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Cheap Solar: Energy Efficiency

Dear Solar Fred,

We’re thinking about buying solar, but even if we go for $0 down financing, the monthly payment is going to be too much. Suggestions to get our monthly costs down?


Solar Tom and Tammy

Hey, guys:

By far, the best way to reduce your solar cost is to reduce the amount of electricity that you use. If you use less electricity, you don’t have to buy as many solar panels. It’s as simple as that. So what can you do to reduce your electricity usage? Here are the 3 best ways that make a tremendous difference:

  1. Use CFL Light Bulbs. If you haven’t already done this, replace all of your incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent lights (CFLs). Their quality has gotten much better and the energy savings is tremendous. Regular light bulbs use a whopping SIX TIMES the energy of a compact florescent that produces the same light. If you’re worried about Mercury, see this website from the government’s energy star program.
  2. Replace Your Old Refrigerator. Speaking of energy star, if you’ve got an old refrigerator and/or freezer, this can be an expensive energy drain–and a money drain. These things are on ALL THE TIME, so getting a new energy star appliance (refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, dryer, television) will save you another solar panel or two, further reducing your costs. Plus, your state or city may give you cash for trading in that old refrigerator. Check out the government’s DSIRE website for your local incentive programs.
  3. Reduce “Phantom” Loads. Phantom loads are the “silent” bleeders of energy around your house. You think these things are off and not draining energy, but they’re actually wasting a ton of watts. Any appliance with a plug that has a square black box attached to it is a potential phantom load. Examples include:
  • Your VCR/DVD players
  • Your Wii/Playstation/Game System
  • Your Stereo System
  • Your Computer printer and/or Scanner
  • Your Computer (when it’s “off”).
  • Your T.V.
  • Your Electric Tooth Brush
  • Your Microwave Oven
  • Your Cordless Electric Phone
  • Your Dust Buster
  • Your Cell Phone charger and Blue Tooth charger

To kill these phantoms:

  • Use a power strips to collectively turn off your entire stereo system at once. If your through with your laptop and it’s fully charged, pull the plug as well.
  • Similarly, you don’t need your cell phone charger plugged in if your cell phone is in your purse at work. Use a power strip and turn it off after charging.
  • Switch to a more “corded” phones. Have just one or two cordless phones.
  • Unplug your dust buster and toothbrush when they don’t need charging. They have batteries. (However, be sure to replug them in every few days.

Check out this video about a new electric strip with a “light switch” you can hang on the wall.
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If you make these changes, especially 1 and 2, you’ll be surprised how much your initial solar system costs will be lowered.

Last modified: March 4, 2020

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