When you shop for a PV Solar Grid Tie inverter you are well advised to ensure the unit complies not only with UL testing, but also passes some form of Part 15 Class B test.

This gives you the best chance of not corrupting the communication ability of a licensed communications service such as FEMA and even Amateur Radio.

Even with Part 15 compliance there is a bit of risk involved with installing DC to AC inverters as they are inherently very noisy in radio communication bands. The better ones do their job and do it quietly.

It is absolutely possible for your new PV Solar Electric system to fully comply with Part 15 Class B requirements and still cause interference to a licensed communications service. It is up to you, the owner of the Part 15 equipment, to ensure you do not interfere. If you cannot terminate the interference during operation of your equipment you are obligated to cease use of your system as the licensed services have absolute priority.

It is a popular incorrect notion you have a right to operate any product you can legally purchase.

Checkout the language of the FCC’s Part 15 rules to learn more. Part 15 devices may not pollute the RF communication bands under any circumstances. Also they must accept any interference from primary users. Harsh, but true.

Many folks stumble into this issue often with 802.11 wireless LAN sharing bands with other services on a secondary basis.

Anyway, the point is investors of PV Solar are committing vast amounts of cash into their systems and are taking a big risk with the noise from their inverters. You are 100% responsible for any issues so be careful.

21 April 2009 · Topic: Energy · Tags: , ,

Recently my interests have turned again to alternative energy sources. Whenever I do this, I always find myself looking at the big picture of every energy sub-topic including sources, transmission and use.

For example…

Hybrid automobiles seem to be an interesting idea initially. However, if you take a step back and look at the entire energy equation you begin to see they don’t provide a benefit worth the extra costs frequently paid for the hybrid option. This benefit changes, of course, with the price of fuel, but generally, the market seems to price up the very benefit they claim to provide. We will examine more of this topic in another post. For now the point is the term “Hybrid Car” seems to be just a term the owner can brag about – even if the real benefit is not really there.

The same deal goes for electric cars. Time after time I hear folks who think they have zero emissions with their electric cars despite the fact they consume electricity to charge their vehicle which is provided largely by the burning of coal. If you take just one step back in the energy path, the zero emission car is a myth… so far.

Then there are the folks who take the bold action to obtain an all electric vehicle, an impressive photovoltaic array, storage batteries and the necessary gear to completely charge their vehicle from the Sun’s free energy. The return on investment of such a system is very long to be sure, but let’s assume the owner is creating this system for philanthropic reasons. This leaves the purchaser bragging rights of a truly zero emission system. Here again, we have to take a step back and view the energy equation. It took a lot of energy to manufacture the solar panels and the batteries. There are batteries in the car, too, which take energy to build. From what I have found on the Internet, it takes from one to four years for solar panels to generate the energy it took to build them with the good news this is getting better every year. The point is can this person claim to be saving the environment with this system? Maybe after many years.

So if we move the topic towards powering the needs of a typical home what can be said of the possible alternative energy sources? Solar, wind and hydro seem to be the big three. Not many folks can benefit from hydro so let’s constrain the discussion to Solar and Wind Alternative Energy Sources.


Photovoltaic solar panels cost about $4-$6 per watt installed (much less if you use Ebay cells in your DIY panels). Then there are additional pieces of equipment depending if you have a storage or grid-tie system.

When you add up the costs, calculate the expected energy and compute the net benefit based on the cost of electricity (my current cost is 12.1 cents per kWhr) the return on investment (ROI) is something like 23 years. This will, of course, improve if electricity prices rise beyond inflationary rates, but it will be very difficult to bring the ROI down to the practical limit of 3-5 years.

Let me repeat that.

If saving money is your aim your ROI should be within five years or it is not worth doing. Remember… if your solar installer presents figures showing ROI based on anything longer than 5 years all the potential financial benefits flow to his bank account using your funding as the source and yields you little to nothing. This is basic business common sense and, yes, you, the average homeowner, are an individual business.

So photovoltaic solar is difficult to justify in the financial sense. Let’s assume you want to be environmental friendly and any cost. Hey that’s great. The world needs more people like you. Really. So what does it take to recoup the “energy” needed to manufacturer the products.

The answer appears to be a around one to four years for current technologies and perhaps longer for the older style PV arrays.

So the point is this. If you are trying to go good things for the environment and plan on installing a PV array, consider the energy payback period needed. A lot depends on the type of PV you specify and the good news is things are getting better with the latest technologies.

So Energy Payback is getting better with PV Solar. Utilizing second hand PV cells available from many sources on Ebay may negate the Energy Payback issue entirely if you make use of otherwise unsellable “cosmetically blemished” cells that roll off the assembly lines. ROI remains an immense problem though.


So we move towards wind power as an alternative source of power.

Here again we have many available off-the-shelf systems which run, from what I can see, about $3 to $7 per watt installed.

Wind has its merits, but once again the return on investment is staggering.

The DIY wind power crowd offsets this ROI issue pretty well. If you have your own labor to contribute, the material costs are not too hard to swallow.

Remember this is electricity and care is needed to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or others. You can also wipe out your entire electrical system if you don’t know what you are doing. A licensed electrician should be consulted before messing with anything electrical in your system.


Now more than ever alternative energy sources deserve a good hard look for use in any energy offsetting system.

If you have a lot of spare cash and want to make an investment in “green” then a professionally installed Wind or Solar solution is a great thing to do. Understand you are supporting an industry that cannot survive without philanthropists like you as the financial justification is simply not there.

