6 summertime staying-cool faux pas … and some smarter alternatives

By SolarCity

June 30, 2015

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Image credit: Tambako via CC

The sun’s out and the temperature’s up. With that comes the quest to stay cool … and with that comes some questionable products and habits. 

So this summer, whether you find yourself on the court, course, park or pool, don’t pull one of these staying-cool faux pas.

 

1. Wearing a solar-powered fan hat

Hey, we love solar. But we’re pretty skeptical of the solar-powered fan hat. Reviews on Amazon run the gamut, though note that several buyers admitted they gave the hat as a gag gift.

 

Smarter: Wearing a hat with a visor and neck drape, and moisture-wicking clothing

Look no further than the world’s toughest footrace for inspiration on dressing to keep cool. The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile run from the lowest point in Death Valley—where temperatures can top 130 degrees Fahrenheit—to the flank of Mount Whitney. Successful competitors, like former winner Dean Karnazes, swear by a hat with a visor and neck drape, and clothing made with moisture-wicking fabric.  

 

2. Eating ice cream

I scream … you scream … we all scream. Virtually everyone loves ice cream. But unfortunately, it just doesn’t keep you cool (sorry). Your body’s efforts to digest the fat and protein in ice cream speed your metabolism, and that makes you warmer.

 

Smarter: Drinking water… or a beer?

Drink water and eat water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Room-temperature water is actually best, as it helps your body's cooling system (i.e. sweat) work. Here’s some even better news: beer or wine, in moderation, can help too!

 

3. Standing in front of an open refrigerator/freezer

The ‘fridge is one of the biggest energy users in your house. And, according to at least one physicist, opening its door will have only a negligible effect on cooling a room—and you.

 

Smarter: Using your ceiling fans

Ceiling fans can help you feel cooler through the wind chill effect. In fact, a ceiling fan can let you raise the thermostat about 4 degrees—saving electricity otherwise used by your air conditioner—with no change in comfort.

 

4. Buying an athlete-endorsed cooling towel

Maybe you’ve seen the ads: Pro athletes cooling down with a little towel that gets cold when they dampen and “snap” it. It’s not that cooling towels don’t work—at least according to this Consumer Reports piece. It’s just that for the cost, you don’t get much greater benefit than with a homemade solution you can make for a lot less money (see below).

 

Smarter: Making a cooling towel

Make your own cooling towel with a bandana, a needle and thread, and polyacrylamide crystals (a common soil additive used by gardeners). Check out the easy-to-follow instructions. Or, in a pinch, just wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to your body’s cooling spots.

 

6. Hand-fanning yourself

You’ve probably been told at some time in your life that hand fanning makes you hotter due to the effort required to wave the fan itself. Opinions actually vary on this—one astrophysicist claims fanning can keep you cool; other sources question that conclusion.

 

Smarter: Having someone hand-fan you

Wherever you come out on the hand-fanning debate, it seems hard to deny that the best technique is to have someone fan you. It’s not just for Cleopatra anymore. The trick is to find a fanner. A hand fanning session can be the wager in a friendly bet, a way to let your significant other work his or her way out of the “doghouse,” or something useful for your kids to do on a lazy, hot, summer day.

Wherever you find yourself when the mercury rises this summer, be sure you’re using smarter ways to beat the heat. Avoid these staying-cool faux pas.

 

Another smart alternative: cool your home efficiently while enjoying the money-saving benefit of rooftop solar. Learn more here.

The New Yorker on SolarCity and the rooftop solar revolution

By SolarCity

June 25, 2015

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In this week’s The New Yorker magazine, writer Bill McKibben covers the rise of rooftop solar in the United States, and utility opposition to that rise.  We were excited to be profiled, alongside others who are rethinking the way we power our homes, schools, and businesses, including Green Mountain Power in Vermont and New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program.

McKibben visited a five-person SolarCity crew in Surprise, Arizona and stood on a rooftop with CEO Lyndon Rive chatting about SolarCity’s rapid growth:

… Solar City has grown by a hundred per cent each year for the past seven years, in part by lowering the soft costs of installation. A job that once took three days can now be done in one, and Rive showed me a training video of a California crew that could do two houses in a day and still have time to surf. By next year, solar will be the fastest-growing new source of energy in the country, approaching half of new capacity. That’s still only a fraction of the total capacity, Rive said, “but if you just maintain that, just plot out the line with the retirement of old plants, it’s inevitable that it will be over fifty per cent of the total generating capacity eventually. And that’s assuming nothing changes."

