Sustainable Homes Blog Series: The Benefits of Solar Panels for Homeowners

By Kris Lindahl from Blaine, MN

The Benefits of Solar Panels for Homeowners

Homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on utilities should consider solar power. Solar power isn't only for commercial businesses or federal properties. Today, residential homeowners can enjoy the benefits of solar power as well.

Solar Power for Homeowners

Solar power for residential homes typically comes from panels often installed upon the roof of the house. However, it's also possible to have a free-standing solar panel unit installed in a backyard if that is preferred by the homeowner. The panels are constructed from a thin silicon material and are divided into individual photovoltaic cells. It's the photovoltaic cells that work as semi-conductors, using natural sunlight to create electricity for the home.

While homes with south-slanting roofs are often seen as the ideal for harnessing the sun's energy, homes with roofs facing slightly to the east or to the west can still work efficiently. A qualified, professional assessment from a solar power company is needed to determine if your home can be fitted with panels, but many homeowners are surprised to see just how effective they can be on theirs.

Additional things to know when thinking about going solar at home include:

• Solar panels can be installed on flat roofs
• Different size panels are available depending on the roof/home size
• A home can have solar panels and still be connected to the local power grid
• Remote homes are candidates for solar panels, but may require a more complicated set-up

Environmental Impact of Solar Power

The direct electrical current generated through residential solar panels is clean energy, eco-friendly, and has the potential to save the homeowner money on power bills. More and more homeowners are looking to bring their homes into the future due to the environmental implications of lowering ones carbon footprint.

To be sure, due to its combined economic and environmental impact, photovoltaic technology has become one of the most popular forms of renewable energy technology for the average homeowner.

Solar power is a great value for homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint and help benefit the environment in the long term. As a renewable resource, it's a logical choice for any homeowner wishing to move towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Solar Power to Save Money

The cost of solar panel equipment and installation will vary by company and will depend on the size of your home and its power needs. Fortunately, homeowners may take advantage of various credits available from the federal government or their city as well as other tax exemptions and rebates.

The average solar panel has the potential to produce so much more energy every year compared to panels produced back in the day. This averages to a range of about 20 kW to 25 kW hours daily. In general, homes using solar panels will use less energy from their local power grid which can save on utility bills. It's important to note that homeowners are responsible for obtaining authorization from their local electrical supplier if connecting their solar photovoltaic cells to the grid.

Solar power for homeowners does offer many benefits and with technology continually advancing, it's an option that can't be dismissed.

2017 Fall Electronics Recycling Drives

We concluded this weekend with another successful series of electronics recycling drives! Through our partnership with Goodwill, we managed to help 78 Madison residents recycle over 3,000 pounds of electronics, while raising $1,200+ for our ongoing solar panel initiative at Madison West High School. Over 20 West Green Club members braved rain and 40 degree weather to volunteer during the event. Thanks to all attendees, volunteers, and sponsors who helped make this event a huge success!

Electronics Recycling Drive: Fall 2017

West Green Club will be hosting two electronics recycling drives on consecutive weekends.

Event #1: Saturday, 10/28 at Randall Elementary School (1802 Regent St) from 8am to 3pm
Event #2: Saturday, 11/4 at Shorewood Elementary School (1105 Shorewood Blvd) from 8am to 3pm

 

West Green Club will accept "any brand of working or non-working computer equipment and just about any item that can be connected to a computer." Examples of such items are listed below. Unfortunately, we will not be able to take TVs or electrical appliances.

West Green Club recommends a suggested $5 donation for each item that you bring. All proceeds will go towards our ongoing initiative to install 100 solar panels at West High School. More information about this initiative can be found here

  • Monitors
  • Computers (desktop or laptop)
  • Hard drives (external or internal) *Please back up any valuable information and erase sensitive data from the hard drive before dropping it off
  • Keyboards (wired or wireless)
  • Mice (wired or wireless)
  • Printers (laser or inkjet)
  • Ink and toner cartridges (full or empty)
  • Speakers (with or without cables)
  • Cords and cables (including power cords and USB cables)
  • Scanners
  • Software

Please email contact@westgreenclub.org with any questions. We look forward to seeing you there!

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We were featured in the Wisconsin State Journal!

Students and staff of Madison West High School were excited to see that we were featured on the front page and in the local section of The Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, September 11, 2017! Please click on the link below to read more about our massive project to install 100 solar panels.

We would like to thank Pam Cotant and Wisconsin State Journal for covering our initiative!

Volunteering Efforts

Volunteer work is an essential component of West Green Club's efforts to advance sustainability initiatives.  Club members contribute to these efforts through numerous volunteer projects throughout the year.

