Eco Kitchen Tips - Privanka Nalk - Washington Post

Eco Kitchen Tips - Privanka Nalk - Washington Post


I know this may come as a shock, but I spend most of my time in the kitchen. And I use a ton of kitchen appliances ― blenders, mixers, air fryers ― you name it, I probably have it. But since living on my own, I’ve always had my parents’ voices echoing in my head ― “Turn the light off if you’re not in your room,” “Don’t keep the hair dryer plugged in,” and so on. 

When my parents were growing up in India, they were conscious of their energy consumption because ― like many countries outside of the United States ― central heat and air weren’t readily available and the electricity would frequently go out. My parents’ voices and my international experiences have encouraged me to further research how our daily choices about energy use make an impact on the environment.

In 2020, the average annual electricity consumption for U.S. households was 10,715 kilowatt hours (kWh), an average of about 893 kWh per month. Residential energy consumption amounts to over 20 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. In layman’s terms, 1 kWh is the amount of energy an appliance or machine needs to run for one hour.

As consumers, why should we be concerned? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly all parts of the electricity system in the United States affect the environment, creating greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants, water pollutants, wasted water, solid waste and hazardous waste. All of those things detrimentally affect plants, animals and ecosystems.

Here are tips to reduce energy consumption in your kitchen: 


Unplug energy vampires

Kitchen appliances ― and appliances anywhere in your home ― that are plugged in but aren’t being regularly used are using up energy. Some common kitchen counter vampires include your toaster, air fryer, coffee maker, electric kettle, stand mixer, blenders, food processors, juicers and rice cookers. Together, they can account for up to 20 percent of energy bills. Keep them unplugged when not in use and make long-term changes where possible. For instance, I use a stovetop Italian Moka pot to make coffee instead of an electric coffee maker. When I travel, I unplug everything in my home before leaving.

Set your fridge and freezer to the right temp

Not setting your refrigerator to the right temperature can lead to your fridge and freezer over-consuming energy and working in overdrive. Best practices include setting your fridge to 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit, not leaving the doors open for long periods of time and placing the fridge/freezer in a cool, dry place (away from the stove or another direct heat source). Additionally, even the slightest bit of dust on fridge coils can reduce the energy efficiency, so cleaning them regularly will improve efficiency.

Use your cooktop efficiently

We don’t always have a say in what kind of cooktop we get in our homes. But there are still ways we can use our cooktops efficiently ― consider adding a lid to boil water quicker, boiling water in a teapot for tea and coffee (versus an electric kettle), and cooking items on the stovetop that may normally be made in ovens. For example, make eggplant parmigiana in a skillet on the stovetop instead of baking it in the oven. Regulate the flame when cooking on a gas stove ― a higher flame means more gas use. The same applies for electric cooktops ― generally, a mid-heat setting is sufficient versus the highest setting.

 Power down an electric cooktop a few moments before your dish is complete ― this will allow the cooktop to cool down sooner and not prolong the use of energy. Similarly, for induction cooktops, which are the most energy efficient option, make sure to align the size of your pan with the size of the heating element on the stove to not overuse electricity when cooking or prolong the heating process.

 Don’t overuse the oven

Ovens need energy to heat up and to cook. Some things to consider are a self-cleaning oven (they’re better insulated and more energy efficient) and using the convection baking setting on your oven (it uses 20 percent less energy). Here are some additional tips on how to efficiently use your convection oven.

 And two things to consider before jumping to preheat your oven: If the amount you’re making is small, can you use your toaster oven instead? A toaster oven uses one-third to one-half less energy than a conventional electric oven. And depending on what you’re using the oven for, you may not actually need to preheat it. When roasting veggies, for example, you can throw them in as soon as you turn on the oven. (Other items, like cakes, do need a fully preheated oven of course.)

 Limit your dishwasher usage

Consider running your dishwasher only when the machine is full. If you’re in the position to, you can look into purchasing an updated energy efficient dishwasher, which could use less than a quarter of the energy that hand-washing dishes would use (provided that scraps are simply scraped off dishes, not rinsed beforehand).



