Types of Renewable Energy for Your Home
Types of Renewable Energy to Power Your Home
If receiving state and federal incentives, saving money on monthly utility bills, and reducing your carbon footprint all at the same time sounds appealing to you, renewable energy might be what you’ve been looking for. Renewable energy solutions such as solar panels, small wind turbines, hydropower, and utilization of biomass have become financially accessible and adaptable to residential areas. Additionally, these solutions embody strategic ways to reduce energy consumption throughout the house.
Embarking on a renewable project doesn’t have to be a massive home makeover. Some solutions may require an expert and others can be DIY upgrades — either way, a renewable energy upgrade will satisfy both the financially savvy and the environmentally conscious.
The future is here; harvesting energy from the sun can happen right at home. With solar innovation booming in the energy industry, options are expanding and solutions becoming more financially accessible.The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) states that the U.S has installed enough solar infrastructure to power 12.7 million American homes.
Solar technology installation has increased 10% year over year, and the photovoltaic capacity is expected to double in the next five years, according to SEIA. If solar panel installation isn’t right for you (perhaps your home is heavily shaded or you rent), some utilities provide the opportunity to purchase solar energy specifically. If you are shopping for a home with the intention of installing solar equipment, consider the orientation and landscape in the initial process.
Choosing to install solar equipment is a long term investment. Fortunately, checking the solar incentives and rebates by state, or applying for the 30% Solar Incentive Tax credit can bring initial set up costs into a more manageable range. In many states, excess energy created on sunny days can even be sold back to power utilities. It may also be helpful to use a mortgage calculator to determine the total monthly cost of the installation and mortgage combined with yearly taxes.
Purchasing energy-efficient appliances, installing fiberglass insulation in the attic, or replacing windows for better temperature retention are all ways to maximize solar energy usage while adding value to a home. Solar is also a great option to consider within a hybrid system — one in which more than one type of renewable energy is used. Combining the power of solar with another alternative source can cover the gaps between those cloudy days.
Solar panels are cheaper than they’ve ever been, helping to offset the cost of installation and upkeep. With the hundreds of companies that are now manufacturing solar panels, there are a variety of types, performance, and appearances to choose from. Solar shingles can replace rooftop shingles for a sleek look, or replace the whole kit and caboodle with Tesla invisible solar cells. As technology grows, so do aesthetics.
Solar Water Heater
If your residence has adequate sun exposure to maximize solar energy, another cost-effective opportunity to save money on utility bills is to heat water with a solar water heater. There are many types of solar water heaters on the market ranging from active to passive, with a variety of storage tanks, solar collectors, demonstrated reliability in cold weather conditions, and back up systems for increased demand.
Before purchasing a solar water heater, it is important to determine what type of system works best for the demands of the household. It is also important to ensure that it adheres to local codes and regulations and that there is enough solar exposure to utilize this water heater to its greatest capacity.
A small solar solution that can be purchased or made DIY is a solar oven. Conventional ovens may use anywhere from 1000 to 5000 watts, but a solar oven simply uses a little ingenuity and sunshine. A solar oven reflects heat from the sun into a box where it is collected, absorbed, and trapped. Pre-made solar ovens are generally purchased for more long-term use, while DIY solar ovens may range from single-use to slight multi-use, but may also meet the needs of an upcycling project. A DIY model will require a cardboard box, aluminum foil, clear tape, plastic wrap, black construction paper, newspaper, and perhaps a thermometer.
Air conditioning accounts for an average of 12% of energy expenditures in the U.S and increases to 27% in hot-humid climates, states the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA).
It may seem counterintuitive to use sunshine to cool a home, but making the change to a solar unit from a conventional one can lower the demand on the grid during times of peak use. There are two categories of solar air conditioners: hybrid systems and chillers/evaporative coolers.
Hybrid systems utilize solar energy from panels when it is accessible and store backup solar energy for instances when it is not. The system operates using solar energy to aid the compressor in the refrigeration process, as well as by using solar energy for the fans and electrical control components.
Absorption chillers (also known as evaporative coolers) heat and cool water through the process of evaporation and condensation. Chillers use solar energy to power a fan and motor that blows air over a water-saturated material to cool it.
Both of these systems can utilize alternating current from the grid during times that sunshine is not accessible.
The term “wind turbine” may bring up images of gargantuan revolving propellers in the distance, or floating wind farms offshore, but there are now smaller, residential wind turbines as well. Wind turbines are great to use in tandem with solar systems, as they function due to environmental factors that do not generally occur at the same time — sunshine and wind.
Wind turbines generate electricity when air pushes the blades to spin like a fan, which spins a shaft that is connected to a generator. While it seems like the most optimum place for a wind turbine would be the roof, but the Department of Energy guides against it, due to vibrations transmitted through the turbine structure that can cause damage to the roof where it is mounted.
There are zoning ordinances, availability of wind resources, and calculations concerning the amount of energy needed to consider before installation. Wind turbines also tend to function in wider spaces with no neighboring houses or trees, so purchasing a wind turbine for an off-the-grid setup would be ideal, though they can work in some residential cases. Wind turbines also qualify for the 30% federal tax credit and may produce buyback income from the utility company if the turbine consistently produces more energy than is needed for personal use.
Hydropower utilizes flowing water to generate consistent, clean, renewable energy. When utilized on a small scale, micro-hydro power systems are used to generate hydropower. As such, micro-hydro power solutions require a flowing water system on the property in order to transform rotational energy into electrical energy through the use of a turbine, pump, or waterwheel. Water is diverted from its natural flow (usually through a pipeline which increases water pressure, and, in turn, increases the electricity produced) to create the motion or rotation to power an alternator or generator and ultimately create electricity.
Generating biomass energy for a home largely consists of burning wood or pellets to provide heat within a building or for cooking. Burning biomass does release the CO2 that is captured by the plants through photosynthesis while they are growing, so it is considered to be a carbon-neutral energy source. Wood smoke contains harmful pollutants like particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Modern wood-burning stoves can reduce the amount of particulates and manage carbon monoxide within a building. The best wood-burning stoves will be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and will meet a list of standards.
Wood burning stoves are popular in areas that are prone to cold or extremely cold winters, as they eliminate reliance on electricity for heat. Heat derived from wood-burning can be utilized for cooking at the same time as it is heating a home. For the greatest sustainable effect, wood and plant matter can be sustainably harvested, and the ash waste produced can also be used as a carbon source for composting to further eliminate waste.