When you are remodeling or building your home, you should consider incorporating renewable energy systems into your design. Whether it be a wind, solar, geothermal, or hydro power source that you tap into, the long term return on investment will more than offset the initial installation cost. By installing one of these renewable energy systems in your home, you will not only be saving money, but you will be helping to prevent excess CO2 from going into the environment.
Solar systems are the first type of alternative energy systems that come to mind when people think of renewable energy systems. Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight directly into electricity, making it seem like a clear winner in the renewable energy game. Even though solar energy systems are becoming more affordable, the initial cost of a system can be shocking. To help with the installation costs the government is offering tax incentives, and some suppliers of photovoltaic systems offer financing or leasing options. Depending on your energy usage, you may be able to sell excess electricity that you generate back to your electric provider, thus making your investment pay off even quicker. According to WE Energies (2010) grid inter-tie systems, as opposed to off-grid systems, are by far the most common setups for home energy producers.
Here’s a simple video and explanation of how photovoltaic cells work. It’s really quite simple in theory. Sunlight (or any source of photons) causes some substances to release electrons. This is called the photovoltaic effect, first discovered by Bequerel in 1839, then later fully described by Albert Einstein in 1905. Because there are no moving parts a PV system runs silently and requires little maintenance, making it one of the first options homeowners think of when considering renewable energy for their home.
Harnessing wind power can save you a lot of money, if you live in a location where you can install a wind turbine. Your electricity generation will be dependent on the wind, so you will require a backup source of power when the wind isn’t blowing. Wind power can be a very efficient source of auxiliary power, but the fickleness of the wind excludes it as a primary source for electricity for many homeowners.
There are a small handful of designs out there for capturing wind power, mostly because these have been proven to work the most efficiently over time. The horizontal axis wind turbine is probably to most common. Vertical axis turbines can also be very effective, but seem to be less popular. These are the basic differences:
Hydroelectricity is a great option if you happen to live next to a running stream or operate your own private dam. While the nation could utilize hydroelectric generation much more frequently, for most homeowners it is not practical. Though, it would be a fun challenge to have your own hydroelectric generator if you have the right conditions (which usually means living in mountainous areas with ample streams running year round). Hydroelectric is generally utilized by the large energy companies of the world.
Geothermal energy is a vastly overlooked source of potential energy. One the home scale it’s used for heating and cooling, not for electricity production. The heat from the earth’s core provides natural warmth which is sufficient to heat most average houses, even on bitterly cold days. All the system requires is a sufficient amount of tubing to be installed underground with water circulating within the tubing to capture the heat from the ground. This latent heat is then transferred to the heating system within the house through a heat pump. Heat pumps are an efficient way to transfer heat, so you can cool your home in the summer through the same geothermal system.
The downside to geothermal, in my opinion, is that it requires electricity to operate. So if your source of power goes down, so does your access to heat through your geothermal system. I think the jury is still out on the efficacy of geothermal for home heating.
Now is the perfect time to explore any or all of the renewable energy systems available on the market. Take advantage of the incentives offered by the government and various suppliers to make the switch while you are improving your home. The long term savings, both monetary and environmental, will make your investment worthwhile. But, you really have to run the numbers and do your homework first.
Find out more at Energy.gov: Tax Credits, Rebates, and Savings and plug in your State of residence. Incentives are always changing, so it’s best to go back to the site often to find out what’s current… or follow them on social media. Adding a renewable energy system to your home could really pay off on just a few years.