Plastic pollution is a global problem. Every year, 350 million tons of plastic waste is created and disposed of. 19-23 million tons of that have leaked into and polluted nearly every aquatic ecosystem on earth, including lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Microplastics, extremely small pieces of plastic debris, are found in every ocean and on every continent, including remote islands and in both polar regions, posing a major threat to ecosystems due to their direct and indirect potentials an environmental pollutants. When plastic particles break down into microplastics, they gain new physical and chemical properties, increasing the risk that they will have a toxic effect on organisms. And the larger the number of potentially affected species and ecological functions, the more likely it is that toxic effects will occur. Additionally, micropastics remain in the ecosystem for 100 to 1,000 years. If that isn’t worse than you thought, I don’t know what is.
I could go on and on about the impact of microplastics on virtually every single living system on earth, but my goal is to get everyone to recognize there is an issue, and to start doing something about it. I’m assuming, for the rest of this article, that we all agree that most forms of plastics and our excessive use and disposal of plastics is rapidly becoming a global environmental disaster that needs to be immediately addressed.
It is important to note that less than 10% of plastic waste generated globally has ever been recycled simply because there is too much of it. Waste management experts say that the problem with plastic is that it is expensive to collect and sort. Yet, more and more products switch to plastic packaging each year, adding to the problem with the global plastic packaging market on track to reach $412 billion in value in 2024.
An Environmental Defense Fund report found that almost everything at our grocery stores contains some plastic packaging (71% of items in the produce department were packed in plastics. Do bananas really need to be wrapped in plastic?
The more I hear, learn, and see for myself the effects of microplastic waste on ecosystems, the more I try to avoid buying plastic in the first place. I found this task to be much easier said than done. After having tried to eliminate my plastic use, I discovered it simply cannot be done. Instead of feeling defeated, I merely switched tactics to reducing my plastic use footprint.
The average American uses and throws away 110 pounds, or roughly 50 kilograms, of single-use plastic every year. By following just five of the plastic-reducing tips below, we can reduce 16 lbs. (15%) of plastic waste each year, easily, and with little or no inconvenience. Plus, we will be creating a healthier environment and lifestyle, and we will save money in the process.
Here are some easy and achievable steps I started with to reduce my use of plastics. First and foremost, became more aware of all of the unnecessary plastic packaging.
- I choose items packaged with the least amount of plastic and/or buy in bulk.
- Stopped buying single use plastic drinks. I choose aluminum or glass whenever possible. Aluminum is indefinitely recyclable. More than 75% of aluminum gets recycled.
- I ditched all grocery store plastic bags and use the cloth bags instead. All of my cloth bags I got as schwag for free. Bonus.
- I’m reusing the plastic containers I already have. Ex: refilling spray bottles with natural cleaning recipes.
- I skip the straw. I found it laughable that a paper straw I got the other day came in a plastic wrapper.
There are dozens more, but just start with these five suggestions. If we all start making small changes, over time, we can ween ourselves off of single-use plastic without the withdrawal symptoms. If you are an eco-warrior, please visit https://www.solarponics.com/reduce-plastic-consumption to see more ways to reduce or eliminate your single-use plastic consumption.
Most solar systems use traditional rooftop solar panels. While these offer excellent energy savings, they can look clunky and noticeable on your roof. New technology has led to solar shingles, which function as solar panels but provide a sleeker, more low-profile, integrated look. But are solar shingles worth the investment?
What Are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles are an alternative to traditional solar panels that blend in more seamlessly with your roof. Like solar panels, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity for your home. Solar shingles are categorized as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), or solar products that replace conventional building materials such as roofs or glass windows. BIPV solutions reduce building material costs while providing renewable energy.
Shingles aren’t as readily available as traditional panels, but there’s a growing interest in them. The DOW Chemical Company introduced solar shingles to the U.S. market in 2011. They became more popular when Tesla debuted its solar roof in 2016. Since then, more solar panel companies and installers have begun offering solar shingles for residential installations.
