Escalating worldwide fuel prices and environmental concerns are helping to dramatically increase the demand for clean alternatives. It has become a global imperative that we break our addiction to oil. Providing for the ever increasing energy needs of the planet is going to take a wide range of alternate energy sources and green technologies are finally beginning to establish themselves in the energy mix.....a sector expected to grow tenfold within several years. The future is bright for renewable energy sources and a more sustainable world.
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By Brenda Krueger Huffman
(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.
Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.
The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.
Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. Rob shares his expertise on the Hybrid Home concept and technology.
BKH: In simple terms, explain the concept of “Hybrid Homes.”
RB: To the public, the term “Hybrid” refers to “dual-sourced”, as in a hybrid car operating under either gas or electric. A Hybrid Home's electricity can also operate from multiple sources - on-grid, alternative energy, or stored power.
BKH: What are the green home products being offered by Safety Power, Inc?
RB: Safety Power offers a full range of alternative energy systems with back up power. All our systems are capable of receiving power from solar or wind options. We offer entry level efficiency systems to enhance filter and protect a home’s power.
Our systems can also stand alone and be used for grid back up now and allow the homeowner to expand the system with solar and wind options later; keeping initial costs low. This configuration is especially beneficial insuring power for homes with medical equipment needs and in places where a generator is not available, such as an apartment or condo.
BKH: How do these products allow a home to become “Hybrid” or more green?
RB: Any home investing in alternative energy options is “greener” due to the electricity produced on site and the use of less electricity from the grid cutting down the carbon footprint of that home and business.
Hybrid technology creates power savings, power security, and sell back capabilities at the same time. It's also possible to avoid on peak rates and take advantage of less expensive off peak rates later in the day to recharge the system.
BKH: Can these products be installed in new construction and in existing homes right now?
RB: Yes, all of our systems can be installed in both new and existing construction. Our power systems also make great upgrades to existing solar installations. All of our systems are capable of being installed anywhere in the home - basement, attic, and closet.
They operate instantly, silently and without fumes. It's this kind of flexibility and easy installation that makes our products available to everyone whether living in homes, apartments or condos.
BKH: Are there home electrical or mechanical specifications to utilize these products?
RB: No, any home is capable of integrating one of our power systems, and it will operate any electrical device in the home. The system is sized according to the load required for backup and solar or wind capabilities of the property.
BKH: What are the main benefits to the homeowner?
RB: Until now solar assisted homes were unable to actually operate a homes systems during a power outage. Security, communications, lighting, furnace, water pumps, and refrigeration simply did not work.
Recent advances in battery technology allow power to be stored and used in the home if needed while keeping sell back capabilities for excess power. This adds a new dimension to alternative energy options in today's homes. Avoiding property and food losses created during a power outage certainly add to cost savings. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the peace of mind knowing the home is protected against a power loss.
BKH: What are the main benefits to the environment?
RB: Any product that lessens the impact on the environment with less fossil fuel consumption to produce electricity helps the environment in both the long and short term. A common conversion is 1.2 pounds of CO2 reduction for every kWh produced.
An additional benefit is the reduced supply from the power grid which lessens the need for expanding our existing sources or building new ones. With a hybrid power system, the carbon footprint of any home or business can be reduced which helps the client and the earth.
BKH: Can the average middle class homeowner afford these products?
RB: Yes, absolutely. A large hybrid system, with 4 solar panels and everything needed to install it, is only about $16,000. This is about half the price of the average hybrid car.
We also have smaller “Plug and Play” systems, which require no installation, for about $1,700. A smaller price point than years past allows more homeowners to take advantage of alternative energy options now.
BKH: Is financing available for homeowners?
RB: Despite the global economic downturn, private investments in “green” sectors – in particular, renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, green business development – have remained steady or grown in recent years, totaling more than $1.6 trillion since 2007.
At Safety Power, we work with several sustainability minded lending institutions including The Delta Institute to provide homeowners and businesses with financing options from like minded sources. Recent years have seen a decrease in the cost of solar panels and micro-wind turbines which makes the overall cost fall dramatically.
BKH: What type of energy cost savings or return on investment can the average homeowner realize?
RB: We have had people inventory their use of electricity, and with some painless changes and installation of a hybrid system, they have reduced their electricity bill up to 17%. Direct cost savings of any alternative energy upgrade is of course dependent upon the size of the system installed and varies according to site attributes.
BKH: How is the customer able to monitor energy consumption over time?
RB: We feel this is an important aspect to any upgrade. Safety Power includes a home energy monitor with all of our installations to help the homeowner trend costs over time.
Capable of recording up to seven years of data, the homeowner is able to track historical usage. Downloaded into a PC, data can be displayed in easy to read graphs. The monitor helps the customer verify and quantify future energy efficiency updates in the home.
BKH: In addition to energy savings, is there any homeowner insurance savings or other savings?
RB: I'm not an insurance expert, but we always advise our customers to contact their insurance agent to inform them that a system was installed in the home to make sure it is fully insured and to investigate any discount that may be available at the same time.
BKH: Are there local or federal income tax credits for installing these products in your home?
RB: Yes, there is currently a 30% federal tax credit available to homeowners investing in this hybrid technology. The rebate considers all equipment and installation costs. This rebate also applies to expanding an existing solar installation with power back up capabilities.
Combined with falling prices on solar panels and the addition of power storage, the time for investing in an alternative energy system has never been better for the homeowner. We work with the customer to provide complete documentation of the project to assist with the rebates. Current local and state rebate information can be found at dsireusa.org.
BKH: How is the market responding to these new hybrid options for homes?
RB: The market is responding well. Rising electricity costs and an unsteady supply have forced homeowners to take another look at producing their own power. With medical equipment in the home becoming more common and the rising importance of security and communication equipment, we feel the additional benefit of back up power will draw many more homeowners into the alternative energy market.
Today's homeowners and homebuilders want to be smart about the upgrades they make in a home. A hybrid power system increases a home's value, decreases operating costs, and provides power security - all with renewable energy.
BKH: So many green products are manufactured in China or other countries. Are Safety Power products made in the United States?
RB: Yes, all of our power systems are proudly made here in the United States. Thank you for asking. Investment in U.S. made alternative energy products is a major factor for many homeowners and businesses. At Safety Power, we agree with homeowners that feel where and how we spend our money is a critical aspect to today’s recovering economy.
In addition, all of our systems are Vietnam Veteran SVDOB, HUBZONE Certified, CCR Registered, OCRA Certified, and NAFTA Certified. These certifications also help government entities insure that funds are spent in the proper manner - reinvested directly into American equipment and American jobs.
BKH: Can these products be used in commercial and industrial properties also?
RB: We do have systems designed to support large power draws and run times that businesses demand. With systems ranging from 3.6 kW to 6.0 kW continuous power output, they can support computers, servers, and phone lines as well as general lighting and security systems.
Business and industry are embracing renewable energy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint while cutting long-term electricity cost increases. It's the dual function of a hybrid system, protecting delicate computer systems and process control equipment from power losses, which adds value to the decision to invest in the technology.
BKH: Are government properties utilizing these products locally and nationally?
RB: Yes. These systems have been installed in government facilities nationally and internationally. A recent off grid project has just been completed in Caraz, Peru to assist in the power management of that area and its residents.
BKH: Safety Power was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” in the Sustain Illinois Competition 2009. What made Safety Power a stand-out?
RB: One of the reasons we won was the exponential CO2 effect our product line carries. Not only is there immediate CO2 reduction with an installed system; but the CO2 reduction that is created by longer life and less replacement of equipment is immeasurable.
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