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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Going Green in Southwest Florida: “Centsible” Sustainability is On-Trend

Mar 29, 2013 04:55PM ● By Linda Sechrist

James Ritter and his Chevy Volt

In the 1950s, TV star Dinah Shore sang an advertising jingle that invited America to see the USA in a Chevrolet. That was when the average cost of a car was $1,510 and a gallon of gas just 18 cents. It was also 50 years before anyone uttered the phrase “carbon footprint” or thought about the pollutants their Chevy emitted. Today, with our focus on climate reality and how to create a more sustainable future, it’s cool to talk about the shrinking size of our carbon footprint, what we’re doing to reduce or offset carbon emissions with environmentally friendly measures and the money we’ve saved as a result. For individuals that own electric or hybrid cars, or solar panels that supply energy for a hot water heater, pool or HVAC system, conversations about a greener future come easy.

Driving Lighter

James Ritter, president and CEO of Pulse Business Solutions, in Fort Myers, wanted to “drive lighter” on his daily trips to consult with clients. Intent on traveling 125 miles per day in style, he purchased a Chevy Volt. Ritter estimates that he shaves 805 pounds of CO2 a month from his footprint by driving the hybrid electric vehicle, which combines a conventional internal combustion engine propulsion system with an electric motor. The Volt drives on battery power until the battery runs low, and then automatically switches to gas power, thus allowing a longer drive range than most hybrids. “My car averages 38 to 41 miles on a full electric charge, which equals 9 kWh of electricity. I’m regularly averaging 900 miles between refueling and saving $35 a week,” notes Ritter, whose monthly savings is the equivalent of 29 percent of his lease payment.

“I agree with J.D. Power and Associates, who rank the Volt as having the highest vehicle appeal among sub-compact and compact cars,” says Ritter, who plans to install solar panels on his home to charge his car battery. “I can plug into a standard 110- or 200-volt outlet, which only costs me $1.20 to charge. However, I want to walk all of my technological talk, so solar will provide the power for my computers and Internet modem, as well,” he explains.

Saving with Solar

This 5KW PV system and solar hot water system now qualify for about $17,600 in rebates and tax credits.
This 5KW PV system and solar hot water system now qualify for about $17,600 in rebates and tax credits.
According to Aaron Fields, third generation co-owner of Advance Solar and Spa, Inc., in Fort Myers, Ritter joins a growing number of Southwest Florida residents opting for solar installations, thanks to a reduction in retail costs coupled with state and federal tax credits and incentives.

“The cool thing about solar is that from the moment the installation is complete, you are saving money,” advises Dominick Zito, sales manager for Fafco Solar Energy, in Cape Coral, which specializes in all types of solar installations, including Solar Tubular Skylights. A good source of natural light even on overcast days, the skylights also effectively reduce utility bills and are less expensive than many solar options.

Since 2010, Florida Power & Light (FPL) incentives have kept solar alive in the Sunshine State. As part of a pilot program authorized by the Florida Public Service Commission, FPL offers a $1,000 rebate for every new residential solar water heater and has also partnered with not-for-profit, low-income-housing builders such as Habitat for Humanity, to install 1,000 solar water heaters in low-income housing units over the next five years.

Additionally, a taxpayer may claim a federal tax credit for 30 percent of the cost of solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, residential grid-interactive photovoltaic (PV) whole-house electric systems, solar water heaters, small wind-energy systems and fuel cells. “The tax credit doesn’t include pool heaters, which are considered a luxury,” notes Fields, who adds that systems must be in service before December 31, 2016.

Tubular Solar Skylights (photo from Fafco Solar Energy)
Tubular Solar Skylights (photo from Fafco Solar Energy)
According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, a solar hot water setup, which is relatively inexpensive, has a quick payback and can cut a family’s water heating costs by up to 85 percent. Collector boxes, usually placed on a roof, trap solar heat and preheat cold water. Even on a sunny but cold winter day, water in the collectors can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

“In Southwest Florida, people who resonate with the dollar and cents of green love to show off their great deals,” advises Fields. “Saving $600 annually on water heating is considered cool, while saving on gas, decreasing carbon emissions and getting a $20,000 rebate on a whole-house PV system is stylish and sexy.”

For more information, contact Advance Solar & Spa, 800-940-4328, AdvanceSolar.com; Fafco Solar, 239-398-6939, FafcoSolar.com; and Pulse Business Solutions, LLC, 239-676-6615, Pulsebizsolutions.com. Also visit ENERGY STAR, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, at EnergyStar.gov.

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