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Top 3 Changes you can Make to Reduce your Carbon Footprint – Rooftop Solar (Part II)

Solar Panels on RoofClimate change is an existential threat to humans, which is why it is our mission at BlueRoof Foundation to educate consumers on how to reduce their carbon footprint. It is important that everyone make changes in their lives to address this problem before we will be forced to make drastic changes. In Part 2 of this series, we will evaluate installing Solar on your home and its impact on your carbon footprint with an eye towards financial Return on Investment (ROI).

I am sure you might be wondering why BlueRoof would write about another solar article when there are thousands already available for free on the internet. At BlueRoof it is not only our goal to educate consumers about solar technology but also to outline the financial ROI on these investments. Rooftop solar energy generation is quite simple, but calculating the ROI can sometimes be overwhelming. We have done extensive research to gather all the necessary data to help you calculate the ROI on your solar project. All numbers used in this post is from various government websites outlined at the end of this article.

The concept of solar energy is quite simple, and the technology works flawlessly anywhere on earth with enough sunshine. The cost of solar panels has plummeted more than 80% in this decade and has made this technology amazingly affordable. As part of our ‘Top three changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint’ series, we recommend this as the second big change.

Today there are hundreds of vendors all over the country who are willing to install solar on your home. We have covered more than 120 population centers in the country with our calculation to give you an estimated ROI for your solar investment. As a homeowner, there are a few things you need to understand before you contact a vendor to install solar in order to get best results.

  • Orientation or Azimuth – Indicates which direction your solar panels are facing. South is the most preferred in northern hemisphere and is indicated by 180°, followed by West indicated by 270°, followed by East indicated by 90° and finally North indicated by 0°.
  • Tilt – Indicates the angle at which sun’s rays will hit the panel. For most places in the lower 48 states within US a tilt angle of 20-30° is considered ideal. Obviously, this depends on the pitch of your roof.
  • Net Metering – This assumes your solar panels will be tied to the grid. Most solar installations produce more energy than needed at certain times of the day. This excess energy is typically fed back to the grid for which your utility company should give you credit. This is called Net Metering and is extremely important for your ROI. Our ROI calculations assume that your local utility offers full Net Metering credit.
  • Solar size – Indicates the total size of your system usually expressed in Kilowatts (KW).  One way to look at this is percentage of your home’s total consumption that will be met by your solar installation. Lots of factors go into this calculation. But suffice it to say that trying to attain 100% offset is a fool’s errand and not worth the cost. Knowing this we recommend offsetting not more than 90% with an ideal value between 60-80%.
  • Tax credits and incentives – This can have a big impact on your ROI number. Federal tax credit is 30% of the total cost till end of 2019 and thereafter reducing to 26%, 22% and 10% respectively over the subsequent three years for residential installations. Your vendor should inform you of any local or state incentives as part of the sales process.

We have glanced over many other technical details of the installation, but your vendor should present the same to you prior to installation. Below is a list of cities and states with ROI for same solar installation. Please note size of the installation does not change your ROI.

Assumptions: Solar installation cost = $2750/KW; Federal tax credit = 30% with no local/state incentives; Solar lifetime = 20 years; Solar energy degradation = 1%/year; Energy cost inflation = 2%/year; System size = 1 KW. If your system size is greater than 1 KW, ROI remains the same but energy generated will be a multiple of your size.