Solar Mamas, our Featured Non-Profit, is Doing Great Things!

Solar Mamas, our Featured Non-Profit, is Doing Great Things!



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Summary of Senate Inflation Reduction Act as of 8-8-22

Summary of Senate Inflation Reduction Act as of 8-8-22

As of August 08, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has passed in the Senate but is still awaiting passage in the House of Representatives and then must be signed by the president. The summary below reflects what is in the most recent available draft of the legislation. This legislation contains the most significant investment in resources and technologies to combat the impacts and advancements of climate change our nation has made to-date. The impact of this investment could be transformative for our  industry, country, and dare we say, the world. Please read here for details.
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30% for Solar Is Part of Senate Anti-Inflation Bill!

30% for Solar Is Part of Senate Anti-Inflation Bill!

In a surprise victory for the solar and clean technology industries, Senator Joe Manchin and Democrats reached an agreement July 27th on a reconciliation bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The bill includes $370 billion in spending for renewable energy and climate measures.

One of the most impactful provisions in the bill, which can be read in full text here, is the long-term extension of the Investment Tax Credit, which has been instrumental in launching the solar industry we know today. The bill calls for a 10-year extension at 30% of the cost of the installed equipment, which will then step down to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

The tax credit applies to individuals, businesses, and utility-scale developers of solar technology. The 30% credit also applies to energy storage whether it is co-located or installed as standalone energy storage. This enables the retrofit of a battery to a solar array while taking advantage of the credit.

“With long-term incentives for clean energy deployment and manufacturing, the solar and storage industry is ready to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and get to work building out the next era of American energy leadership. This is a crucial window of opportunity that we cannot miss, and now Congress must seal the deal and pass this legislation,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The bill is expected to head to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week.

Solar investment tax credit to be extended 10 years at 30% – pv magazine USA (

Statement from Vote Solar

Surge in Homes Powered by the Sun, But Do Your Homework So You Don't Get Burned

Surge in Homes Powered by the Sun, But Do Your Homework So You Don't Get Burned

June 17, 2022 - KUOW by Tom Banse

Solar power installations on home rooftops are surging in Oregon and Washington state. Alongside, you may have noticed an uptick in ads pitching rooftop solar, or even gotten an in-person solicitation. Some of the sales pitches contain dubious or potentially misleading claims. And now, consumer watchdogs are urging homeowners to do their homework before signing any contract.

In hindsight, Pasco, Washington, retiree Bob Layman wishes he and his wife had done more research about the solar installer they selected to put panels on their roof. Part of their system was improperly wired. That meant the Layman's could not get an accurate meter readout to collect state solar production incentive payments.

"It runs smoothly other than the fact that the meter was hooked up wrong and didn't give us a payout," Layman said in an interview.

It took three years, innumerable phone calls and multiple house calls before the wiring snafu was fixed and the couple collected the back incentive payout.

"They were misleading in communication with me and trying to get me to settle for less than half of what they actually owed me,” Layman said of the saga with the vendor. “They just quit talking to me."

The installer company did not reply to a request for their side of the story.

Going green has much appeal, but if it costs you more greenbacks or stress than you expected, you could be left feeling green around the gills.

In Oregon, complaints to the consumer protection division in the Oregon Department of Justice related to residential solar doubled between 2019 and 2021, albeit starting from a low level.

Earlier this year, the Idaho Attorney General issued a consumer alert warning about misleading sales tactics by some solar companies.

A spokesperson for the Washington State Attorney General said that agency’s consumer protection division tallied nearly a hundred complaints since 2019 about this sector, including about deceptive advertising and high pressure sales. The tally still pales beside top generators of complaints such as e-commerce shopping and telecom services, so there was no indication action similar to Idaho was imminent.

The onslaught of solar energy marketing in social media and online is resulting in ads showing up in such wide ranging places such as at the beginning of bonsai pruning videos or 1980’s music hits.

A Nevada-based digital marketing firm produced one widely-seen ad that begins with this dubious claim, "If you're a Washington homeowner, 2022 is your LAST chance to go solar."

