Yardley Voice – Going Green Solar Column – June 2012
by Mark Bortman
I hate it when my printer runs out of ink. Why? Because those little ink cartridges are so expensive. This is a smart marketing plan by the manufacturers – sell the printers for cheap and make it up on the ink.
So, of course, when buying a new printer it is important to look at the overall cost of ownership. Consider not only what the printer itself costs to buy, but how much it costs to use it over its expected lifetime. Sometimes a higher upfront cost leads to big savings in the long run.
Why do I bring this up in the “green” column? Because I think printers make an excellent analogy to the energy use in your house. Ink is a “consumable.” Once it is used, it’s gone. In your house, electricity, gas and oil are consumables, too. A traditional power plant is just like a printer. And, you can get power from PECO’s power plant or you can have your own power plant – solar panels.
With PECO, you have no upfront cost, but you pay for the energy each month as it requires and uses coal, nuclear, oil or gas to create its output – electricity. With solar panels, there typically is an upfront cost (but new lease options mean that isn’t necessarily the case) but there’s no ongoing consumable required. Once the solar panels are installed, they generate electricity or heat your water for free.
If you look at the amount of energy they produce over a reasonable term (say 10 or 15 years) it is easy to calculate the savings they provide that more than offsets that upfront investment. And since solar panels will last a lot longer than 15 years (most are warrantied for 25 years now), the energy they produce after that time really is free. Solar panels are like a printer that makes its own ink!
To continue our ink analogy, since ink is expensive, there are things you can do to save money – change the way you do things so you print less, print more in black and white rather than color, or even buy less expensive ink. Well, the same is true with energy –there are many things you can do so you use less of it.
These range from inexpensive (or even no cost) things like closing the blinds on sunny summer days or lowering the temperature setting on your water heater, to true investments like adding insulation in your attic and air sealing any leaks.
Once you really get into it, you realize that printing less has environmental benefits as well as economic ones. Of course, saving energy has tremendous environmental and economic benefits as well – a true win/win situation.