“You can’t go to a standard residential home and slap PV (PhotoVoltaic solar panels) on it and think you have solved our energy problems,” Mr. Tobe said. “We can’t make enough PV modules on planet earth to solve our energy issues if we don’t address how we use energy first.”
Heating and cooling consumes almost half the energy in a typical American home, so designing a building that naturally stays thermally comfortable is the best way to reduce energy consumption.
The other major power suck, according to Mr. Tobe, are phantom loads. These are the myriad of electronic devices that consume small amounts of power even when they are off. The main culprits are home entertainment equipment like television sets and stereos and on any device that has a power converter, that little box on the end of its power cord where you plug it into the wall, like cellphone and laptop chargers.
For example, Mr Tobe said, an average DVD player uses about 20 watts of power to play a two-hour movie. But the other 22 hours of the day, when it is doing nothing, it still burns through 44 watts of power, more than twice what it took to actually do its job. The cheap and easy fix, Mr. Tobe said, is to buy surge protectors, plug your electronics into them, and switch them off when not in use.
and our favorite, which is the first thing the article emphasizes and dovetails neatly with the first excerpt...
Emily and her design team chose to build homes from straw bales partly because the material is superinsulating, resulting in drastically lower heating and air-conditioning costs. Yet she is not installing solar panels or any other electricity generation system based on renewable energy sources.
She came to that decision after meeting Jeff Tobe, a photovoltaic instructor for the Colorado-based nonprofit Solar Energy International. Although he is a strong solar advocate, he convinced Emily that solar panels were not where she should put her time or her clients’ money.
Funny: an article with an emphasis on solar power contains expert advice to do everything else before installing solar!
Efficiency first, always.