Solar, combined with other technological improvements, can save consumers a lot of money – and the upheaval McKibben describes is both necessary and possible in a world threatened by climate change:

Dave and Karen Correll live across town from the Borkowskis, in a well-kept Colonial Cape that was another of the original batch of “E-home” renovations. First, contractors re-insulated the basement and the attic. Then came the air-source heat pump, which the Corrells lease from Green Mountain Power for forty-seven dollars a month. Their oil bill fell sixty-seven per cent during the course of Vermont’s long, cold winter of 2015. “I can’t wait to see what comes out next,” Karen told me. “Our furnace is about at the end of its life, and I can’t wait to replace it.”

Neither the Corrells nor the Borkowskis changed their homes out of concern for global warming. (“If it’s not on the Disney Channel, I don’t hear about it,” Sara Borkowski said.) But that’s the point: a bold reworking of energy systems, long necessary and expensive, is now necessary and much more affordable. That could make for a very different world.

You can read the whole article here.

5 myths about cooling your home

By SolarCity

June 23, 2015

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Chances are, your home’s air conditioner is getting a workout this time of year—and driving your home’s energy use. 

It pays to cool your home efficiently, whether you enjoy the money-saving benefit of rooftop solar, or rely solely on a traditional utility. So, avoid falling prey to these myths.

  

MYTH 1: Cranking the thermostat way down cools the house faster

FACT: Your thermostat doesn’t work that way. All it does is set a “target” temperature for your air conditioner to cool to.

Take this example. Say two of your neighbors have identical homes with identical, well-maintained central air conditioning systems. Both homes are at 88 degrees Fahrenheit one afternoon. One of the homeowners sets her thermostat to 78. The other sets his to 65, thinking it’ll reach 78 faster.

Which house cools faster? Neither. Fact is, both homes should reach 78 at the same time. The second homeowner, however, has a problem if he forgets to reset his thermostat when his home becomes comfortable. His air conditioner will continue to work—and use electricity—until it’s a chilly 65 degrees.

RECOMMENDATION: Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature (Energy.gov recommends 78 degrees) and let your air conditioner do its job.

 

MYTH 2: Using a fan helps cool a room

FACT: A fan won’t actually cool a room. However, it will cool you, through the wind chill effect. According to Energy.gov, running a fan can let you raise the thermostat about 4 degrees—saving electricity otherwise used by your air conditioner—with no change in comfort.

RECOMMENDATION: Keep the fan off when you’re not in a room, then switch it on when you enter. And, make sure ceiling fans run counterclockwise in the summer to direct air downward.

 

MYTH 3: Leaving the air conditioner running all day is more efficient that making it “catch up” when you get home

FACT: Running the air conditioner all day long … while the price of electricity peaks … to cool an empty house? The math simply isn’t in your favor. 

RECOMMENDATION: Adjust the thermostat to keep the house 10 degrees warmer during the day, then set it to a comfortable temperature when you get home.

Even better, install a programmable thermostat. Set it to adjust the temperature a half hour before you return, so you walk into a comfortable house. Energy.gov estimates a programmable thermostat can save you up to 10 percent on your energy costs.

 

MYTH 4: Closing vents in unused rooms boosts efficiency

FACT: Modern central air conditioning systems are designed to operate most efficiently with all the vents open. In fact, keeping vents closed can cause additional wear and tear to your system.

RECOMMENDATION: Keep vents open throughout the house. If you do need to cool a single room, or a set of rooms, consider a zoned mini-split system.

 

MYTH 5: Keeping windows and doors closed is all you need to do to keep cool air in

FACT: Keeping windows and doors closed is a good place to start. But your home could be losing air in a variety of other ways.   

RECOMMENDATION: Energy.gov advises two tactics: Insulate and seal your ducts, as air loss can account for up to 30 percent of your cooling system’s energy consumption. And, insulate your attic and seal cracks in your walls.  