  • Composting
  • Fundraisers
  • Electronics Recycling Drives
  • Recycling 
  • Petition
  • Gardening

Composting - Volunteers direct students in the cafeteria during lunch to proper waste receptacles and educate students of how to properly dispose of their food waste and what items can and can't be compost. Volunteers then deposit compost material in Madison West High School's outdoor compost bin after the receptacles are full.

Fundraisers - West Green Club hosts and participates in several fundraisers throughout the year. West Green Club's most recent volunteering event was at the Regent Neighborhood July 4th festival, where students helped assemble and staff the "box maze" (comprising of several dozens of large cardboard boxes into a maze structure) and run an assortment of games and obstacle courses. West Green Club volunteers also helped set up a sample solar panel and table with information about our ongoing efforts to pursue a rooftop solar panel expansion project.

Electronics Recycling Drives - West Green Club holds biannual electronics recycling events in conjunction with Goodwill. During the 7-hour events in the fall and spring, West Green Club volunteers help unload electronics from the vehicles of Madison residents who attend this event and help weigh and place the electronics in proper receptacles. West Green Club volunteers also educate the public about our organization's sustainability initiatives.

Recycling - West Green Club frequently manages recycling and waste distribution for the classrooms of Madison West High School. During after-school hours, volunteers ensure that resources were properly disposed of in the correct receptacles and help unload recycled materials in larger recycling bins. 

Petition - As part of West Green Club's solar panel project, volunteers helped collect signatures from Madison West High School students and staff as affirmation of support for our efforts. This petition was used to help convince the School Board of the legitimacy of our efforts to advance renewable energy systems at Madison West High School.

Gardening - West Green Club helps in the upkeep of Madison West High School's community garden. Volunteers maintain the garden by clearing weeds, watering the garden, planting fruits and vegetables (the most popular of which are sweet potatoes and kale) in the spring, and harvesting them in the fall. 

Installation of Three Filtered Water Fountains!

West Green Club raised over $3,700 in fall of 2016 to install three energy-efficient filtered water fountains at Madison West High School to provide clean, lead-free drinking water to students and promote a culture void of plastic waste. These filtered water fountains use 12% less energy than previous fountain models at Madison West High School.

West Green Club pursued funding through two media. First, West Green Club was awarded a $1,000 grant from Madison4Kids, a community foundation dedicated to helping youth-based organizations in Madison, to install a new filtered water fountain. Additionally, West Green Club raised $2,700 from donations through a GoFundMe campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/westgreenclub1) and in-person fundraising at the school registration events for Madison West High School.

Thank you for your generous support in helping us continue to achieve success in advancing our sustainability initiatives!

Composting Program Information

West Green Club introduced composting to Madison West High School, now one of two schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District with a composting program, in the spring of 2016 after establishing a partnership with the City of Madison. Through the lunchtime composting program, volunteers instruct Madison West High School students how to properly dispose of their food waste. Since the establishment of this program, West Green Club has seen dramatic reductions in the amount of waste generated.

West Green Club later expanded the composting program by purchasing two carts each with four bin receptacles designated for trash, recycling, composting, and TerraCycle through a $500 grant from the Student Support Foundation club at Madison West High School. These carts greatly enhance the visibility of West Green Club’s composting efforts for students.

Battery Recycling Information

Launched in October 2016, Madison West High School's battery recycling program offers students and staff a convenient way to recycle batteries and serves as a central component of West Green Club's electronic-waste recycling initiatives. Once the battery recycling bin is full, West Green Club brings them to Union South, where the Wisconsin Union and UW-Madison Office of Sustainability collect and recycle the batteries.

Program Impact (as of 6/27/2017): 154 pounds of batteries recycled

Outreach: Electronic-Waste Recycling

West Green Club held its biannual electronic-waste recycling drive on Earth Day (April 22, 2017), offering Madison residents the opportunity to drop off computers and computer-related equipment and contribute to West Green Club's ongoing sustainability projects.

At the event, West Green Club distributed City of Madison Recyclopedias. The City of Madison Recycling Division provided West Green Club with 200 Recyclopedias to distribute, outlining the procedures for how Madison residents could recycle electronics and other common household items. The electronic version to the Recyclopedia can be found here.