StateAC Energy, KWh/yr 1Energy Price, c/KWh 2Lifetime Energy per KW, $ROI, YrsCO2 saved lifetime, Metric Tons 3
Alabama-Birmingham13799.8297014.211.5
Alabama-Huntsville13879.8298714.211.6
Alabama-Montgomery12839.8276315.310.7
Arizona - Phoenix172510.6401810.515.7
Arizona-Chandler169610.6395110.715.4
Arizona-Mesa170010.6396010.715.5
Arizona-Scottsdale171810.6400210.615.6
Arizona-Tucson176610.6411410.316.1
Arkansas-Hot Springs13478.3245717.216.2
California - Los Angeles166816.159027.27.9
California - San Francisco159816.156547.57.6
California-Bakersfield166716.158987.27.9
California-Fresno159316.156367.57.6
California-Oakland154616.154707.77.3
California-Sacramento157716.155807.67.5
California-San Diego167316.159197.17.9
California-San Jose159816.156547.57.6
Colorado - Aurora153610337612.522.4
Colorado - Colorado Springs164110360611.723.9
Colorado - Denver16041035251223.4
Colorado - Fort Collins146310321513.221.3
Connecticut-Bridgeport134317.651948.16.7
Connecticut-Hartford127717.649398.66.4
Connecticut-New Haven128917.649868.56.5
DC136811.8354711.916.6
Delaware-Wilmington131110.9314013.514
Florida - Miami151210.4345612.215
Florida - Orlando152610.4348812.115.1
Florida - Tampa155110.4354511.915.4
Georgia-Atlanta14189.8305413.913.4
Georgia-Columbus14049.830241413.3
Georgia-Savannah14409.8310113.613.6
Idaho-Boise14378.3262116.13.2
Illinois-Aurora13249.5276415.311.2
Illinois-Chicago13389.5279315.111.3
Illinois-Joliet13409.5279815.111.3
Illinois-Rockford13399.5279515.111.3
Indiana-Evansville13819.8297414.225.2
Indiana-Fort Wayne13209.8284314.924.1
Indiana-Indianapolis13459.8289714.624.5
Iowa-Cedar Rapids13568.7259316.315.8
Iowa-Davenport13448.7256916.515.7
Iowa-Des Moines13928.7266115.916.2
Kansas-Kansas City143510.6334312.713.8
Kansas-Overland Park142810.6332612.713.7
Kansas-Wichita149810.6349012.114.4
Kentucky-Lexington13588.6256716.525.8
Kentucky-Louisville13368.6252516.825.4
Louisiana-New Orleans14797.8253516.716.6
Maine-Bangor1231133517125
Maryland-Baltimore137512362611.711.9
Massachusetts-Boston130317.148978.611
Massachusetts-Cambridge131517.149428.611.1
Massachusetts-Lowell127617.147958.810.8
Massachusetts-Springfield127717.147998.810.8
Massachusetts-Worcester128917.148448.710.9
Michigan-Detroit132711.3329512.815.2
Michigan-Grand Rapids127211.3315913.414.6
Michigan-Lansing128511.3319113.314.7
Michigan-Sterling Heights131511.332661315
Michigan-Warren126011.3312913.514.4
Minnesota-Minneapolis134410.3304213.914.3
Minnesota-Rochester133510.330221414.2
Mississippi-Jackson14309.1286014.812.7
Missouri-Saint Louis13781030281424.6
Missouri-Spring Field140110307913.725
Montana-Billings13308.9260116.316.5
Nebraska - Lincoln14399.1287814.719.9
Nebraska-Omaha14349.1286814.819.9
Nevada - Las Vegas17008.8328812.912.9
Nevada-Henderson17118.8330912.813
New Hampshire-Concord128716.245829.23.2
New Jersey - Elizabeth132113.33861117
New Jersey-Jersey City127713.3373211.36.7
New Jersey-Newark132013.33858117
New Jersey-Paterson128513.3375611.36.8
New Mexico-Albuquerque17609.6371311.426.5
New Mexico-Las Cruces18399.6388010.927.7
New Mexico-Santa Fe17239.6363511.625.9
New York - Buffalo120414.7389010.95.3
New York - New York131314.74242105.8
New York - Rochester122814.7396710.75.4
New York - Syracuse119114.73848115.2
North Carolina - Charlotte13839273515.511.5
North Carolina - Raleigh13949275715.311.6
North Caroline - Durham13909274915.411.6
North Caroline - Greensboro1430928281511.9
North Dakota13508.8261116.221.5
Ohio - Cincinnati12679.8272915.518.6
Ohio - Cleveland12799.8275515.418.8
Ohio - Columbus13219.8284514.919.4
Oklahoma - Oklahoma City15318.2275915.314.8
Oregon - Eugene11888.8229718.43.3
Oregon - Portland11278.8218019.43.2
Oregon - Salem11648.8225118.83.3
Pennsylvania - Philadelphia134010.1297414.210.9
Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh121510.1269715.79.9
Rhode Island - Providence130216.44693911.2
South Carolina - Columbia144010316513.48.6
South Carolina - Charlotte138910305213.98.3
South Caroline - Charleston138310303913.98.3
South Dakota - Sioux falls139410.1309413.77
Tennessee - Chattanooga13479.528121513.4
Tennessee - Memphis14279.5297914.214.2
Tennessee - Nashville13749.5286914.713.7
Tennessee- Knoxville13609.5283914.913.5
Texas - DFW15048.4277615.217.5
Texas - Houston14378.4265315.916.8
Texas - Midland17368.4320513.220.2
Texas - SA14998.4276715.317.5
Utah - West Valley City14928.628201524.3
Utah-Salt Lake City15088.6285014.824.6
Vermont-Burlington122914.6394310.70.2
Virginia - Virginia Beach14289.2288714.710.8
Virginia - Chesapeake14209.2287014.710.8
Virginia - Norfolk14369.2290314.610.9
Virginia -Richmond13869.2280215.110.5
Washington - Bellevue10727.9186122.72.2
Washington - Kent10597.91839232.2
Washington - Tacoma10617.91842232.2
Washington - Vancouver10557.9183223.12.2
West Virginia12459246217.224.3
Wisconsin - Green Bay132410.8314213.519.2
Wisconsin - Milwaukee133910.8317813.319.4
Wisconsin - Madison133910.8317813.319.4
Wyoming-Laramie14988.3273215.531.2