Solar shingles resemble standard asphalt roof shingles but vary in composition. These shingles contain thin layers of photovoltaic (PV) sheets that cover a glass base. They can either cover your existing roof or replace it. Just like your roof, shingles are designed to withstand the elements, including heavy rain, wind, and hail. Th average size of solar shingles is typically 12″ x 86″. They are designed to cover or replace traditional asphalt shingles. These solar shingles use copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells.
You’ll need to match your home’s energy needs to your solar system’s power output. High-quality mono panels can produce more than 400 watts per panel, while solar shingles generate 13–70 watts each. You’ll need more solar roof tiles to match a single solar panel adequately. Depending on their output, it could take 20–30 shingles to provide as much power as one high-powered solar panel.
Lifespan and Warranty Coverage
Solar panels can last more than 25 years with the right upkeep. High-efficiency solar panels typically have 25-year warranties to match this life span. Solar shingles last around 20 years. Similar to panels, solar manufacturers may include two separate clauses for durability and power production. Your power production guarantee covers your shingles for 20 years, but the durability coverage may extend through your home’s lifetime.
Solar Shingles Costs
Solar shingles are more expensive than the cost of installing solar panels. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a standard 5-kilowatt (kW) solar panel system costs around $15,500. Solar shingles cost $20–$30 per square foot, so you could pay between $36,000 to $54,000 for an 1,800-square-foot roof. This is an estimated cost for an entire roof installation. The price may vary based on how many shingles are needed to run your home and your shingle configuration.
Solar shingles allow homeowners to benefit from solar energy without bulky panel installations. However, the added aesthetic is rarely worth the cost. Being a fairly new technology, solar shingle technology and efficiency should improve rapidly in the next few years. So I would not install solar shingles at this point. As with any new technology, there are those that want to have the uniqueness of the latest and greatest, regardless of the cost. For most of our financially responsible clients, solar shingles are not yet desirable.
By Frank Scotti – Solarponics – June, 2023 5 MINUTE READ
Being a swimming pool owner should be an enjoyable experience. You should not have to think of your pool as a money sink hole. That’s why I am sharing four relatively simple and cost-effective steps a swimming pool owner can take to reduce energy, save money, and add comfort. Those four things include; setting your pump to run during the cheapest energy hours, install a variable speed swimming pool pump, install a heat pump water heater, and switch to a salt-water chlorinator. Sound complicated or expensive? It’s not. Start here.
Be aware of the cost of energy at different times of day. Typically, there will be a peak time where energy costs are extremely high. For PG&E customers, peak rates are between 4PM and 9PM. Energy costs at peak hours costs $0.50 per kWh as of June 2023. Non-peak energy rates are $.36 per kWh. Running your pump during only non-peak hours is a solid strategy. For example, set your pool pump timers to start at 8AM and stop at 4PM, for an 8-hour pool pump run time. For a 12-hour run time, set the start time to 4AM and stop time at 4PM.
The next thing you can do is invest in a variable speed pool pump vs. an older single speed pool pump. A pool pump is your main source of ongoing energy costs, so it is important to maximize efficiency.
A single speed pool pump is an induction motor that runs at a single speed, typically at a high start-up speed, more than is necessary once the pump is primed. A variable speed pump is a permanent magnetic motor that has a high efficiency rating. Shown at right is the Pentair Intelliflo3 Variable Speed and Flow Pool Pump. I saw about an 80% savings after I installed the Intelleflow3.
A variable speed pump can ramp up to 3450 RPMs at startup, and power down to as low as 500 RPM for continuous operation, saving on average of 80% in energy use, with annual energy savings of about 75% on average.
Variable speed pool pumps are also quieter, as low as 45 decibels, about four times quieter than traditional pumps, an added bonus.
The Pentair IntelliFlo also comes pre-programmed with eight speed settings and a build-in timer to ensure the pump runs at optimum speed and duration.
