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Celebrating “solar energy month” in NC

June is solar energy month! This makes a lot of sense because it’s one of the most productive months for the solar technologies in our house.  It’s also time for backyard barbeques and a lot of other fun stuff that reminds this blogger why the summer issues of magazines are so short.  It’s no fun to be inside at a keyboard.  So in celebration, I decided to share some photos and images that celebrate the various ways you can use solar energy in your house.  There’s something here for every house and every budget!

June is a great time to use the solar clothes dryer.  This little piece of technology is going to set you back about $20 at Home Depot and will require 5 minutes of your time to hang clothes on it.  Summer is the best time to dry clothes outside because it’s really sunny and the days are long.  I can dry 2 or 3 loads on a single sunny Saturday if I focus.  In the winter it usually takes all day to dry one load.

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A retractable clothesline is easy to install and practically invisible when you’re not using it.

Clothes hanging out in the yard to dry show that you care about the environment enough to spend 5-10 minutes doing something about it.  Consider it a status symbol.  It’s not likely that your Asheville neighbors will complain, but if they do, it’s a great opportunity to explain what gigantic quantities of electricity the clothes dryer uses.  A lot of people seriously don’t know.

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Hang your clothes out with the same pride you’d park a Prius in the driveway.

And while we’re talking laundry… June is one of our best months for producing solar hot water.  The photo below is the temperature sensor in my hot water tank mid-afternoon today.  I have a 75 gallon tank of 137 degree water, and the ability to make more all afternoon.  This morning I washed a bunch of towels and sheets on hot.  I can take 2 showers a day if I want to, and since I work outside a lot that happens pretty often.  Maybe later I’ll fill up the soaking tub.

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It’s a great day to sanitize the dishes and laundry!

You’d think that June would be a good time to forget that you’re living in a passive solar house.  But you’d be wrong.  June is actually one of the best months to be passive solar.  Our large South-facing windows are completely shaded this time of year, but the sun is still really bright in the southern sky, so there’s abundant natural light inside.  While it’s still getting cool at night, our thermal mass floors keep the house cooler during the day.  We haven’t had to turn on the AC yet.  Most years we make it until the last week of June before the humidity gets the better of us.  I’m loving having the windows open.

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The South elevation of our house totally in shade.

In this photo you can see a tiny sliver of direct sunlight coming in the tiny East facing window and landing on the corner chair.  But the shaded South-facing windows are still so bright that you can hardly get a photo to come out.

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No need to turn on the lights inside while we walk around enjoying the cool concrete floors.

All of the energy models said that March and April should be our best months for PV production, but for the past two years it’s been May and June.  PV does produce more in cooler weather, but the longer days and still reasonably cool temperatures in the late spring/early summer have been working out for us.  Here’s a screen shot of the app that allows me to track PV production from my phone.  14.6 hours of sunlight today makes me very happy.  For our system, any day when we can produce over 30 kWh is a great production day.  You can see that’s the norm in June unless it’s rainy.

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Since August 2011 we’ve produced 15,668 kWh.  That’s enough electricity to offset what we’ve purchased from the utility almost exactly.  Usually we’re net-buyers in the winter and we’re about even in July and August.  April, May, June, September, and October are the months when we can call ourselves net-producers of electricity.

I hope that while you’re out enjoying the sun this summer, you can give some thought to the ways we can use it for free energy!

Copyright 2013 Amy Musser

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