The current trend in politics and culture turns to “going green” and what we as individuals can do to reduce our carbon footprint. There are many little things that can be done, such as turning down the thermostat, only using a fan and not an air conditioner, limiting car use, or air drying your clothes on a clothesline.
Getting more involved with environmentally-friendly energy solutions takes much more investment. However, switching to solar power has never been cheaper or easier than it is right now. Solar energy costs continue to drop by an average of about 4.4% each year.
Other renewable sources such as wind or hydro are also possible. Let’s take a look at a few options that can be adapted for home use.
One of the easiest ways to convert to a renewable power source, at least partially, is with rooftop solar panels. If your roof needs replacing, you could even consider rooftop solar tiles instead. Tesla has recently bought SolarCity which will begin manufacturing solar shingles. Other companies are also starting to produce solar shingles, and soon they could be common-place across the country.
There are two types of solar panels. Solar PV (photovoltaics) converts solar energy into electricity. Solar thermal panels heat water and homes with central heating using radiators. The thermal option is more affordable and will return your investment much faster. Solar power works best when you live in a very sunny climate with a southern-facing rooftop. Also, depending on where you put the solar panels, whether on a roof or in the yard, they are unobtrusive compared to a wind turbine.
Home wind power is possible, but it’s not as easy to install as solar. Because of the nature of the device, a tall turbine of 80-100 feet must be installed. There are often limitations in certain neighborhoods for installation, and noise can also be a factor. A wind turbine is recommended for those who live on over an acre of land. The upfront investment of a turbine can be about $10,000 which is also more prohibitive than other renewable energy methods.
If you live near a stream or river, it is possible to redirect some of the water into a hydropower source. For those who like a little DIY project, it is possible to make your own generator, or you can hire a professional to help. While hydro is a powerful and reliable renewable source, it is limited to those who live near a water source.
There are several types of pumps that are available, which harness the warmth of the earth and transfer it to your home. Ground, air, and water pumps all have their limitations and are not as commonly used as other renewables because of the expense.
A much older form of power, biomass runs on burning logs or pellets to heat water and rooms in the home. It is best set up in a garage as a burner can be quite large. There are several types, ones that heat one room, while others set up to heat and connect to the water system as well, called a full biomass boiler.
Choose the Right Renewable Energy Source for You
Think about the type of space you have available and your climate when deciding on installing a renewable source. If you are in an urban area, your choices may be more limited, whereas a rural location would have much more space available to make the most of a wind turbine or more solar panels. The good news is, prices for renewable energy products are dropping so now is the time to invest in a cleaner future.