When it comes to pool heating, electric heaters are the most expensive and inefficient. Gas pool heaters are more efficient over electric. However, with skyrocketing gas costs, gas-powered pool heating is becoming less popular. In addition, gas is not a sustainable resource.
A heat pump water heater is currently the most energy efficient, cost-efficient, and resource-efficient pool heater on the market. A heat pump pool water heater is about the size of a home air conditioning unit. The unit extracts heat from the air to heat water, with cold air as a by-product, making them four to seven times more efficient over gas water heating. The energy needed to run a heat pump pool heater can also be 100% offset with solar energy. Heat pumps also last longer.
Gas pool heating pumps cost around $200 to $400 per month to operate vs. $100 to $200 per month for a heat pump pool heater with the same results. A heat pump pool heater’s 10-year energy savings can exceed $13K.
As with anything, however, there are some tradeoffs. Heat pump pool heaters heat slower. They typically need a 40 to 50 amp power source. Heat pump water heaters do not work well in low temperatures (<45 degrees). However, to be fair, heating a swimming pool when it is 45 degrees outside will cost a bundle using any energy source. So, typically homeowners winterize their pools in the colder months, turning off heaters and reducing pump run time, saving energy and money.
A lesser-known way to reduce costs, and add comfort is to install a salt water chlorinator. A salt water chlorinator uses salt to make pure chlorine, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals. After the chlorine has disinfected your pool, it reverts back into salt and the cycle repeats. Salt water pools don’t irritate the eyes or skin and there is no smell or odor. Swimsuits and towels will not get bleached out by the natural chlorine. Salt water chlorinators are also affordable and easy to install.
The average sized swimming pool uses about 100lbs. of chlorine (tablets or granular) every year, costing roughly $700 per year. The payback is about four years. However, the added comfort is priceless.
Rebates and incentives seem to come into and out of play throughout the year for heat pump water heaters and variable speed pumps. Always search available rebates before making any purchase decision. Several sites track and list existing rebates. They include; theswitchison.org, pge.com, energy.gov, sce.com, energycenter.org.
If you live on California’s central coast and one of these technologies makes sense for your situation, visit solarponics.com or call Solarponics at (805) 466-5595 for more details and to get a free quote. Until then, have a happy and safe swim season.
Conserve Energy Future – Rinkesh
We are traditionally used to using earth bricks, concrete, and wood in construction. They have been and continue to be used in everyday construction, meaning the continued destruction of trees for timber, and the mining of resources to produce cement for binding sand, gravel, and bricks. #1 is bamboo. Bamboo is considered one of the best eco-friendly building materials. It has an incredibly high self-generation rate, with some being reported to have grown up to three feet within 24 hours.
Read More. #11 and #13 surprised me.
Solar panels can lower your electric bill, but certain promises are too good to be true. Here’s how to tell.
“The federal solar tax credit is going away soon.” FALSE. The 30% federal tax credit is valid thru 2032.
“There’s a special program ending soon.” FALSE. THERE ARE NO SPECIAL PROGRAMS.
“Your utility is going to raise electricity prices XX% each year.” This is more true in California. PG&E rates have risen drastically. But across the US, many municipality utility rates are steady.
“Put solar on your roof for free!” FALSE. This almost certainly doesn’t mean free but rather, no money down. You’ll still have a monthly payment after that.
Did you know that the average U.S. household uses 156 gallons of water per day? Californians use an average of 48 gal/day of water. That’s one third of the national average use. Something to be proud of. So, this article is more for those outside of California, although all of us could always save a little bit more water.
California is experiencing climate shifts that bring more extreme weather, resulting in a massive swing of our driest three years on record moving into some of the wettest weeks in recent history. Despite these storms, we are still in a drought. We must come together to change the way we think about and use water. Simple actions we can take right now will help save water in a big way.
GET WATER-SAVING TIPS. CLICK HERE.