Greetings People, would it be possible to have solar power in a 2 bedroom house/apartment that is inexpensive to install and preffably non permant for a rental?
Easy, high-yield, portable conservation:
1) Compact fluorescents. Install these wherever you have lights that you leave on for a while. Lights that are turned on briefly and then off should still be incandescent since it takes a lot of power (relatively) to start a CF bulb and the short cycles significantly shorten their lives.
2) Low flow shower heads and flow restrictors on faucets. "The Incredible Head" is cheap and available at HD. It is easily installed with a wrench and some Teflon tape and is a really nice aerated showerhead.
3) Dry clothes on a rack or line. Towels will come out as stiff as a board, but that can be cured with a 2-3 minute tumble in the dryer. Line dried sheets smell much better than their machine dried version and are a summer treat at my house.
4) Install timers. If you forget to turn off the bathroom fan or an outdoor light, you can install a timer. These kinds of minor changes can be installed with simple tools and you can ask the people at Big Orange for instruction, if needed.
5) Eliminate phantom loads. Put transformers on switchable outlets so that you can switch off "phantom loads" when you aren't using them. Or just unplug the dang things. Same goes for your cable box and video/audio equipment with LED and time displays.
6) Water heater timers. If you have an electric water heater, install a timer. They are readily available at HD and easy to install. Set it to heat the water before your shower time then shut off so that water isn't unnecessarily reheated and kept hot while everyone is asleep or away from the home.
7) Insulate outlets and switches on exterior walls. I'm not sure what this will save you, but it's really easy and the little insulators cost about $.50 a piece.
Not quite as portable, but still easy:
1) Honeycomb blinds. These can improve the "R-value" of your windows more than replacement with the best quality window and cost much less.
2) Caulk and air-infiltration proofing windows as much as possible. Improving door weatherproofing may be possible, too.
3) If you have a clothes drier, clean out the vent.
4) Close the damper on your fireplace. Keep it closed. Get a decorative fake plant or something.
Can anyone add to this list?
I looked around. It seems to depend on how efficient your electric water heater is and what your use pattern is. Apparently, WHs made after 1998 are considerably more efficient. It's worth pointing out that electric water heaters are more efficient than gas, but that at present rates, gas hot water is cheaper.
OK, so what if you are doing as much of all that as possible and still want to take advantage of power from the sun?
Grow a patio garden. It takes a good deal of energy to rapidly move crops to your grocery store from all corners of the earth. Avoid corn.
Look into solar hot water. For $$, you can buy pre-made, pre-tested panels to heat the water, or for effort, there are many, many methods (check out solargary's site http://www.builditsolar.com for links and ideas), of which I like "batch heating" the best. In my area, electric hot water (85% efficiency, purchased Y2K) without solar assist accounts for about half of my electric bill. Pre-heating via solar can cut that half down to about 10%; solar pre-heating combined with a timer (so that the tank doesn't pull electricity for heating at night) cuts the bill to pennies.
Next to sufficient insulation properly installed, I consider solar hot water one of the great money-savers.
r.e. water heater timers. I forget the exact numbers but several years back I made a simple device to measure water heater power consumption. If you have a little electrical knowledge, you can open the thermostat panel of your hot water heater and wire in an electric clock that will run whenever the water heater switches on. Makes it easy to see savings from various strategies. You'd connect one wire of the clock to one output leg of the thermostat and the other wire to ground. A 1 amp fuse on the hot leg is a good idea also. As I remember, the timer saved only a few pennies a day and if our schedules got out of whack where we took showers at an odd time, we'd experience a shortage of hot water.
I have taken it upon myself to make my apartment as enegy efficient as possible. The electric company Stream has hiked their prices and its crazy what I have been billed. I replaced every single light bulb with LED lightbulbs 5watt, 3 watt and 1.5 watts each, and use a solar pannel in my patio linked to 2 - 12v batteries to power couple of led lamps inside at night time. I have installed outdoor solar lights in my patio (not visible from the outside of the patio fence)to keep it lit at night, its very cool. I have also unpluged everthing I am not using and reconnect a device if I need it. I am switching my PC for a Laptop that can be re-charged via my solar pannel. Sure I have spent almost about 300 bucks on this but I have paid 300 to the energy co in just 2 months and I have had enough of that. Convert as many indoor devices to 12v devices and for the ones that just can be found in 12v alternatives get a power converter from 12v to AC power and add a extra 12v battery for every two devices. You know things like blenders, hair driers, Tvs, Radios, CD Players, pretty soon you will have everything running off batteries and those can always be recharged via solar cell, ocasionaly using the AC power but not depending on it for everything.
This will definetly lower your energy bill and you can take it with you when you move to the next apartment, the key is to make it look neat and un noticable. Get indoor track lighting that come with 12V bulbs or LED arrays and you will soon find this rocks, no more big energy bills.