Stand-alone Solar Applications

The sun charges us up in more ways than we can count. It is, of course, the mood enhancer when we wake up to a sunny day.

When most people think of solar energy, though, they think of panels on the roof, generating electricity for all their household needs. This is a great option, but it is the most expensive option, kind of like investing in a car for all your mobility needs.

If you only need to go to the corner store, there are more affordable options of getting there, like walking or biking. It’s the same with solar; not everyone may need a rooftop system big enough to power all the household’s needs. A more task-oriented stand-alone system could well fit the bill.

A local bike shop has installed 3 ceiling fans powered by 2 panels set up as awnings over their front door, needed exactly when they’re busiest – sunny days! Read about the fan & panel installation and afterward.

Finding the alleyway too dark to approach the garage doors at night, one local household installed solar floodlights. These can soak up the sun during the day, and automatically come on when sensing motion after dark. Easier wiring, one time cost without adding to the electric bill – what’s not to like?

Before you head out to the stores, here’s a review of solar flood lights.

Most of us need a desk lamp only in the evenings. This could be another perfect application – a solar desk lamp, good for several hours into the evening.

Our Friends at Germantown Monthly Meeting manage a local community garden, the Old Tennis Court Farm. 

At this garden, you’ll find panels on their shed roof, providing electricity for a well pump that fills up water barrels for use by gardeners. Over time, they’ve added an inverter offering an AC power source to the garden. And invested in an electric lawnmower and weed whacker that could be recharged and available for use by all gardeners.

Search for “solar charger” and you’ll find an array of products designed to charge cell phones and other USB devices, AA and AAA batteries, even laptops and refrigerators. For those looking to light up a detached garage or shed, and maybe a power tool, one of Goalzero’s Yeti models with a lead acid battery, packaged as a kit with solar panels could be just the ticket. It can also be used instead of a generator for emergencies.

Another family in our neighborhood managed to run their “media room” on sunlight pouring through the windows. They kept all all the components inside, simplifying the wiring. With components from Harbor Freight, a 100W panel charging a 12v 35a battery suffices to run the TV, computer and sound system well into the night. All for under $500.

So think of your electricity needs. We’d love to hear what dedicated uses you’ve come up with for sun-charged electricity. Share your project story with us at nwphlsolar [at], and have a solar-powered day.


Springtime & power tools

It’s springtime. Time to start thinking about lawnmowers, chainsaws, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, and…

Earth Day.

Many of us sense that the path to a livable planet, to bringing the climate back into balance, hinges on the mantra: Electrify Everything and Upgrade the Electricity Grid.

So, if you’re in the market for any new power tools, we recommend you consider the battery-powered ones. Sure, we’re all used to the cordless drill.

Last spring, we bought a Kobalt brand lawnmower from Lowes, and more recently a chain saw that uses the same type of battery. Home Depot has a variety of models, also.

Our lawnmower has been great.  It has a battery that lasts for about an hour and only takes 30 minutes to recharge.  We got two batteries, which means, in theory, I could mow forever!  I tend to let the grass get way too long, but the lawnmower has had no problem cutting right through. Don’t believe anyone that says battery powered lawnmowers are not up to the task.

I cannot comment yet on the chain saw, as we haven’t managed to get outside to use it, yet, but I’ll let you all know as soon as we do. Bottom line is – no more gas can in the garage or on the side of the house.

We currently buy our electricity from The Energy Coop, so we know it’s all from the wind and sun. Once we get our solar panels this summer, our lawn mower will be powered by our very own house.

Our Friends at Germantown Meeting manage a local

photo credit:

community garden, the Old Tennis Court Farm. At this garden, you’ll find panels on their shed roof, providing  electricity for a well pump that fills up water barrels for use by gardeners.  Over time, they’ve added an inverter and invested in an electric lawnmower and weed whacker for use by all gardeners.

We’d love to hear your stories about Electrifying Everything; write us at

Solarize Center City – Campaign Kickoff

An invitation from a friend, Judy Wicks, who is a Center City resident.

Reduce carbons – Save money – Create green jobs

This fall, I’m teaming up with the Center City Residents Association and Solar States, a local solar installer, to launch a Solarize Center City campaign in which residents in my neighborhood of west Center City can use their collective buying power to purchase solar systems for their properties at greatly reduced costs.

To register for the campaign kick-off event, click here.

Early this year, Solar States installed solar panels on my roof and I am very happy with the quality of their work and the tremendous savings I’ve seen. Importantly, displacing fossil fuel-produced energy with renewable energy curbs climate change and improves air quality, reducing asthma and other illnesses caused by pollution. Rooftop solar provides significant savings to homeowners, while contracting with locally-based Solar States creates green jobs and supports our local economy.

When neighbors solarize together, Solar States can offer discounts – the more neighbors the greater the discount. Solarize campaigns have the potential to reduce the cost of a home solar system by 15% compared to buying a solar installation individually as I did. Combined with the federal tax credit of 30% (click for info on tax credit) that produces savings of 45%, and that’s just the beginning – savings from greatly reduced electric bills will continue over the years.  After all, the sun is free!

About Solar States

Solar States is an experienced solar installation company with its heart and roots in Philadelphia. As a B Corp, they are committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. With over 250 solar installations throughout the region, including two past campaigns – Solarize Northwest Philly and Solarize Greater Media – they’ve proven a positive environmental impact. Through their partnership with Clean Air Council, Solar States educates students through the YouthBuild Philly Charter School and PowerCorps PHL fellowship program, helping them to enter the green collar economy, a field with sustaining wages and career opportunities. These classes have impacted hundreds of Philadelphians and allowed Solar States to employ a talented workforce representative of our diverse city.

My Experience

My rooftop solar went active in March, 2016, and I have been thrilled to see monthly electric bills as low as $7, even though I have an all-electric house (no natural gas).  Of course, this will not be the case in winter, but nevertheless, it is remarkable to see my electric bill under $20 for months in a row, with no gas bill. By using an app on my phone, I am able to monitor my energy generation and consumption in several different graphs in order to coordinate my consumption with the sun. judy-on-roof

This will be demonstrated during the Center City House Tour on Sunday, October 23, 1-5pm.

More than anything, it feels great to know that I am doing my part to reduce carbons. This collaborative campaign gives center city residents a simple and cost effective way to address climate change, the most serious and urgent challenge of our times. Our grandchildren will thank us.

Wednesday, October 5th
Trinity Center for Urban Life
22nd & Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, PA
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

5:30 Wine & Cheese Reception; 6:00 pm – Program