Many cities such as Austin Texas are offering amazing rebates on solar panels for your roof that generate power and feed that power back into the grid. The homeowner gets free power and thanks to generous rebates (now renewed for 2009 and beyond) from the U.S. government and city and state government, the cost of the system out of pocket can be as low as $4000.
Our photovoltaic or solar panel system generates nearly 3 kilowatts on a sunny day and on average provides about 15 kilowatt hours per day. This provides almost all the power we need.
This is because we eliminated the big energy wasters such as an electric dryer, water heater and stove.
We use propane for cooking, a solar hot water heater, which is located on the roof next to the photovoltaic panels, and we use a clothes line to dry clothes most of the time.
To limit the use of our air conditioner we installed ceiling fans and a whole house fan, as well as solar shade screens on the windows. We remove the solar shades in winter to let sunlight in which heats the home.
We selectively removed trees that were blocking the panels, which helps them produce more power and also we clean them about once a month with a soft brush and hose. See this article on how to keep your solar panels clean
Since we don’t use the air conditioner except for about two months of the year and use a wood stove for most of the winter heating needs our electricity use has dropped enough that the solar panels provide almost all of what we need.
In addition to the above measures we also eliminated the phantom loads that were drawing power when the devices were plugged in but in the off position. Using a device called a “Kill A Watt” we measured each device that was plugged in and put those ones that draw power when “off” on a power strip with a switch.
For more on phantom loads see this article
Phantom loads or vampire loads may be costing you as much as $20 per month.
We also changed all the lights in our home to compact fluorescent and put those switches in places like the hall and closets on a push button or wind up timer. When we enter the hallway we push the button once and this keeps the light on for ten minutes, or we can set them for up to one hour.
This eliminates leaving lights on for a long period of time. In addition we make sure that items like coffee makers are not left in the warming mode for hours. A coffee maker can draw up to 1500 watts when brewing and 400 watts in the warm mode.
It is possible to live off of solar power alone, if you are determined and can make some changes in the way you use power.