Americans have come to find that just because we sit on large reserves of coal and natural gas, that doesn’t guarantee cheaper utility bills, since prices are controlled by US commodity markets and the level of U.S. LNG exports. The move away from coal has greatly increased the dependence on natural gas –probably too much– not only for heating, but also far more electricity generation. Unfortunately, natural gas has experienced skyrocketing commodity prices over recent years, along with more ‘front of mind’ crude oil prices for gasoline.
In the meantime, while the use of solar energy has seen huge increases in many nations and U.S. states, Pennsylvania has been a real laggard –perhaps ‘dunce’ is a better word– when it comes to using more free energy from the sun. Why? Because the GOP controlled legislature in Pennsylvania works 24-7 to increase dependence on natural gas while thwarting solar energy. That ‘fossil fuel favoritism’ is costing Pennsylvanians BIG money as I wrote in “Pennsylvania’s Impact Fee is ‘Chump Change’. Beyond that is “Pennsylvania’s Giveaway Tax Rate for Gas Producers“.
Beyond the BIG money being left on the table by Pennsylvania legislators, is more recent mind-numbing legislation that makes the loss of federal highway funds a near certainty, as we read in “Backwards Pennsylvania” and the piling-on of future taxpayer costs to further enable gas producers to shun their responsibilities in “Another PA Taxpayer Giveaway.” As important as the money and tax issues are to taxpayers in the Commonwealth, they don’t touch on the far more important health issues surrounding shale gas production, as seen in a recent guest post “Cancer and the Environment” and “Doctor’s Report: When the Shell Cracker Plant Opens Soon“.
On the flip side of this ‘tunnel vision’ fossil fuel addiction are the benefits of solar energy outlined in this guest essay “Energy Freedom for Pennsylvania” as well as me finally getting to the topic of this blog’s headline “Paying it Forward with Solar Energy” as we did at our residence from 2018 through 2021. Our first eleven solar panels were added in 2018 along with a home backup battery, followed by the addition of another 18 solar panels in 2020. In between those years, we replaced a gasoline powered automobile with a Chevy Bolt EV that is only charged at home with a Level 2 charger. Our home backup battery has prevented us from having any power outages over the past four years.
‘HYBRID’ HVAC UPGRADES
In 2021 we replaced our central air conditioning unit with a MERV 15 heat pump, which now handles our summer cooling set primarily at 75F (24C) and winter heating averaging 70F (21C) until temperatures drop to 35F (1.7C). Therefore, electricity is used for all our EV car charging, cooling, and heating down to 35F, lights, appliances, air cleaner and radon removal system, TV and technology, while the only remaining gas-fired items include a 96-percent efficient furnace (alternate heat below 35F), a gas range and water heater. Our natural gas usage has been cut in half.
Our electric utility offers ‘net metering’ where they ‘bank’ our excess solar energy production that goes to the grid, and use it to offset future electric bills when solar production is below electric usage. Our latest electric bill, including all car charging (661 miles last month) and considerable use of our air-conditioning during hot humid Pittsburgh area weather?
Here’s a look at our electric bills over the past 12 months:
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