Monthly Archives: November 2012

Installing Solar — Official Steps 1 & 2

Gonna be quick today. Thanksgiving destroyed my promise of blogging at least once a week!

 

I heard back from the solar company yesterday (read my previous blog to catch up). They brought up a good point to consider before you start on the journey toward green energy. Find out first what your neighborhood POA will need to approve placing solar panels on your house.

 

I am going to list this “officially” as step 1

 

Step 1: Feel out your POA (if you have one). Find out if they have approved any in the past, if so contact that homeowner for help. If not, ask them what they will need you to submit. The Solar Installer can submit the plans in two different forms:

 

(1)    They can do simple sketches and provide photos of the panels. With my Solar Company, this service is free.

(2)    They can get an Artist Rendition from an Architect drawn up. I was told that this could run $400 to $500.

 

I would not recommend paying for an Architect unless your board has already approved other solar installations – it is just too big of a gamble (unless you have that kind of money to throw around).

 

Luckily, my POA told me that the sketch and photos are fine! Since I did not know that this was Step 1 at the beginning (and contacted the Solar Company first), I have gone back to the Solar Installer and told him to move forward with the drawings. Step 2 will now be officially listed as:

 

Step 2: Contact your local Solar Installer and find out if your house is a candidate for solar and have them draw up sketches.

 

I was also surprised about where they want to install my panels – turns out it is on a different roof than I expected. I have a couple large pine trees on the south side of my property, so I can either cut them down or install the panels on the north side and angle them south (if that makes any sense). If you want to find out if you are a candidate on your own then spend a Saturday looking periodically at your roof. You need to have a roof that gets a lot of sun between 11:00 and 4:00 (that is where your panels would need to be installed, so make sure you are comfortable with that).

 

He also suggested putting panels in my backyard. I really don’t know how I would feel about that. It would be shielded from my neighbors by my fence, but more susceptible to vandalism. Not to mention, how do you landscape around solar panels?

 

Steps 3 & 4 will likely be submitting the plans to the POA and meeting with the Solar Installer, but I am not official on that yet.

 

Stay tuned

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Down with the power! (bill)

In case I have not made it clear, I am a card carrying member of a red state. I believe in self-reliance, small central government, and local governing. There is a common misconception about us Republicans, and I have to credit the Democrats for good marketing on this. Republicans have been labeled as anti-environment, and Democrats have cornered the “green” movement.

 

This is simply not true. Republicans want to help out our world as much as anyone else – we do have children and we want to pass on to them a healthy planet. But we are also pragmatic about it. We understand that you cannot convert our worldwide dependence on fossil fuels overnight. You have to give businesses incentive to innovate new technology.

 

And when I say “incentive” I do not mean tax dollars. You cannot throw money at problem and hope it goes away – and government should not be investing in private companies. Tax reduction to industries that promote Green Energy can be beneficial, but “incentives” to a company equates to “Sales” not subsidies.

 

The more people become aware of green technologies (and how they can use them) they will buy them – and the more people buy them, the cheaper they become. So government should invest in educating consumers on how they can benefit from new technologies and what technologies are available to them.

 

Getting off my soap box, Solar energy has been around for a very long time, but only recently has it become affordable (and only then through tax incentives). At my home in South Carolina, we have been moving toward living in a Greener way. It is not that we have become dirty hippies. We are working middle class people that are starting to see the damage that is being done to both our planet and our bodies.

 

Mass produced meat and vegetables are full of chemicals, steroids, and pesticides. Twice a week, the garbage truck roars through my neighborhood picking up tons of trash – that gets dumped in landfills. And in my part of the world, there is no curbside recycling. It is as if convenience has outweighed respect for both our planet and our bodies.

 

So, a couple years ago, we decided to change our habits. But in our case, we wanted to both save the planet and the cash in our pockets. I have a large garden (that gets bigger every year), which produces about half of our vegetables – and I don’t use chemicals on it. We started composting, and recycling. Between those two things, our trash has been reduced to a little over a bag a week. Yes, we have to run to the dump every other week to recycle, but we were able to cancel our trash service.

 

So what is the next step? That is the question I have been asking myself for a couple years. We have been talking about buying a grass feed cow (not a live one), and I am on a list to get an Ossabaw Hog (if you don’t know what that is, look it up and get in line – they are very hard to get). Eating organic meat is certainly better for our health, but what about the health of our world?

