Families and Solar Energy : Why it Should be Important to You

As the world’s leading energy consumers, the United States gets their energy from several different sources. Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and petroleum produce the most energy consumed in the US. But these resources may not be around forever.

Recently I was approached to write an article on Solar energy. We hear about renewable energy sources on the news every day. Our government is divided on the issue. Should we continue to drill for oil in other areas of the country or offshore or should we invest more money into renewable energy sources such as solar? I am sure you have your own opinion on energy consumption.

I did not realize how important using renewable energy really is until I had a few questions answered by mom and energy expert, Monique Hanis. She is spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington D.C. Monique lives with her family in their solar-powered home in Arlington, VA. Our teenage children appreciate their hot solar showers since they do sports year-round. We like the savings on our utility bills.

Below are the questions I was honored to ask Monique.

-How can families benefit from solar energy?

“Families benefit from solar by saving money, often starting the first day their system is operational. Families that go solar find that they can cut their energy bills dramatically. In most cases, utilities give you credit for extra electricity you generate and feed back to the grid. Cost effective solar water heating systems save money, too. Once their system is installed, the cost of the fuel, sunlight, is free so they are protected from fluctuating fossil fuel costs. Going solar is a smart investment for families to save money. Many families are proud to invest in solar to protect the environment, since solar is a clean, abundant and reliable renewable energy source. Families that invest in solar usually become more conscious of their energy consumption and reduce their energy use as well as improve other efficiency measures.”

-Are solar energy systems for homes affordable?

“Today, solar energy systems for homes are more affordable than ever as prices have come down significantly over the last 5 years and continue to drop as the industry has scaled up – similar to the cell phone and computer sectors. In fact, families across the country in all 50 states are making the smart investment to go solar. My family went solar in 2006 and we’ve received a better return on our investment than my 401(k) fund. More installer companies offer financing options as well. Typically the additional financing cost is more than offset by the savings on their utility bills.”

“There are many ways to go solar, all of which can save customers money. Most commonly, when people think of solar, they think of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on rooftops. These panels convert sunlight to create electricity that can often offset half or more of the electricity needs for a house, depending on the size of the system, location and typical home energy use. Homeowners can harness the power of the sun with a solar water heating system that serves as a cost-effective replacement to conventional electric, natural gas or heating oil water heaters. The growing pipeline of utility-scale solar power plants allows more Americans to benefit from clean, reliable solar energy generated by their local utility – even if they can’t put it on their own property. You can contact your utility to indicate your support for their investment in solar power and to find out what incentives they offer local customers that want to go solar.
Besides cost, most people don’t realize that the various solar technologies are available now, are proven and reliable. Most come with 20+ year guarantees and there are more qualified installers across the nation than ever. Last year, solar was the fastest growing energy source of new installed capacity in the United States. Solar energy equipment is off-the-shelf, ready-to-install and is manufactured by many well-recognized name brand companies.”

-If so, where can families get an affordable solar energy system for their home?

“You can check out the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) website to learn more about going solar. Like any home improvement project, it’s a good idea to get at least three solid proposals from experienced contractors. Check references on past projects and ask about credentials, licenses and membership in trade and business groups. SEIA requires members to sign a code of ethics, pledging to deliver high-quality service and fair and honest rates.”

-Why should we invest in a solar energy system?

“You can see for yourself how solar is benefiting Americans across the country by following the Solar Generation Road Trip (http://www.solargenerationusa.org/). Check out what customers are saying from our road trip to homes, businesses and communities across the country.
There are a number of reasons. The first, as I mentioned is saving money. Going solar is the best way to protect your family from constantly fluctuating fossil fuel prices. “

“Solar systems are also an investment in your children’s future. Unlike energy from fossil fuels sources like coal and natural gas, solar doesn’t require burning anything to produce energy, keeping harmful pollutants out of our air.”

“In some regions of the country, solar provides a reliable backup system if power lines or other supplies are cut. For my family, the solar water heating system (backed up by our old natural gas water heater) keeps us supplied with a plentiful 160 gallons of hot water year-round.
Solar is also a domestically produced energy source that creates jobs here in the United States. The industry employs nearly 100,000 Americans in good-paying jobs, and that figure is expected to grow 26 percent in 2011. “

-Why do you believe that solar energy is important to moms and families?

“Like so many families, my family has to live on a budget. Installing solar made sense as it was a good investment for my family’s budget. As a mom, I feel better knowing that we invested in a clean energy source that reduces pollution that is harmful to our children and our planet. An added benefit has been that my kids have become interested in solar energy and sustainability in general. In fact, my son is completing his environmental science advanced placement class in high school. It is a great way to learn about issues of sustainability and environmental stewardship, major issues facing this generation for years to come – and ones with growing career opportunities as well. My husband and feel like we set an example for our kids: instead of buying a modest new car in 2006, we instead invested in solar PV and solar water heating. “

Her answers certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of solar energy. Would you invest in a solar energy system for your home? Do you believe that the United States should invest more in renewable energy research? Please leave your answers in the comments.

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