2006 Tour of Solar Places

Visitor turnout for the 2006 Tour of Solar Places was the best ever. Twenty-five interested people from 14 communities learned about the photovoltaic and wind installations at the Vogl farm. Others visited sites with similar installations that were more convenient for them. One home also featured super insulation.

It was a long day, starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m. with no breaks. Sonia helped people sign in and obtain printed information, provided necessary background information and directed them to the tour in progress. Bob led the tours. Fortunately, his voice held up, but occasionally he asked the group if he had already covered a particular point.

The major point we made was that people should make their homes as energy efficient as possible. After that, wind generation and solar electricity can be considered.

We pointed out compact fluorescent light bulbs used throughout our home and encouraged everyone to use them. CFs use one-quarter the watts of incandescent bulbs but provide equivalent light and quality of light. One visitor claimed that the bulbs she bought flickered when in use. Another reported a similar experience but simply returned them for another pack that worked well. We have not had such problems. Some of our original bulbs still perform well after 20 years of use.

A well-timed opportunity to buy up to a dozen bulbs at a discount is now being offered by ComEd. Check the insert in this month’s electric bill.

We did discuss a problem we encountered recently resulting from an electrical storm in which both household appliances as well as the inverter for the renewable energy system, solar boosters and a solar panel were damaged. While they are covered by insurance, it did cause the inconvenience of having to deal with appliance repairs and replacements as well as the insurance adjuster.

Over the past 20 years, our home has been struck by lightning several times, and appliances including televisions, fans and microwave ovens have been damaged beyond repair. This most recent strike damaged our television and electric stove as well as parts of our photovoltaic system.

We were advised to consider installing a whole-house lightning arrestor with sufficient capacity to protect the home’s entire electrical service. The higher the joule rating of the protective device, the less likely appliances will be damaged. A common surge protector used to protect a television set may be rated at 3,000 joules and cost $20 to $30. A device with capacity for the entire house may cost $150 to $200—more if expensive equipment is to be protected.

The least expensive lightning protection is to unplug appliances as well as the renewable energy system when lightning is making contact with the ground nearby. However, that will only work if someone is home and has the presence of mind to take action.

Living with new technologies and approaches always brings new problems to solve.

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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