 

Then it happened. A couple months ago, my wife opened the bill from our electric company. It was the one from the height of the Carolina summer and despite our conscious effort to reduce our usage, the bill was very high. That’s when it hit me, I could not remember the last time I thought about alternative energy.

 

On my walk with my dog the next morning, I noticed two fairly new solar panels on a house down the street. They were nothing big, probably just one for an attic fan and the other for their hot water heater, but it got me thinking.

 

At first I was just thinking about switching the house to gas, but that would require a lot of new appliances and gas lines – and it is still a fossil fuel. I would have to go with propane since natural gas is not available in my neighborhood, so there would not be much of a cost savings.

 

But those two little solar panels get my mind going, and thank god for Google. I have spent the last couple months doing research and it seems that the newer panels are both more efficient and less expensive. So yesterday, I took the first step. Since I have never met anyone that has taken these steps, I decided I need to chronicle it here to hopefully help others in the future.

It turns out that South Carolina is second only to Arizona on the amount of sunshine each year, so I am in a good spot. There are still other concerns that need to be address before I find out if I am eligible to actually get the system, but here is what has happened so far.

 

I found a local certified installer in my area. All I had to do was Google “Solar Panel Installation Bluffton”. The company is called DASolar Energy. I think they are just a referral service that does the leg work for local installers. They have a form to fill out on their website – it is pretty easy. From my research, I knew I was looking for a 5 kW system. I am still unsure whether they plug into my local power company or if the system would be “off the grid”

 

On grid systems would tie into your current power meter. The meter would run forward if the solar panels were not producing enough power (like at night) and the meter would run backwards when the panels were producing too much power (like at noon while you are at work). So basically, you could still draw from the power company when you need it and give your excess power back when you don’t. In an ideal situation, your meter would net zero and you would not have a power bill, or you produce too much energy, and they would actually pay you!

 

I don’t think that my power company has that ability, so I think I am looking at getting an off the grid system. Hopefully I am wrong.

 

Today, they contacted me via email to verify some facts about my house. They use Google and Bing maps to get an aerial view of the house and how it is situated in relation to the sun, so they asked me to verify that the aerial views were actually my house, and they asked me about any trees that might obstruct the sunlight.

 

In a separate email, I received financing information and a preliminary cost break down. After fed and state tax credits it was under $8000 which was a lot better than what I was reading online.

 

Assuming my house qualifies, the next step is getting the installer out to look at the house and go over all the particulars.

 

Keep in mind that I live in a neighborhood, so I am also going to have to get approval from the board. Some neighborhoods have not been friendly to solar, so before I even began I felt out a couple board members. They seemed to be okay with it, but said they needed drawings, so we will see what happens.

 

Stay tuned for details

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Considering the American Experiment

It has been two-hundred and twenty-three years since George Washington was elected the first president of these United States, and he opposed the formation of the our two-party system, and not surprisingly we are as divided as a nation as Jefferson and Hamilton were on Washington’s cabinet. The state of the American Experiment is nearly as it was in the founding – with one third leaning one way, one third leaning another and one third not caring at all about the freedom that has been handed to them.

The actual percent of voters that failed to cast ballots in the recent election was at 42.5% which means that more than the third, third, third rule failed to make it to the polls. This leads me to ask the proverbial ‘why?’

Beyond the normal arguments of race and other demographics, I see an even deeper meaning behind the lack of support for the two candidates. For the left, the answer is simple. The voters were discouraged by the state of our nation’s economy. And while they did not want to vote for the opposition, they did not want to vote for their party either – ten million of them.

For the right, there are many opinions. Mine is a very disturbing notion. I believe that the right’s failure to win this election is based on one of the principals that should have been eliminated from our political discourse long ago. I believe that many of the voters on the right made the conscious decision not to vote due to the candidate’s religion.

I place absolutely no weight on a candidate’s religious views, but I am the minority in that notion. Whether we like it or not, our nation is grounded in Christianity and has been since it’s founding. Though there has been much debate about the religion of our forefathers, it is widely believed that Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin (among others) were all Deists – the religion that I adopted in my twenties (much to my parent’s dismay). To my knowledge, and especially in the modern age, there has never been a president that professed any religion other than Christianity, and I believe that in and of itself was the tipping point of our recent election.

