Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.  Begin by looking at the largest energy loads in our Western Montana area, Heating, Cooling, Hot water, Lighting, appliances, and other electronics.

 

Check out Consumer Reports latest How to Tame the Energy Hogs in Your Home.

Considering a solar electric system for your home?

Considering a solar electric system for your home?  Begin with your loads, or energy usage.

According to the US Energy Information Administration conventional lighting can consume 15% of the average home electric usage on a monthly basis, 30% in commercial structures.

I dug around and found some of the early compact florescent bulbs that we have used.  Remember them?  Often we needed special fixtures because the ballast and the bulbs were so large.  And we always needed enlarged harps for our lamps.  Times have change and so have the bulbs.  Now we are actually switching to LED technology.  But what might be right for you?

 

Check out Consumer Reports latest take on CFs vs LEDs…cost, color, consumption and brightness.

 

Compact Florescent Light Bulbs

Vintage Collection of Compact Florescent Light Bulbs. Click here for What’s new.

Equitpment and Battery Room for a Photovoltaic system

Montana Residential Solar Electric System

This is an excellent example of an on grid home that encompasses a battery bank. Equitpment and Battery Room for a Photovoltaic systemThis is an excellent example of an on grid home that encompasses a battery bank. This gives the home owner the best of all worlds. When the grid goes down this system provides power to major appliances, powering these thru what we term a critical load subpanel. These electrical loads typically include the water pump, furnace, communications and lighting. In normal day to day operation the system powers the home and sends any extra power backwards thru your meter, giving a credit toward your power bill. Having a system that provides both on grid feedback and battery backup for grid down times does necessitate additional equipment and cost over a more standard grid tie system.

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

Hamilton Montana Solar Shop

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

This Photovoltaic system is typical of many we install in Western Montana. Here we have 12 -235 watt solar modules which create a 2,820 watt solar array. The modules are secured with a flush mount aluminum racking structure which is tied into the rafters of the roof. Since this is a metal roof we have specialized neoprene gaskets at each penetration to assure no moisture will penetrate the roof.

A 3,000 watt Fronius grid-tied inverter is the third major component of the system. This unit receives the high voltage DC power from the array and converts it to 240 volt AC power which runs our household electrical loads and Sells any excess power back into the grid. The inverter includes circuit breakers and software which synchronizes with the utility grid and protects utility personal.

One interesting and sometimes overlooked fact is that a system such as this needs to see power from the utility grid to operate. If we have a power outage here, our system will go down even if it is good and sunny. Once the power returns the inverter waits five minutes watching for good steady power before it reenergizes.

If you are interested in having power with or without the utility, check out the battery based inverter systems. We also have a relatively new inverter option which provides a limited amount of power to a specific circuit (1,500 watts) when the grid is down and we have sufficient light to produce power.

Check Out this Net Zero Habitat for Humanity Home!

SBS Solar is super excited to show you the latest Habitat for Humanity of Ravalli Co home in Stevensville, Montana.  This is an all-electric home with new energy star appliances, LED lighting and a very well insulated envelope.

With a $17,000 grant from NorthWestern Energy, SBS Solar was able to install a 30 module, 7.5kWh array with a grid tie inverter and an air source heat pump. We installed this system in December and made the final tie into the grid and installed a net meter on January 2nd.

 

As of this writing 5 months later, the system has made more power than what the home used thru the building process.  We utilized electric, milk house, resistant type heaters to keep our workers warm and set the drywall mud.  We eventually installed an air source heat pump in March, after the coldest period of winter.

Now that the family has moved in we will see how well all the systems preform and the actual electric usage. Depending on this power usage, we will see if they are actually netting the big Zero at the end of the year.

It was a lot of fun, and a honor, being part of the design and building of what is possibly the first net zero home in Western Montana.

Thoughts from our Intern: MT Renewable Energy Factoids

Our Energy Intern/Office Manager, Nick Bowman, recently gave this short talk for one of his classes at UM.  We thought it made for an interesting blog post which has some talking points about renewable energy you might not have heard or might find interesting or useful:

Montana, with its huge potential for renewable energy, could do more to use its resources to help strengthen the economy.

Montana is currently ranked 22nd in the nation for the amount of renewable energy produced, yet has enough available resources to become 3rd in the nation if properly developed and invested.

Montana potential for wind is due to its topography. High mountains combined with spacious plains are perfect for developing wind farms. Wind Energy alone has enough power to produce 370 times the amount of electricity used by the state. Here is a great potential for economic growth.

In places where buildings are a barrier, as they decrease the amount of wind which can be harvested, we could use solar power to create renewable energy gains.  We need to increase the monetary incentives for solar installation, particularly in light of the cancelation of energy grants by Northwestern Energy.

Montana is also one of 13 states which can produce energy from geothermal hot spots. The technology of geothermal is constantly improving and needs to be developed in order for this technology to be effective without compromising the environment.

Yet with all this in mind Montanas still spend 4.7 billion dollars to produce fossil fuels every year.