Additionally, West Green Club distributed an infographic outlining electronic-waste recycling in Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the E-Cycle Wisconsin program. Wisconsin's electronics recycling law mandates that certain electronics must not be placed in the trash and requires some electronics manufacturers to allocate funds for responsible recycling. The infographic contained several interesting statistics on electronic-waste recycling: Americans generate enough e-waste annually to fill 160,000 garbage trucks, recycling 1 million laptops saves enough energy required to power 3657 homes in the United States for a year, and that 58% of people who do not recycle electronics did not know where or how to do so. A link to the infographic can be found here.

In all, the event was a great opportunity to inform residents about the scope and magnitude of the issue of electronic-waste recycling in Wisconsin and nationally. If you have any other questions about recycling electronics, please let us know at contact@westgreenclub.org.

Electronic-Waste Recycling Drive

West Green Club, in conjunction with Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin, is hosting an electronic-waste recycling drive on Saturday, April 22, 2017 (Earth Day) from 8am to 3pm in the Staff Parking Lot of Madison West High School (the corner of Highland Ave and Van Hise Ave): 30 Ash St, Madison, WI 53726.

Drop off any computer and computer-related equipment to be recycled. Accepted items are monitors, computers, laptops, hard drives (external or internal), keyboards, mice, printers, ink and toner cartridges, speakers, cords and cables, scanners, and software. At this time, we are unable to accept the following items: TVs, electrical appliances, lamps, copy/fax machines.

To help fund some of our club’s efforts, we encourage a $5/item tax-deductible donation. All proceeds will fund our ongoing solar panel expansion project.

If you have any questions regarding accepted items for recycling or other event details, please contact us at contact@westgreenclub.org. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

TerraCycle Program Information

TerraCycle is an innovative organization based in Trenton, NJ that collects and upcycles commonly-used packaging and recyclable waste sent largely by schools, individual households, and community organizations. TerraCycle offers several different recycling programs (referred to as "brigades"), each tailored to a specific item. By participating in the following TerraCycle recycling programs, TerraCycle sends West Green Club shipping labels for us to send hard-to-recycle waste for TerraCycle to recycle; in return, TerraCycle makes a donation to Madison West High School. To date, TerraCycle has helped over 63 million people in 20 countries recycle enough waste to raise $15 million for schools and charities. More information about TerraCycle and their initiatives can be found at www.terracycle.com. 

West Green Club has placed TerraCycle collection receptacles throughout classrooms and hallways at Madison West High School as part of a broader effort to eliminate waste in our community. Students have the opportunity to TerraCycle their items (which diverts waste from landfills and raises funds for our club's projects) by placing the items listed below in designated bins. We welcome the opportunity for any Madison residents to participate in our TerraCycle program. Simply let us know which recycling programs you may be interested in participating in at contact@westgreenclub.org. We will promptly respond with information about how you can collect these TerraCycle items at home, drop them off at Madison West High School, and create a lasting environmental impact. 

Note: TerraCycle receives sponsorships from companies to fund their recycling programs. For some of their free recycling programs listed below, only the items of the brands that sponsor them can be sent to TerraCycle for recycling. The programs that are brand-specific are designated with a registered trademark (®) symbol. Click on each link below for a list of all items accepted through TerraCycle.

Bear Naked® Recycling Program - Bear Naked granola bags and Bear Naked granola bites bags

Brita® Recycling Program - Brita dispensers, Brita bottles, Brita filters (bottle filters, standard filters, stream filters, Longlast filters), Brita filter packaging, Brita faucet filtration systems, Brita pitchers

Oral Care Recycling Program - toothpaste (tubes, caps, cartons), toothbrushes, toothbrush packaging, floss containers

Drink Pouch Recycling Program - aluminum and plastic drink pouches

Earthborn Holistic® Recycling Program - Earthborn Holistic plastic pet food and treat packaging

Energy Bar Wrapper Recycling Program - foil-lined wrappers (energy-bar wrappers, granola bar wrappers, meal replacement bar wrappers, protein bar wrappers, diet bar wrappers), Clif brand packages

Entenmann's® Little Bites® Pouch Recycling Program - Entenmann's Little Bites plastic pouches

Snack Pouch Recycling Program - snack plastic pouches and caps

Cereal Bag Recycling Program - plastic cereal bags and box liners

Open Farm® Recycling Program - Open Farm pet food packaging

Performance Nutrition Recycling Program - performance nutrition packaging

PUR® Recycling Program - PUR pitchers, PUR filters, PUR faucet filtration systems and adapters, PUR packaging, PUR dispensers

Tom's of Maine Natural Care Recycling Program - mouthwash bottles and caps, deodorant containers and caps, toothpaste tubes and caps, soap packaging, floss containers, toothbrushes

Wellness® Pet Food Recycling Program - Wellness Complete Health and Wellness CORE plastic pet food packaging

 

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