Friday, December 19, 2014

Begley: Solar electric in Philly can be cool

If there's anyone who's qualified to publish his own Guide to Sustainable Living, it's Ed Begley, Jr., who's done just that in his new release from Clarkson Potter.

Begley: Solar electric in Philly can be cool

Begley, a well known TV and movie actor, has lately become the walking embodiment of "green living" thanks largely to his hit TV show "Living with Ed" and his earlier book "Living Like Ed."
Begley, a well known TV and movie actor, has lately become the walking embodiment of "green living" thanks largely to his hit TV show "Living with Ed" and his earlier book "Living Like Ed."

If there's anyone who's qualified to publish his own Guide to Sustainable Living, it's Ed Begley, Jr., who's done just that in his new release from Clarkson Potter.

Begley, a well known TV and movie actor, has lately become the walking embodiment of "green living" thanks largely to his hit TV show "Living with Ed" and his earlier book "Living Like Ed." But he's no bandwagon-jumper: As he points out in our podcast interview, he's been on this case for close to 40 years. And while it's hip to mock Hollywood actors who have scads of money to throw at problems, Begley stresses that his money-saving / earth-saving tips are for everybody, not just the rich:

"In 1970," he says, "I didn't have a lot of dough, so I bought an electric car for $950, which saved me money right away in the price of fuel and maintenance - very low on that vehicle. I started recycling and composting - very inexpensive obviously - riding my bike more than I already did, taking public transportation more ... so then after a bit of time I could afford something that cost a little bit more - a solar oven, perhaps. I saved a little more money and I could afford a rain barrel to collect my rain water and pretty soon I could afford some good insulation, and I built and built. So all I say to people is, do it no differently than I did. I wasn't a big star in 1970 - I couldn't afford solar for 20 years.  ... Pick the low-hanging fruit first, do the cheap and easy stuff first, and you will save money. I sure did."

Asked about Philly specifically as an area to take advantage of things like solar power, Begley allowed that - a greater number of cloudy days notwithstanding - we may even have some advantages over his home state of California. "Believe it or not, the solar electric panels work better where it's sunny and cold. You just want the photons. If it's freezing cold out, those solar panels will work much better than they will here in hot southern California or anywheer in the southwest. When solar electric panels get hot they lose 15% of their efficiency, so if you have a cool and sunny part of the year, a sunny winter day when it's freezing out those solar panels are still gonna work great."

Begley's no blinkered cheerleader; after discussing a misstep where he overzealously installed a home wind turbine in an area that didn't get enough year-round wind, he cautioned: "Only do it if it makes financial sense. Do that [cheap and easy] stuff first. And nowadays those choices abound: energy-efficient lightbulbs; energy-saving thrermostat; weatherstripping around your doors and windows; bike-riding when weather and fitness permit - and I've ridden around Philadelphia, the beautiful Schuylkill river there, and those great river paths along it - it's just a great bike-riding city - taking public transportation if it's available to you, and it sure is in Philadelphia.

"Cheap and easy," he repeated."Home gardening, home composting, it's dirt cheap - do that stuff first and you will save money, I guarantee." While he advised saving it up for a rain barrel or solar oven, you might first want to put $23 toward Ed Begley, Jr.'s Guide to Sustainable Living and get the complete lowdown.

In the meantime, you can hear the full podcast here.

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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