If you are a DIY person, you may well be able to lower the ROI to five years or less. Alternative energy then becomes the financially, as well as environmentally, responsible thing to do. Your hours of labor you donate to your system becomes YOUR investment in YOUR future gains (savings).

The analysis of Energy and Financial payback need consideration in any Alternative Energy system you desire for your situation. Alternative Energy systems are a good thing to add, but be sure you understand who really benefits and where the ROI line is drawn. I very much want to offset my energy consumption, but will not needlessly support ridiculous financial transactions with my money to do so. Neither should you unless you are a rich philanthropist.

Control Your Liability

Remember to always use licensed professionals when connecting anything to your plumbing, electrical and/or structural systems. The liability exposure is too great otherwise.

Recently I turned my attention to alternative energy including solar, wind and hydro.

I gave no hydro possibility, but still researched some of the offerings since many of the techniques apply to wind also.

This leaves solar and wind as possible sources of energy.

Solar can be further split into two categories: thermal and photovoltaic.

In this post I will summarize the findings applicable to my own situation.

More »

If you have an old fashioned open fireplace and have always wondered “there has got to be a better way to ‘do’ fire” here is your answer.
More »

I ordered a PowerCost Meter from Blueline Innovations in an effort to better demonstrate to my family the overall power consumption of everyday things in a home.

The hope is by seeing the cost per hour as things are turn on and off, increased awareness will suggest to turn things off. That’s the hope of the Power Cost meter it seems.

Please understand this meter does not save you any money on your power bill. It does not do any quack technique of saving energy. It simply reports your energy usage so you will be understand where your waste might be. It is up to you to do the actual saving.

There are several different meters available, but the Blue Line model seems to be a good mix of capabilities.

Several aspects of this meter appealed to me including:

  • Measures the power use by sensing the wheel or window of the power companies meter – The meter’s power is the same as what the electric company measures
  • Portable display unit – to place where your family can see it
  • Ability to show energy consumed per unit time or dollars per unit time
  • Can handle tiered rates
  • RF link between sensor and display unit

I eagerly took the parts home and immediately set about going through the very good instructions in the manuals. I put two batteries into the display unit, two in the remote unit and then headed outside to continue installation onto the power meter. Things were going great…

…and then…

The hidden wheel in my power meter.

The hidden wheel in my power meter.

…disaster. Of all the various meters this Power Cost sensor supports, and it is many, I had to have the one kind of meter that won’t work with this sensor. Look close and you will see the problem. My meter does have the spinning wheel, but there is a metal shroud covering the front portion of it thereby blocking any view from the front for the sensor.


I sent an email to the support at Blue Line Innovations and they promptly confirmed my finding that my meter just won’t work.

I am not giving up yet, though. This meter system and the way it displays data is just too cool to pass up.

My next task will be to create a substitute power meter that will tick off either one tick per 7.2 watt-hours or one tick per watt-hour both of which appear compatible with the Power Cost meter. Stay tuned.

The pictures below show the unveiling of the Blue Line Innovations Power Cost Meter as received from Northern Tool Company.

I have long wanted to provide a way for the family to “see” how much energy is being used at any given moment so they can get a feel for what uses the most. I had plans to incorporate toroid pick ups in the two hot lines in the breaker panel.

Thankfully, the late overall awareness of energy cosumption has intiated the creation of many products which will “read your ac power meter” and provide a display in the confort of your home.

I have ordered a Blue Line Power Meter from Northern Tool to solve this monitoring question.

Blue Line Energy Monitor

The most interesting part of this is the unit that harmlessly clamps onto the glass of your power meter and, it appears, to monitor the spinning wheel. This is a great idea since you are monitoring the very same energy measurement device used by the power company.

Note to potential buyers… Despite the claim on Blue Line’s web site their product works on all meters, it appears it will not work on meters that do not have a spinning wheel. More and more AC power meters do not have the wheel visible. Make sure you power meter has a visible wheel before considering this device.

Come back to this site for updates and progress on how this meter works. I will make regular reports after installation and during use throughout the coming year.


In the last few weeks the spam has brought in links to this web site claiming they can improve the efficiency of your car by “unlocking” the energy stored in water.


Water 4 Gas? OK I’ll bite.

Mind you if this were several years ago I would not even bother, but the gas prices warrant a look at all possible options.

This “Water 4 Gas” site contains videos of an electrolysis device which takes current from your car or truck’s electrical system, directs the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas to your engine air intake and, presto, free energy in the form of improved mileage.

Despite the informative videos and honest description there is just one thing wrong…

H2O + Energy(electrolysis) => H2 + O2 => H2O + Energy(burn)

The Water 4 Gas folks seem to think the following is true…

H2O + Energy(electrolysis) => H2 + O2 => H2O + Energy(burn) + more free energy

It is doubtful they have found a way to burn the hydrogen and oxygen to yield more energy than it took from the alternator (which in turn takes from the engine) to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen.

Another thing to note is while the electrolysis jar bubbles impressively in the nice video, the amount of gas it generates is, but a puff to the enormous quantities of air flow through an internal combustion engine such as a car’s.

So why do all the testimonials praise the extra mileage they get with this thing? Don’t know.

Here is a site that pretty much suggests this is a scam by criminals or foolishness by those who just don’t understand chemistry…


This site also shows why fooling around with additives to make the water electrolysis process more efficient actually simply changes the chemical reaction from that of generating Oxygen and Hydrogen to Chlorine, Hydrogen plus other compounds… Yes that’s right, doing this half baked can generate poison gas and…


What do you think?

Remember, if this true you would not need to spread the word via email spam… hmmm.