Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow on panels

My solar array produces no electricity with about two inches of snow, so my solution has been to purchase a roof rake to push the snow off the panels. Even on cloudy days the panels make a few hundred watts of power, so the effort is worthwhile.

I removed about two inches on both Monday and Tuesday with items purchased from I checked at local big box home centers, but I couldn’t find a tool that extended longer than 16 feet. I wanted a longer tool that I could use without climbing on the roof or needing a ladder to reach all the panels. I located the RoofRake site on the Internet and phoned for further information. I ordered:

21-foot Dix Roof Rake
5-foot extensions (2)
Snow Pro head
1-foot elbow

The rake needed no tools to assemble and extends the 30 feet required to remove snow while standing on the ground. The Snow Pro head is made of a hard foam material that screws into the elbow; it is the only component that touches the panels. With a combination of pushing snow off the top of the array and dragging snow down to the ground, I have been able to remove a two-inch accumulation in about 20 minutes. Once the snow is removed, the panels seem to give off enough heat to melt any residual flakes. Checking the inverter after each removal session, I confirmed that the panels were again making electricity.

The company is located in Michigan, and I placed my order through the Web site. According to the packaging, the components are manufactured in the U.S. The cost for all items and ground shipping was $131.

Contact information for
Phone: 734-560-7153

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meeting Summary: Green Energy Ohio Trumbull County, November 24, 2009

Energy Efficiency’s Role in Green Building

If you’re not testing, you are guessing.

That’s the message stressed by representatives of The Green Building Pros to attendees at the Clean Energy Network Meeting in Trumbull County on Tuesday, November 24. The Clean Energy Network in Trumbull County is a regional affiliate of Green Energy Ohio. Michael Hein and Jason Clark explained the steps involved in a Home Performance Assessment, often referred to as an Energy Audit.

Energy efficiency is the start of any good Green Building program, according to Michael and Jason. They claim that the average homeowner can reduce current energy expenditures by 35%. A 15% reduction from baseline energy use is usually gained by the low-cost, high-payback retrofits identified by the audit. As examples, they showed pictures of an exhaust fan that blew attic insulation and can lighting that allowed moist air from the home to condense on colder attic surfaces. Such situations not only waste energy, but they can lead to mold and winter ice dams. Energy efficiency not only reduces the need for costly fuel and the production of harmful greenhouse gasses, they also can lead to more healthy buildings by reducing mold and VOCs (volatile organic compounds found in auto exhaust and paints). Proper ventilation can prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.

In order to achieve energy savings and a safer and more comfortable home, Michael and Jason explained the components of an energy audit or home performance assessment:
1. Gather information about the building. They observe a home inside and outside and gather data from utility bills and the residents.
2. Blower door test. The allows for air pressure to be slightly lower inside the building, and air infiltration can be identified easily.
3. Infrared photography. A thermal imaging camera can help identify areas where infiltration occurs.
4. Duct testing. Leaky ductwork can waste warm air in winter and conditioned air in summer.
5. Combustion testing helps identify dangerous gasses produced by furnaces and appliances, gasses that may be entering the living space.
6. Energy modeling
7. Reporting, so the customer knows where energy dollars are going
8. Proposal for remediation, with an analysis of those steps that have the best and quickest payback

Michael and Jason explained that a home performance assessment should be driven by facts, not assumptions. The used an example of a recent audit where the homeowner was considering the installation of new windows. The audit found that savings from air sealing and insulating the basement would pay the homeowner back in three years, while new windows would take more than 18 years to pay off the replacement cost. The use of assessment data helps identify the “low hanging fruit” of energy efficiency.

So what is Green Building? Michael and Jason explained this cannot be defined according to any set standard of criteria. It is a unique activity engaged in by the client and the contractor. It includes:
• Standardized programs such as LEED and Energy Star
• Methods of building including natural (passive solar gain) and high tech (solar, wind)
• Materials that are from sustainable sources and are recyclable when no longer used

Contact information for The Green Building Pros
Phone: 866-355-7170

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Meeting Details: Green Energy Ohio Trumbull County, November 24, 2009

Michael Hein and Jason Clark of The Green Building Pros are the main speakers for a Clean Energy Network Meeting in Trumbull County on Tuesday, November 24, 2009, from 7-8:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in Room 117 of the Kent State University Trumbull Campus Technology Building. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Hein and Clark will discuss “Energy Efficiency’s Role in Green Building” and will deal with topics such as what makes a building “green,” why energy efficiency is important to homeowners and small business owners, and energy audits. To make existing buildings more energy efficient, an energy audit is the place to start. The speakers will explain what is involved in an energy audit and the reports produced to help determine the steps needed to reduce energy use while maintaining a comfortable and healthy building. A question/answer session will follow the presentation. Also, attendees will discuss future meeting topics.

The Green Building Pros (GBP) is a collaboration of energy efficiency and sustainability experts dedicated to bringing their expertise to the marketplace in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The staff at GBP has decades of experience in the construction industry and hold advanced degrees and certifications in sustainability and green building. This experience and education – coupled with memberships and accreditation by leading organizations in green building and energy efficiency organizations such as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), and the Building Performance Institute (BPI) – position GBP to be a leader in the growing green building market. GBP is on the Web at

Clean Energy Network in Trumbull County is a group dedicated to increasing awareness in sustainability, green building and renewable energy technologies by bringing together like-minded people in the area. The Clean Energy Network in Trumbull County is a regional affiliate of Green Energy Ohio.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Making Electricity!

Installing solar panels on my roof is just part of the process, of course. The next step was to connect them to the inverter and the electric service panel. This was accomplished on Wednesday, September 30, when technicians from Kozma Electric made the necessary connections. The panels were operational that afternoon, making electricity from the late day sunshine poking through the clouds.

The system made even more electricity the next day, when fewer clouds blocked the sun’s rays. For a few minutes the panels were making more electricity than the house was using. I enjoyed seeing the dial on the electric meter turn backwards, indicating I was sending electricity into the grid. The installer’s estimate is my system should make about 60% of my electric consumption each year, so there will be several opportunities to observe the meter turning in my favor.

By Sunday, October 4, the day I participated in Green Energy Ohio’s Solar Tour, the system had made about 10 kilowatt hours of electricity (10 kWH). A meter installed next to the inverter logs the kWH made over the life of the system. The picture below shows the equipment located near the electric service panel in my basement.

Since the panels create direct electric current (DC), a device is required to convert DC to AC, the alternating electric current used in homes. The inverter is the large box in the center of the picture that performs this task. The digital display panel indicates the number of watts being generated at any given time. In addition to the meter tracking total kW hours, the electricians installed a data logger to track electricity production on my laptop and on an Internet site. This last component is scheduled to be operational later this week.

More than 30 individuals visited my stop on the Ohio Solar Tour on Sunday, getting a chance to see the system and ask questions. Thanks go out to John Flower, a representative from Dovetail Solar and Wind, who spent the day answering questions about solar power and my installation. Special appreciation goes to Cindy Woodward, who has helped in every step of the process.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Welcome to Greener Warren!

The PV solar panels are installed on my roof, and the electrical hookup should be completed next week. I plan to use this blog to explain the steps I've taken to get to this point and describe the results of my energy conservation efforts. Watch for more details.

Picture caption: The crew from Dovetail Solar and Wind install the 3.2 kW photovoltaic array, 16 Sharp Model 198V PV modules, September 2009.