As you can see, Solar ROI varies widely across the country. If you are interested in installing solar panels for financial reasons, most installations in the US today will take at least 10 years to reach your ROI. But if you live in your house for more than 10 years, you will enjoy free energy for many years. If you are installing for environmental reasons, some cities and states make more sense than others due to high carbon intensity of the energy generation in some states. Finally, it is important to note that if you are upgrading or fixing your roof for any reason it may be the best time to evaluate solar option for your roof, as it might reduce your cost of installation slightly.

1Energy calculations were done using PVWatts calculator offered NREL.gov a government website

2Energy prices were as reported on eia.gov website and the numbers are from 2017

3CO2 emissions numbers were as reported on eia.gov and the numbers are from 2017

Top 3 Changes you can Make to Reduce your Carbon Footprint – Electric Vehicles (Part I)

Climate change is an existential threat to humans, which is why it is our mission at BlueRoof Foundation to educate consumers on how to reduce their energy and carbon footprint. It is important that everyone make small changes in their lives to address this problem before we will be forced to make drastic changes. Let’s take a look at the top 3 changes you can make to reduce his or her carbon footprint.

The United States emits roughly 5.5 gigatons of CO2 per year, which amounts to roughly 15 tons per person. The three big components of these emissions are personal automobiles, home energy, and air travel. Food, clothing and other smaller items are important but difficult to change easily. We will explore the Big Three and identify changes necessary to reduce our carbon impact. In Part 1 of this post we will focus on electric vehicles (EV) and its impact on your carbon footprint. With each of these changes we will focus on financial ROI to make sure it is a financially sound investment.

An average US automobile travels 12,000 miles per year and at about 22 miles/gallon of gas the automobile will emit roughly about 5.5 tons of CO2 per year. Unless you are willing to buy an EV and generate your own solar energy, it is difficult to eliminate your carbon footprint. According to the EIA, a government agency, based on 2017 data your EV carbon footprint per mile can vary quite widely from one state to another. For example, in Vermont which is the lowest carbon footprint for electricity, every 1,000 EV miles will result in only 6 pounds of CO2, which is extremely low. On the other hand, in Wyoming the same 1000 EV miles will result in 750 pounds of CO2. US average for the same 1,000 EV miles is about 360 pounds of CO2. Below is a list of all states and their carbon footprint per 1,000 EV miles along with carbon footprint for some of the most popular vehicles. For reference, a Toyota Prius will emit 320 pounds for 1,000 miles and a Ford F150 pickup truck will emit about 1,000 pounds per 1,000 mile.

