Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Solarize Missoula Update

Caroline Lauer with Climate Smart Missoula, quoted in the Missoula Independent in 2015 says Missoula is considered a pilot city for the Solarize campaign, a grassroots movement to increase home solar installations and educate interested residents across the city.

“There’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and it just shows all of the dedication that community leaders have toward making Missoula a more sustainable place.”

Here are some fun installations from Solarize Missoula 2016.  Join Them!!.

Missoula’s City Life Community Center soaks up the sun

Northwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panelsNorthwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panels

City Life Community Center is getting into the energy-efficiency game after landing a $50,000 grant to install 72 solar panels atop the center’s roof.

City Life director Bob Grace was joined by 10 volunteers and a crew from SBS Solar on Saturday to install the 23,400-watt solar array. Nine tons of ballast ensures the panels won’t leave the roof. The only change to the physical roof was two small holes drilled to conduit the energy into the building.  (Read the entire article at

IF you have 15 minutes and want to see the future, check out this video!

This article sums up where are heading with our Industry.  We are proud to say we are working with the SolarEdge inverters and have been for some time.  If you are interested in more fun information , click on the Video link to see a great 15 minute look at the future. Who of us will be driving the first Google or Apple car on your block?




Ground Mounts Versus Roof Mounted Solar Electric Modules

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ground mounts versus roof mounted solar electric modules?

Roof Mounted solar photovoltaic modules have the advantages of low cost and height, generally above nearby obstacles and harms way.  This economical method utilizes the trusses of the structure to secure the modules.  However the roof is not ideal in every case.  Perhaps there are significant obstructions to sun exposure on the roof, such as nearby trees, buildings, or terrain.  Or the roof itself has obstructions that will interfere with full sun exposure, such as sky lights and chimneys.  Remember even the shadow from a deciduous tree limb in winter is substantial enough to reduce the output of a solar module.  In these cases a ground mount might be the preferred option.  Advantages here include ease of snow removal and variety in the location of the array.  We typically work with an excavator and pour concrete to secure the mount which increase the total cost of the system. Electric code also requires a fence surrounding the array to restrict access. Give Dan a call to discuss ideal installation for your solar electric system.

Economical LED lighting is finally here!

Energy efficient LED LightingWe have finally arrived at point in time when LED’s are at equal or less cost of the compact fluorescent, curly bulbs.  This is a major achievement as LED’s last much longer, are again, much more efficient than compact fluorescents and contain no mercury which requires special handling when recycling.

When we started working and living with solar systems 30 years ago we had no choice but to use incandescent bulbs.  Mr. Edison’s revolutionary bulb though was eight times better at producing heat than it is at producing light.  So if you want to keep that pump house from freezing or warm those chickens you have the right bulb.  But otherwise it’s time to cycle these antiques out of your home.

When compact fluorescents arrived on the scene, we were a
ble to order these at 12 volts DC and these bulbs lasted for decades.  Then they became available at 120 volts AC, the kind of power we all use in out US homes.  Then overseas manufactures reduced the cost and quality of some compact fluorescents.  I have had feedback from too many that CF’s only last a year or so.  Bummer, as the major manufactures such as Sylvania and GE still produce CF’s with excellent lifespans.  Our local utility was even moved to purchase a cheap brand of bulbs and send them out at no cost to the consumer. Never mind that the CF’s embedded energy to produce makes them a negative even after their increased efficiency.

So long live the LED.  Maybe these will be nick named as more true “Obama Bulb” as the times, they are a changing.

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.