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So far Nicole has created 124 blog entries.

Can I add more solar panels to my existing system?

There are many factors to consider in upgrading a system. Panel size, inverter capacity, and space are going to be the biggest deciders. As far as possible, stick with the same manufacturer. But since brands come and go, it isn’t unheard of to mix and match components – as long as the voltage is compatible and can be balanced it can generally work. Not the best scenario, but if options are limited as far as what’s available, it is possible. However, if the panels are too unbalanced, they will only perform as good as the lowest wattage panels. For example: Say you had a system installed 5 years ago comprised of 200W panels and you are looking to now increase the [...]


Charge your electric car with solar panels

Solar panels and electric cars are like two peas in a pod. One gives you the ability to travel emissions-free and the other allows you to power your life without spending a fortune. Sounds like a win-win! If you’ve already purchased an electric car, odds are you’ve seen a pretty solid increase in your monthly electric bill and are looking for a way to lower those costs. You’re no longer paying for gas but you’ve basically swapped some of the cost by paying more for your electricity. And if you’re just starting to research electric cars, it’s a great idea to count all the costs involved before jumping in. That’s where a solar panel system comes in – depending on [...]


Pick the perfect backpack

Lugging books around the campus is a big part of any typical school day (or hike!) The best backpacks are designed to make sure there’s enough support so that there’s a lot less pain and strain. So what exactly should you look for in a comfortable, ergonomically-designed backpack? Here are a few tips to stay healthy and comfortable as you (or your kids) pack up: It’s all about the straps The key to comfort is always adjustability so make sure you only purchase a backpack that has adjustable straps. Some packs come with waist straps in addition to the standard shoulder straps. Depending on the weight being carried, the pack can slide or sag if the straps are too loose, causing too much pressure [...]


What Questions Should You Ask Before Installing Solar?

Before you decide to get a quote for solar panels, there are some important questions you should ask any company you are considering hiring. Think of it as an interview – after all, they will be working on your home, so get to know what the company is about and what their reputation is as installers. In addition to general questions the contractor’s website or brochure may answer, be sure to ask: Are you a licensed solar contractor and how long have you been in business? Make sure anytime you hire a contractor to work on your home that he is licensed by the state and county/city he is working in and also that he is bonded and insured. Ask [...]


How Does Solar Help the Environment?

When fossil fuels are burned for power, toxic gases are released into the air. Those toxic gases build up as pollution (yuk!) and contribute to climate changes such as global warming. Also, some fuels such as coal and oil require mining, drilling, and fracking, which can leave the land stripped of plants and trees along with a whole other list of major issues that are harmful. On the other hand, the sun is a natural power source and solar panels are able to easily capture clean sunlight that can be turned into useable power. No burning or toxic gases needed! The more people switch their homes and businesses to run on solar power, the fewer fossil fuels are needed. Which [...]


Do I Need Batteries for My Solar Panel System?

Whether or not you’re following the world’s first solar-powered airplane trip around the world, you would likely agree that it’s impressive for two guys to circumnavigate the globe in what amounts to a flying phone booth without a drop of fuel.  Solar Impulse (the name of the plane) landed in Mountain View last week amid very little fanfare. After it flies over the US and the Atlantic Ocean, the voyage should be completed this year. Piccard and Borschberg (the pilots) would have finished already if not for bad weather in Asia and damaged batteries in Hawaii, which took months to repair. The plane has four lithium batteries, about one-fourth of the experimental aircraft’s total weight. The batteries provide power through [...]


Baseball Season and Solar Power

Ring Around the Posey Buster, that is. His fourth finger, that is. This year, that is.  Yes, the San Francisco Giants began play/work Monday morning in Milwaukee with perennial all-star Buster Posey behind the plate for his 8th season. And he’s only 29, and he’s signed here through 2021. I know you know that, but it’s always reassuring to see it in print. Long-term high performance looks good on paper, and not just on the financial page. Which reminds me: The Giants have the right tools and materials for a great season, a reasonable shot at their 4th championship in 7 years; almost mythical given the parity in MLB these days. They’ve done it by spending reasonably and being excellent. [...]


How Solar Saves Money

Solar is not just a phase – it’s an aggressively growing alternative as more and more people realize that they can save money every month by using solar panels. Save money and do something good for the planet? Where do I sign up?! How it works Traditional power: your home or business is connected to the main power grid (which you pay a connection fee for) and you buy power directly from a utility company. The utility company dictates the rate you pay depending on the time of use or amount used. Solar power: your home or business is generally connected to the main power grid (which you pay the utility company a connection fee for) and you generate your [...]


Spring Planting and Compost

We’ve had a nice bit of rainfall lately but it’s starting to get nice and warm as spring gets closer. And with all that sunshine and rain, flowers and new plants are popping up all over the place – which means it’s time to get the gardens going. Whether you grow your own organic fruits and vegetables, or just stick with roses and hydrangeas, all plants and trees can benefit from compost. If you’re thinking of making your own, it’s so easy to do and is also one of the best things you can do for your plants. Compost has so many environmental benefits including adding important nutrients and microbes to the soil, saving water by helping the soil hold water without wasteful runoff, [...]


PG&E Rate Schedule Changes

PG&E will be changing their residential rates at the end of the month. This may affect you if you are currently a solar customer or plan to switch to solar in the near future. Currently, there are rate schedules available that work well with solar customers, such as E-6 and E-7. These rates are based on Time of Use.  After February 29, 2016, the E-7 rate schedule will be completely eliminated and the option to switch to the E-6 rate schedule will be eliminated. What you need to do First, check which rate you are currently on. If you are already on E-6, then you don’t need to do anything. You are locked into the best rate for solar for at [...]