StateCO2 lb / 1000 EV Miles
Vermont6
Washington76
Idaho81
New Hampshire91
Oregon102
Maine149
New York160
California172
Connecticut182
South Dakota183
New Jersey192
South Carolina218
Nevada276
Virginia276
Pennsylvania297
North Carolina303
Alabama304
Massachusetts308
Illinois308
Rhode Island313
Maryland314
Mississippi324
Arizona331
Georgia344
Kansas349
Oklahoma351
Florida360
Tennessee362
Toyota Prius370
Minnesota386
Delaware387
Louisiana409
Michigan416
Iowa424
Texas424
Arkansas439
DC442
Montana451
Nebraska504
Toyota Corolla526
Wisconsin527
Colorado531
Ohio535
New Mexico548
North Dakota579
Utah592
Missouri649
Indiana663
Kentucky692
West Virginia709
Wyoming758
F1501000

As you can see there is a wide variation in EV footprint by state. EVs are slightly more expensive to buy compared to an equivalent gasoline car, but between reduced or zero annual maintenance cost and reduced annual fuel cost the difference in initial cost can be made up in less than 5 years with certain EVs.

A typical EV can save approximately $1,200.00 per year over a gasoline powered car. If you take the environmental impact into consideration, buying an EV becomes a no-brainer – even at a lower ROI.

Used EVs are some of the best value cars in the market available today as per multiple car valuation websites like Edmunds and Kelley Bluebook. This is the single greatest change you can make to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Since our grid is becoming cleaner by the day, your EV carbon footprint will only reduce in the future!

We will discuss the other 2 components of your carbon footprint in a follow up post, so check back soon.

Three Simple Ways to Reduce Your Home Energy Footprint

It is our mission at Blueroof Foundation to educate consumers on how to reduce their energy and carbon footprint. In this post we want to focus on 3 things that homeowners can do that are quite inexpensive to implement and have a return on investment that is less than 2 years. 

LED Lightbulbs 

This is one of the easiest changes to make with a big impact. About 6-8% of our energy usage nationwide goes towards lighting. It’s a shockingly big number when you think about it. Most lightbulbs are still incandescent bulbs that Thomas Edison first invented, and they waste a lot of energy in the form of heat. LEDs are generally much cooler and emit almost the same quality and quantity of light. A typical LED bulb might cost around $4 and you will earn your money back in less than 2 years, while also reducing your carbon footprint for a long time. LEDs also have a long life which will result in reduced maintenance costs over time. Assuming you have 50 bulbs to replace, this is a simple and easy change to make for less than $250 for immediate payback. 

Smart Thermostat 

This change might require a little bit of professional help but it’s well worth the trouble. Our personal favorite is the Nest thermostat from Google, but any brand should have the same impact. These thermostats are smart and can be managed from your mobile device via an app. They are called “smart” because they know when no one is home and they switch to eco mode to reduce your wasted energy consumption. During summers and winters these devices can easily save 12-15% on your energy bill. Lots of local utilities offer rebates and incentives that can reduce the upfront cost. Typically, these devices cost around $250 with an installation cost of $150. The return on investment for this device is also less then 2 years, and we strongly recommend you make this change. 

Pool Pump with Variable Speed 

If you have a pool, you have probably been frustrated by your electricity bill in the summer.  The typical pool pumps are AC motors and they consume a lot of energy. Switching the pump to a variable speed DC motor will dramatically reduce your energy costs. A typical variable speed pump costs less than $1,200 in parts and an additional $750 in labor to install. It may sound like a lot, but these little pumps are so efficient that they can pay you back in less than 2 summers. This is another great investment to make if you are serious about reducing your home energy footprint and reducing your electric bill in the process! 

Check back soon as we continue to share more ways you can reduce your energy footprint, including some ideas that are a little more expensive with a longer return on investment.