard swimming pools. (We always knew those shipping containers were universal!)
Paul and Denise Rathnam launched Modpools earlier this year and the idea has taken off, with orders mostly coming from the hottest locales in North America, particularly California, Nevada, Texas and Florida.
“The traditional pool is a symbol of excess and waste. This is a little more modern, more modest. We’re repurposing something rather than recycling. This pool can be resold, and you can take it with you if you move,” Paul Rathnam told Vancouver Sun.
It’s an interesting concept, for sure, and the design, once installed, looks pretty slick. It’s as if your backyard was always destined to house a shipping container.
The standard size Modpool is eight feet wide by 20 feet long, and just over five feet deep. It also comes with a clear, acrylic window on one side, which is actually a pretty spiffy design element. Customers can opt to add another acrylic window on the other side for a see-through look if they want one.
In Canada, after delivery, a Modpool will cost you $35,000 plus tax, which could be a cheaper alternative for families planning on installing an in-ground swimming hole.
Ahhhhh, that summer vacation is on your radar now…just a few loose ends to wrap up before you hit the road!
Your summer vacation is finally here! You’ve booked flights, reserved hotel rooms, and scoped out the best places to eat along the way, but have you prepared your home for your absence?
Nothing spoils a vacation like returning to smelly trash, sad houseplants, or an unexpected break-in. Whether you plan to be gone for a week or a month, there are a few simple steps you can take to get your home ready so you can relax and enjoy your time away.
Leave your home exactly as you’d like to find it when you return—like new!
- Empty your refrigerator of any perishable foods that will pass their enjoy-by dates while you are away, and toss open pantry items that will mold or go stale.
- Take out the trash and recycling. Don’t forget about smaller trash cans in bathrooms and utility rooms.
- Finish, fold, and put away laundry. You’ll likely have clothes to wash when you return, so get a jumpstart before you go.
- Wash your sheets and towels, and remake your beds. You’ll thank your past self when you come home to fresh linens in clean bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Wipe down counters, run your garbage disposal, sanitize toilets, and organize clutter.
Reduce the possibility of surprise maintenance issues, which can be costly to fix, by keeping up with regular home repairs throughout the year.
- Perform routine inspections and weatherize. Make sure your heating and cooling systems, gas and water lines, and roof and windows are in good shape. Clean up your yard, mow the grass, and take care of any dead trees or overhanging limbs that could cause damage in severe weather.
- Unplug all small appliances. This will save power and eliminate the potential for things to short-circuit and cause significant electrical damage.
- Check your smoke detectors. Batteries die, parts wear out, and dust and other pollutants can impede alarm performance. Make sure your home is prepared in case of fire, and consider integrating your detectors into your home security system so the fire department is notified in an emergency.
- Turn off your water at the main shut-off valve to prevent damage in the case of a burst pipe or water heater malfunction. Consider installing a water and flood sensor, which detects moisture where it shouldn’t be and pushes notifications to your smartphone.
- Leave your closet doors ajar to prevent mold and musty smells from building up.
Protect your home and belongings from thieves. The highest percentage of burglaries occur during the summer months, and homes without security or alarm systems are up to 300 percent more likely to be broken into.
- Set up remote monitoring. You can have a security system professionally installed or start with a wireless security camera that you can view from your smartphone. If you have a security monitoring service, let them know that you are traveling.
- Collect spare keys. If you have house keys hiding under doormats or flower pots, bring them inside so prowlers don’t find them. Leave an extra set with a trusted neighbor or friend in case there’s an issue that needs to be addressed while you’re away.
- Hold your mail and newspapers. Nothing signals that you are out of town like an overflowing mailbox or stack of unread papers on your front porch. Placing a hold with USPS is as easy as completing an online form and will prevent identity thieves from targeting sensitive information found in bills and credit card statements.
- Take advantage of home automation. You can link everything from smart locks that you can triple-check via smartphone app to smart doorbell cameras that sense motion on your front porch and have two-way audio.
- Close blinds into rooms that contain expensive items, and set up smart light timers that mirror your regular habits when you’re home.
- Ask for help. Have a neighbor park in your driveway while you’re gone, and enlist a friend to water your plants and check up periodically on your property.
A little bit of preparation will go a long way when it comes to leaving your home clean and secure, and enjoying your vacation stress-free!
Summertime….and the living is easy! If you know how to prep for it!
Our friends at HomeAdvisor 5 important steps for prepping your home for summer.
While summertime is perfect for outdoor gatherings with friends and family, it can also be a dangerous, and inefficient, time for your home. That’s why it’s important to have a preparation strategy in place before the hotter months arrive. These quick tips will help you prep your home for summer, and ensure it stays safe and inviting all summer long.
Schedule an Air Conditioning (AC) Inspection
Suffering through the hottest summer months with no AC isn’t fun, especially if you’re playing host to friends or family. Having an AC professional look at your unit before summer officially arrives will address any potential problems before they become major headaches. You can also DIY some preliminary maintenance. Clearing saplings, grass and other underbrush away from your unit will improve airflow and help prevent clogs. Replacing the air filters in your home’s HVAC will also help your AC function at its peak efficiency.
Look for Insulation Leaks and Inefficiencies
Poor insulation will allow cooled air to escape, resulting in a hot home and enormous energy bills. Fortunately, spotting faulty insulation isn’t difficult. Begin by looking for deterioration around your doors and windows. Caulk, door sweeps and weather stripping should address the majority of your door- and window-related leaks. It’s also a good idea to have a professional perform an energy audit. Pros will be able to identify hard-to-spot inefficiencies in other parts of your home and HVAC system.
