I am not looking to get completely off of the system but i would love yo reduce my bills...
Where can I get some good info about this?
You got a lot of good suggestions. I have a couple of things to add.
Many states require the power companies offer a grid intertie. It's sort of the best of both worlds. You install a photovoltaic (PV) system, but you don't get rid of your grid connection. This way you don't need batteries. When the sun shines brightly and you're not running an electric oven, your power meter will turn backwards, giving you credit for sending power from your PV system into the grid. At night, on cloudy days, etc, you can draw from the grid as normal. Now, this doesn't help you if the grid goes down and it's cloudy.
To run A/C and electric hot water you would need a HUGE PV system. Most people who put in PV also go with super-low use appliances. They heat and cook with gas or wood.
We looked into a PV system in 2002 when we built. At that time, the systems cost so much that we would never get a return on our investment. I wish, though, we had put in solar hot water. I live in upstate NY and a friend in nearby Massachusetts has a solar system that's 30 years old. On a sunny but subzero day the fluid coming out of the system is at 190-degrees F.
You might also look very hard at your electric use. For example:
Do you use an electric clothes
- dryer? They typically draw an amazing amout of current. Line drying cut our bill in 1/2.
Go around and turn off everything you can find. Then look at your meter. If it's still turning you have what conservationists call "phantom load." The LEDs on your VCR, clocks, all draw current. It may just be a little, but it adds up.
What kind of light bulbs do you use. Compact fluorescents will give more light for much less electricity use. Switching to all fluorescents could also potentially save you a bundle.
- you might also save a bundle just by switching to LP for cooking and hot water. You can get hot water heaters that are 96+% efficient from the American Water Heater company.
Outdoor boilers can save you money, but if you're concerned about pollution, don't use them. They are exempt from EPA regulations and emit lots of pollution as a result.
Lastly, Countryside Magazine has tons of articles on designing, sizing and using PV systems, as well as wind and water power systems for homeowners. Check out their back issues. I like their magazine more than Mother Earth. You never see articles in it about big-shot hollywood types who have spent $14 million on a "green" second home.
It's nice to see so many other people thinking about reducing their footprint on the earth.