When the staff at long-established Western Solar in Bellingham saw that ad and others like it, they were moved to write a blog post titled, “How to protect yourself from solar scams & high-pressure sales.”

The reality is that the state's and most local utility solar programs aren't scheduled to change between this year and next. A federal tax credit decreases only slightly next year.

“Installations completed in 2022 are eligible for a 26% tax credit, with a 22% credit for systems installed in 2023,” Trish Merriman of Western Solar wrote. “Unless Congress renews it, the (federal) tax credit expires for residential installs starting in 2024.”

Another come-on that surfaced this spring in online ads is that you could "get solar installed on your home at no cost." Reputable solar installers said just like there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's no such thing as free solar panels either.

"Over the long run, they can pay for themselves, for sure. Over the short run, they are not free,” said Todd Currier, director of the Washington State University Energy Program. “What does the long run mean? It can be ten, twelve, fifteen years before a system pays for itself."

Currier said he has unfortunately heard about seniors being sold systems with long-term financing plans totally unsuitable for an old person.

The president of the Washington Solar Energy Industries Association said the trade group's members agree there is a problem.

"Ultimately in Washington state, it's buyer beware," said Markus Virta, who is also director of sales for Western Solar in Bellingham.

Virta said trade groups like his don't have the power to police non-member bad actors, which include sales lead compilers and other out-of-state outfits solely focused on remote marketing. Virta says the honest players in the business are talking with utility companies and state agencies about how to step up consumer protection.

"We’re doing our best to brainstorm what we can do, what leverage mechanisms we can take to try to snuff out these misleading and frankly false claims that are being made," Virta said in an interview Thursday.

Virta's advice for people wanting to go solar is to get multiple bids. He reiterated to never sign the contract on the table during your first sales meeting with a contractor. And make sure you end up dealing with a system designer, not just the sales or marketing person.

Currier said he would want potential contractors to come out and do site assessments in person before submitting their bids to install a solar system.

A spokesperson at Oregon's Department of Justice recommended starting at a U.S. Department of Energy-backed website named

This all is happening in the context of record numbers of new rooftop solar installations. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, annual solar installations in Oregon rose by more than 50% last year. Washington also experienced double-digit percentage growth with Idaho trailing a little behind, but still growing briskly.

Puget Sound Energy alone reported to the WSU Energy Program that it connected 2,000 new residential solar arrays in 2021 and said it was on track for 3,000 new interconnections this year.

Virta identified multiple forces behind the acceleration of installations. He said the coronavirus pandemic played a big role by leading people to spend more on home projects and renovations, which sometimes meant acquiring a solar energy system. 

Solar panel production stopped! We are hope recent federal actions will resolve this soon!

Solar panel production stopped! We are hope recent federal actions will resolve this soon!

On Friday, June 3rd, we learned that Silfab Solar, our panel supplier, is temporarily halting the production of their Silfab SIL-380BK panels, which we use for our projects. Their decision was due to the US Commerce Department’s controversial solar tariff investigation, which has caused a great deal of turmoil for the US solar industry over the last several months. Although this investigation was launched because of a request from one small company we, and most other U.S. solar companies, are opposed to the solar tariff inquiry because of the chilling effect that we knew it would have on the industry, and have expressed our opposition. 

In response to broad community action, the Biden Administration today announced plans to invoke the Defense Production Act for clean energy and provide a two-year reprieve from import tariffs on solar panel parts. This is an important step in the right direction, and we are now waiting to see what Silfab Solar is planning to do. Stay tuned!

Read the Solar Energy Industry Association's statement about the Defense Production Act action to support solar panel production. 

We are working diligently to meet our existing orders, as well as are hopeful that the Defense Production Act will provide the certainty needed for panel manufacturers to re-up panel production. 

We will keep you posted on this blog, as well as share opportunities for you, our clients and solar supporters, where you can speak up for residential solar and all it's benefits - clean energy, good jobs, and community climate resilience.

We thank you for your support and patience.


The Sun Path team