Prep for Pests
It wouldn’t be summer without pests. And in addition to being an annoyance, some pests can actually damage your home and even present health problems. Spraying insect barriers around the exterior of your home is a good beginning, but it’s also important to prep the interior of your home. Sealing all food sources and potential entry points like window frames and doors is an important part of finalizing your pest proofing.
P.S. Be sure to read any warnings or instructions that come with pesticides. Improper applications can threaten the safety of your home, especially if you have pets or small children.
Inspect Your Roof
Summer is mostly known for its beautiful weather, but it can also be a time of severe thunderstorms or worse. This makes having a sturdy roof very important, especially during inclement summertime weather. Begin your inspection by looking for loose shingles, faulty flashing or other clear signs of damage. Your attic can also be home to leaks, rot and other problems not obvious from the outside of your home. Examining your attic insulation, walls and rafters for signs of moisture will help you prevent water damage and structural deterioration. If you notice signs of damage, it’s best to call a pro. Roof repair can be extensive and are rarely DIY-appropriate.
Reinvigorate Your Outdoor Spaces
Wintertime can take a toll on the appearance of your yard, patio and other outdoor living areas. Removing downed tree limbs, replanting dead flowers and power washing your patio and decking are simple ways to jumpstart your home’s summertime exterior. Your grill can also accumulate gunk during the colder months. Be sure to clean its interior and exterior before your first BBQ. Updating your tired outdoor furniture will also improve the looks and comfort of your entertainment areas. Wrap-around sofas, comfy loveseats and luxurious hammocks are ideal additions to any outdoor space. You can perfect your entertainment areas with colorful throw pillows, planters, hanging candles and outdoor lighting.
Source: CB Blue Matter
Ahhhhh, the sweet smells of summer BBQ! Nothing beats grilling and chilling!
There’s nothing better than the flavor and presentation of food cooked on a grill. The slightly smoky flavor and ease of preparation makes grilling one of the top cooking methods any time of the year. Even when there is a chill in the air, stepping outside to grill a meal is quick and easy.
Now that summer is around the corner, many of us are dining al fresco, and that often includes a grilled dish. Almost any food can be grilled, from steak to Portobello mushrooms, and occasionally a food that you wouldn’t imagine, such as thickly cut Greek cheese (Halloumi), which grills perfectly.
For those who don’t have access to an outdoor grill, I’ve had success with cast-iron indoor grilling pans. Indoor grilling pans, which can be found in any cookware store, add a depth of flavor similar to outdoor gas grilling. I own two square ones that fit over a burner and can accommodate two servings of protein or four pieces of fresh corn or sliced eggplant.
Here are some of my tips to make the most of your grilling.
What to Grill
Most important, you need to know which foods are best grilled. Any cut of meat or chicken is ideal for grilling.
For dark-meat chicken, I recommend cooking it first in the oven to get it about three quarters done and then finishing it on the grill to avoid overly dark or blackened skin. Chicken breasts cook quickly about three minutes per side. I recommend you pound the chicken to an even thickness to assure perfect doneness.
Fish is best if you choose steak fish (such as tuna, salmon, swordfish or shark) or whole fish (such as snapper or bass). Shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, clams and lobster, are wonderful on the grill and can be served room temperature or as part of a salad. I tend to avoid thin fish fillets for grilling as they are too delicate for the high heat and difficult to move off the grill.
All kinds of grilled vegetables are wonderful. My personal favorites are asparagus, mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, unripe tomatoes and corn. Consider buying a grill basket for smaller veggies to avoid them falling into the grill. For the vegetarians among us, both tofu and tempeh are delicious in their grilled form, especially paired with a flavorful marinade.
Get the Grill Ready
To prepare the grill, heat is of utmost importance for a guaranteed non-stick surface. If your food is not ready to turn easily, simply leave it another minute to ensure the proper sear. If you are grilling something with little to no marinade, be sure to spray the grill lightly with vegetable cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
My favorite element in grilling is the marinade. A marinade can be as simple as vinaigrette with a few fresh herbs mixed in, and sauces such as salsas, pestos and reserved boiled marinades add a ton of flavor to just about any grilled food.
Because there’s no sauce or fat in the pan, and most grilled foods cook fairly quickly, a marinade not only tenderizes, but adds flavor. I usually marinate dishes for at least two hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, depending on what you’re preparing.
I recommend reserving the leftover marinade and bringing it to a boil in a small saucepan for four or five minutes, to kill any bacteria, along with a little red wine, if desired, and you have an amazing sauce to drizzle over your grilled dish.
There’s the Rub
Fish is one exception where the marinade can actually cook the fish, so don’t marinate fish and shellfish for more than an hour. This is where a spice rub can be the perfect flavor enhancer. I often use spice rubs for tuna, salmon or shrimp.
Simply toast a few of your favorite spices, such as cumin, mustard seeds, peppercorns and coriander. Grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, coat the fish lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle the spices and a pinch of sea salt. You’ve now elevated your fish to another level.
I love the taste of grilled bread and often serve it lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, as you might enjoy in Tuscany. Grill the bread for three or four minutes on each side and serve with chopped tomatoes, olives and mushrooms, or, serve it plain, with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I often make hummus or a spread, such as a white bean puree, to serve guests while they are having a chilled glass of wine.