Treehugger found this nifty pyramid that helps homeowners understand the array of options they have to reduce their energy bills. Most people, when they think of a green home, instantly think of solar panels, but the great thing about this chart is that it shows the true place of renewable energy sources in the overall scheme of things.
Yes solar and wind power are awesome, but until you've made your house as efficient as possible — through weatherstripping and insulation or energy-saving timers and thermostats — you basically have no business going solar.
Solar panels are expensive and have a good deal of embodied energy (it takes about three years of operation to make up for the energy used in producing the solar panel) so they need to be used only after a homeowner has completed a home energy audit to determine how to reduce energy load and thus the quantity of panels needed. The Minnesota website lets the homeowner find out how to lower that demand — check it out.
If only every state utility offered free home energy audits, we would make some serious progress in the race to become energy independent.
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