Solar Energy Powers the Future
Thinking about going solar? The time to do it is now. The last few years have witnessed a convergence of several trends: rising average energy prices, falling costs for solar panels due to manufacturing overproduction, and heavy interest in solar power—all of which are helping to make this renewable energy source more timely than ever. At the same time, it’s been a perilous few years for cost-mitigating federal and utility-run incentives. Legislative battles have sprung up over net metering incentives that reward customers for power they return back to the grid—although in the places where these programs were struck down, grandfathered homeowners often held onto their credits. Likewise, the federal government’s Residential Renewable Energy Credit was renewed in 2016, but its value will begin to drop in 2020, and the program will dissolve completely at the end of 2022. Many people find that these kinds of lucrative programs, which make solar energy so affordable, are key to affording their systems, so those who invest now stand to save greatly.
Water Efficient Sprinklers for a Greener Lawn
It’s easy enough to get wrapped up in energy efficient renovations. After all, saving money on your utility bills is a pretty strong incentive. However, more and more green homes rely on water-conserving principles, as well, which had a strong year due to the proliferation of smarter sprinkler equipment. Sprinkler heads can deliver anywhere from one to six gallons of water per minute, and by some estimates, such irrigation systems account for between 30 to 60 percent of fresh water consumption annually. WiFi-connected sprinklers automate sprinkler programming, basing their schedule off the time of day and the local climate and your individual lawn fauna, as well as up-to-date weather forecasts. Essentially, this equipment knows to shut up shop when the weatherman calls for rain—and remembers to do it a lot more predictably than you or I would!
Smart Thermostats Look Good on Your Energy Bills
Smart thermostats have been the star of energy efficiency experts for a long time. The perfect marriage of high tech and green, these devices help homeowners lower their heating and cooling consumption through behavioral learning and tracking adjustments. However, one little-known feature that can save many users a lot of green? Smart thermostats also integrate with time-of-use pricing schemes, a payment schedule that charges homeowners for their energy use based on the average electricity demand at that point in time (for instance, it costs less for electricity at 2:00 a.m. than it does at 7:00 a.m.). This technology has finally hit its stride and now integrates with a variety of other smart devices, including voice control technologies like the Amazon Echo. Saving energy has never felt so cool!
WiFi-Connected Window Air Conditioners Offer Smarter Zone Cooling
Why should thermostats get to have all the fun? This year, window AC units—still heavily used by urban apartment dwellers and households located in southern states—received a “smart” overhaul that allows their owners to control the unit remotely through their phone. There’s even one that integrates with the Nest thermostat to give you some of the learning power of smart temperature programming. These newest devices are much more efficient (many have eco modes) and polished-looking than their predecessors, and they provide an alternative to whole-house cooling for those who don’t need it. This could be your home’s most high-tech year ever!