Increased implementation of green energy is only possible through the contribution of the average American who wants to better this great nation. Political activism, alternative energy advocacy and service are among the few ways which people can contribute to helping renewable energy succeed in this struggling economy. I would recommend that, if nothing else, each and every person reminds their representatives that they support sustainable energy.

Let’s make a difference.

Nick Bowman

SBS Solar Welcomes New Office Manager

Hi, my name is Nick Bowman. I started interning at SBS Solar last spring through the Governor’s Energy Internship program. I received my Associate’s degree in Energy Technology form the College of Technology at the University of Montana in 2010 and I am currently pursuing a degree in Geosciences at the University of Montana.

SBS Solar hired me in June to be the full time office manager and I spend most of my time talking to our distributors, tracking and ordering the components needed for our installations, as well as talking to customers who come into our showroom in Missoula.

The best thing about working for SBS Solar is being a part of such an outstanding team.  The quality of our installations really makes me proud to be a part of this company and makes it easy to stand behind our work.  This job has given me a lot of work experience and tools which have developed my professionalism and has made me a better employee.  Also, working for SBS Solar has improved my understanding of renewable energy systems and solar application.

When I am not at work, in the summer, I enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, fishing and exploring the outdoors.  In the winter, I ski and snowboard.  I enjoy watching movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.  I also try to participate in advocating and lobbying for clean renewable energy.

SBS is now SBS-Solar; With a New Website, Too

The advent of heavily reduced rates in solar, the increased interest in solar locally and solar subsidies from utility grants and tax credits means we are putting more time and energy in Solar PV than ever.  As well, we have an additional owner/investor with a heavy interest in Solar.

NEW LOGO: SBS is now SBS-Solar

With this in mind, SBS is changing it’s name to SBS-Solar.  We’re keeping the “SBS’ part (sustainable building systems) and adding the”Solar” for a better representation of what we actually do.  SBS-Solar will have a heavier emphasis on Solar and continue its energy efficiency work in the form of home and business energy audits, third-party verification, consulting, and retrofitting.

In addition to the name change, SBS-Solar  is proud to unveil our new website.

Same URL: www.SBSLink.com.  Totally New Look.

You should find a cleaner feel, more information, and better organization.  We still feature our solar calculator, project examples and staff information. Highlights include an ever expanding solar and efficiency glossary, explanation of our staff certifications and memberships, and a greatly expanded services section including ground source heat pumps.  Expect to see a more robust project area with photo shows and videos, and an expanded glossary in the coming months.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Energy “Smart Home” a Reality with Passive House

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a remarkable new exhibit.   Coined the future of green building technology, the museum has sponsored a “smart home” that has been designed to meet Passive House standards and will seek Passive House certification when placed in it’s permanent location.

The museum had over a hundred partners participate in the design, build, financing and furnishing of the home and garden that is now open to the public to tour on the museum campus.  As typical to Passive House specifications it is extremely air tight, super insulated, contains no thermal bridges, and does not need a conventional furnace.  The home instead is heated and cooled with a small ductless air source heat pump.

Though the home was not seeking well known LEED certification, it was designed with LEED  criteria in mind and has many features that address the overall environmental impact of the building, besides energy usage.  It is also seeking “Green Communities” certification which was developed by Enterprise Community Partners, a national funder of neighborhood redevelopment.

Alexander (Zandy) Sievers, SBS Project Technician
RESNET Home Energy Rater
NorthWest Energy Star Homes Verifier
NAHB Green Building Verifier
T/(406)396-2661, zsievers@sbslink.com

Green Blocks – Final Phase

SBS has had a wonderful and successful time on the side-order list for the City of Missoula’s Green Blocks energy saving program.

We began work back in the Fall of 2010 by getting 2-inters from the University of Montana’s COT Energy Program and got them fully trained on doing a basic solar site assessment.

Our Team ended up doing over 120 assessments over the course of 3-months last fall.  They braved blazing sun, side-ways rain and blowing snow from October – December.  But, it was well worth it.

This spring 2011 marked the final phase of this project.  The City added about 60-90 participants to get to their total count of 300.  We got ourselves another COT Energy intern for this past Spring and he went out and did about 48 more solar site assessments.

Half way through this phase we saw an 18% REDUCTION in the cost to install solar, plus the state and feds decided to KEEP the tax credits in place for renewable, Northwestern Energy gave us a dozen more $6k grants to hand out to customers in good standing, and the MT DEQ revolving loan fund keeps on chugging along (although they are 8-10 weeks out on funding).  To top it off, SBS starting taking credit cards for deposits.

The wet cold spring made for a slow start, and with the unseasonably cool summer, folks were not thinking about solar.  But with the aforementioned incentives, and a little 90 degree weather, we are in full swing.  Over half of the installs we’re doing in July and August came from Green Blocks leads and SBS is now booked out until September.

Thanks to the City of Missoula for this great opportunity!  We’d love to do it again.

If you’re interested in information about solar – get in touch: www.SBSlink.com or info@sbslink.com.