  

So, play it smart this summer. Know how home cooling works—and doesn’t work—to keep you comfortable and use energy efficiently.

Stay Current: Our Top Solar Links

By SolarCity

June 19, 2015

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We’re all about saving you energy, so we’ve rounded up the latest in solar so you don’t have to. 

New reports are out on the surge in solar power globally and in the U.S.: The Guardian covers the record worldwide boost in new solar power that continues massive industry growthand Fortune notes that it was a record quarter for solar panels on home roofs in the U.S.

Australia, too, is in the mix with this report from Yale Environment 360, that notes despite cuts to government solar energy incentives, solar power continues to grow in the country where – already – one in five homes is powered by the sun.

Meanwhile, the world's biggest floating solar power station has been launched in Japan, according to The Japan Times.

Bloomberg Business takes a deep look at Solar Impulse 2, an ultralight aircraft that has solar-paneled wings stretching wider than a Boeing 747 and is about to cross the Pacific Ocean in what looks to be a record-setting flight. The aircraft’s success may impact commercial aviation, Bloomberg reports.

Amazon will buy solar energy for its cloud, after its customers became more vocal about wanting clean energy to power their services, says Fortune.

Finally, a tale on how one public library had to pay only $1 to install solar panels in West Virginia thanks to an initiative spearheaded by a social venture firm that invests in solar for nonprofits in that state. Yes! Magazine has the details.

The Benefits of Community Solar

By SolarCity

June 17, 2015

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Poll after poll after poll has indicated that solar ­- an infinite power source that creates no pollution and requires no water to generate electricity - is the most popular energy choice in America. This rise in support is driven in large part by economics, and we believe is likely to increase as the cost of solar continues to fall. Now another barrier to solar’s growth is being eliminated: the requirement of home ownership.

 

More people than ever can go solar

Thanks to community solar programs like the one SolarCity announced today, even renters can reap the benefits of affordable energy. These programs have made clean, abundant energy accessible when installing solar panels isn’t a viable option. Community solar, sometimes called “solar gardens,” enables people to share solar when they are grid-connected. Subscribers to a community solar program can purchase a portion of the energy produced by the community solar project at a lower kWh rate than charged by their local utility, and in return, they receive a credit on their utility bill. Ask the 100 million renters in the United States if they’d switch to cleaner, more affordable energy given the choice, and the potential impact of community solar becomes clear.

 

Energy cost savings

Participating in a community solar project can have vast economic benefits for residents and municipalities alike. Minnesota’s new community solar program is expected to be the largest in the nation when completed. Cologne , the first local government in the state to require that all of its city facilities’ energy needs will be sourced from solar, is expected to save $1.1 million over the next 25 years. A solar garden in Milton, New Hampshire is being built atop the town’s capped landfill with the sole purpose of selling electricity back to the local utility company. Community members that participate in the solar garden will be eligible for annual rebates.

 

Cleaner, green energy

Solar offers significant positive environmental impact. SolarCity’s average solar power system can offset 178 tons of CO2 over 30 years - that’s like saving the amount of fuel it takes to drive 390,375 miles. Public utility commissions are slowly recognizing this positive impact by supporting policies that enable solar companies to partner with local utility companies that mandate community solar gardens, resulting in a co-existence that offers consumers a choice in their source of power and allows utilities to better manage meeting their energy needs. In 2015, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) received permission from state regulators to offer its customers a community solar option.  In 2013, Minnesota enacted a statute requiring local utility companies to ensure that by 2020 at least 1.5% of their retail electricity sales in the state are produced from solar, and SolarCity is proud to be contributing community solar installations in furtherance of that mandate.

For more info on our new community solar program, click here. 

 

This release contains forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements regarding adoption rates of solar energy, cost of solar energy systems, future project construction, environmental benefits of solar energy, and anticipated savings. Forward-looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results, and will not necessarily be accurate indications of the times at, or by, which such performance or results will be achieved, if at all. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward looking statements. You should read the section entitled “Risk Factors” in SolarCity’s quarterly report on Form 10-Q, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and identifies certain of these and additional risks and uncertainties. We do not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

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SolarCity's mission is to accelerate the mass adoption of clean energy. Follow solar’s progress here.

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