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Have a Question About Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy? Ask Ener-Gee Whiz!

May 26, 2009 - 4:37pm


This week marks the start of a new feature at the Energy Savers Blog that we're calling Ener-Gee Whiz. Ener-Gee Whiz posts will provide information on hot energy efficiency and renewables topics in the news or answer energy-related questions posed by Energy Savers blog readers. To get this first post started, I've provided answers to a few questions that consumers have asked of the staff here at the EERE Information Center in recent weeks:

Question: I'm interested in installing a small wind or solar electric system at my home. How do I get started?

Answer: There are a number of first steps you might consider if you're planning to install a residential solar or wind system. First, consider the solar or wind resource available on your site and whether it is sufficient to produce enough electricity to meet your needs. Next, you may want to investigate whether the system you are considering would qualify for federal or state tax incentives and investigate any eligibility requirements necessary to receive those incentives.

You may also want to look into any solar or wind zoning or permitting issues that might apply in your area. If you're thinking of connecting your renewable energy system to the grid, you'll need to contact your local utility and investigate net metering laws near you.

Finally, you may want to consider reading some of the great resources available through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, including Own Your Power! A Consumer's Guide to Solar Electricity for the Home (PDF 3.4 MB) and Small Wind Electric Systems: A U.S. Consumer's Guide (PDF 1.3 MB) for further information on how wind and solar electric systems work, the type of equipment you might need, and answers to other questions you might have. Download Adobe Reader.

Question: How do I calculate the energy usage of my appliances and other electronic devices?

Answer: If you're trying to reduce the energy consumption in your home, one of the first things you need to know is how much energy particular appliances or electronics are actually using. You can find a simple formula to help you calculate daily kilowatt-hour consumption through the Energy Savers website. Armed with this information and details on your utility rate, available on your utility bill, you'll be able to make a good estimate of how much a particular device costs to operate on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis.

Another resource is the ENERGY STAR® Web site; many of the Web pages for ENERGY STAR-qualified product categories provide savings calculators that will calculate energy usage based on the specifications for your device. To find a calculator, go the link above, click on a product category, and look under the Resources tab on the right side of the page for savings calculators.

Have any questions you'd like Ener-Gee Whiz to address? Leave a comment on this post asking your question; future Ener-Gee Whiz posts will try to respond to questions posed by blog readers. But please keep in mind that Ener-Gee Whiz cannot respond to technical questions pertaining to specific consumer situations; some questions just need to be addressed by a qualified contractor who can assess the situation in person.