Prejudices of all kinds run through our nation like a plague on our freedoms. From race to religion, our decisions are not based in logic or informed reason but by the color of skin and professed beliefs. As such logic and informed reason have been reduced to short and provocative tag lines. Indeed our entire political discourse has been battered down and hammered out to form the perfect sound bite – the discussions of our future reduced to the length of a tweet, and all issues shortened to a hashtag.

Poetic words and spine tingling rhetoric about the goals and direction of our nation no longer exist in our get-it-now society. Even our communications with each other have been minimized to text messages containing bastardized words with no inflection.

In a world where a political endeavor can be squashed by one single slip of the tongue, is it any wonder that only the silver-ist, forked tongued among us even bother to run? The noble leaders of the past, whether real or romanticized, no longer exist.

The flowing words of Reagan and Lincoln would never fall on the ears of today’s voters. Reagan’s admonishment of big government would no longer read: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Instead we would get #nosubsidize or #taxit, or the new media would ignore the first line and claim that Reagan called for more taxes and subsidies and his words would be used against him in some disgusting political ad.

By the same logic Lincoln’s campaign would be reduced to #fourscore and #freeslaves.

Perhaps our discourse has progressed. Information is packed and sold in short bursts that are easy to follow with the inundation of our modern world. But I believe we all suffer from it and negativity flows through every aspect.

The issues of today that stir up our national debate are very disturbing. While we struggle through one of the worst economies in history, we still bicker over the rights of the unborn. This issue has been debated for generations and yet still it is used as a billy club by both sides. It will never be settled, never be quelled, and on my deathbed I will be able to turn on whatever device we use in the future and there will be yet another stupid comment from some stupid politician being used as fodder for either the Life or Choice side.

This issue though brings up what should be the main issue of any campaign. Follow the cash and you will discover the values. This is true with individuals, corporations and governments. Where we spend out money tells us what kind of entity we are.

Should governments fund behaviors that some deem repulsive? And that is the question that crosses the gamut of our political landscape. As more and more dollars flow toward the government, those that are footing the bill should have a choice about where those dollars are spent.

To force a Catholic to pay for birth control which is contrary to their beliefs is not the role of government. Am I to believe that providing free condoms is buried somewhere in the Constitution? That Government funded abortions are my responsibility to pay for out of my tax dollars? That a hundred and fifty year war on a plant is the best way to protect our nation? That subsidizing the lazy is the road to prosperity?

The upside of our recent election is that the government will remain stagnate. Our leader’s desire to belittle his opponents and the House’s inability to compromise will leave our government in a stalemate and as a consequence, they will not be able to pass more laws to limit our freedom.

Our growing national debt must be handled before we are reduced to rioting like other nations across the sea – the last time Americans argued with anything other than words, hundreds of thousands were left dead over a four year period and it took twelve years after that to put the nation back together.

Our tax code is irrevocably broken – stretched to the point where no one really knows how it works and nearly everyone is guilty of tax fraud because they do not understand it. Simpler ways have been proposed to fix or replace it, but all remain jammed up in committee and used for cannon fodder during elections to discredit those that support real tax reform. I want to vomit when I hear the ads telling people that so and so wants to raise sales taxes by 23% but fails to admit that in doing so the income tax would be eliminated.

The Fair Tax is by far the best solution for true tax reform that has been written. Everyone I talk to about it ends up saying ‘that makes so much sense. Why hasn’t it passed?’ And though I am a true believer in the Fair Tax, I would even support the Bank Transaction Tax or the Flat Tax so long as it eliminated the current tax code. The income tax has been so corrupted by years upon years of special deductions and so-called reform. All that remains is a horrible system that impugns success.

My mind is so weary from hearing about how the rich need to pay a little more when millions of people pay nothing at all and yet we still send them refunds – the word refund implies that you paid something in to begin with. What happens to our nation when those that are not paying anything at all finally out number those of us who do?

In the end, we re-elected the president. And unlike last time, I am wishing him the best. I truly hope that he is right because if he is not, we may not be able to repair the damage. As I look around the globe, I see the path of the European style government that our leader hopes we will follow, and I do not like the outcomes I am seeing. However, we are Americans and if anyone can pull it off, it is us. The Right is hoping upon nothingness that our leader will move toward the center in this term, but their hopes are just as full as the hope promised in 2008.

I will end with the words of Reagan, since he said it best. “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.”

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