Alternative energy: a guide to greening your home

Alternative energy is a growing market, and though many states offer tax credits, rebates, and other incentives to promote clean energy, it can still prove to be an expensive proposition.

It generally also requires plugging your energy source into the grid so you’re not left in the dark when the wind calms or the sun lingers behind clouds.

Here is a roundup of solutions that can help power a home.

Solar

Solar is, in some ways, the easiest solution, or at least one of the most accessible. Plugging into the sun requires photo-voltaic solar panels, an inverter, and batteries that can store a bit of any excess energy for a rainy day.

Performance varies regionally, of course, with states in the southern and southwestern regions enjoying the most days of sun per year.

Solar panels require little maintenance once installed and can provide large amounts of electricity in fair weather. It can be expensive, however, even with incentives, and even when hooked up to batteries, it doesn’t do much good when there’s no sun for stretches at a time.

Resources

GetSolar has a database for finding a solar installer in your area. It’s wise to compare quotes from several companies. Some installers prefer to install panels sold by their companies, while others will install any panels you purchase.

It’s also possible to rent solar panels. One of the largest renters is Citizenrē REnU, which offers 1, 5 or 25-year contracts that include installation.

Wind

Wind energy is often associated with mammoth wind farms, but smaller sized turbines are also produced for backyard energy production.

The speed of the wind is the determining factor in whether wind power is the right solution for your home. Weather services can tell you what the average wind speed in your region is, but it can vary within a region.

Not surprisingly, bigger turbines can produce larger amounts of energy.

A 10-kilowatt turbine can usually provide enough energy for a house and is usually around 100 feet tall with a 23-foot turbine.

As with solar, wind energy is climate-dependent so when the turbine’s not turning, you might need a different energy source. Unlike solar, wind turbines have the added con of being built of out of moving parts that need regular maintenance.

Resources

A turbine large enough to power a home often requires a permit. The American Wind Energy Association offers a useful guide for going through the necessary steps to install your own turbine, as well as a list of wind gear providers.

If you’re low on space or looking for a plug-and-play solution, try a personal wind turbine like Southwest Windpower’s Air-X. It can produce up to 400 watts, enough to offset some lighting and appliance usage, and can be installed on top of a roof.

Alternatively, try Clarian’s Jellyfish When it hits the market next year, i will be able to provide the same potential wattage and also feature the ability to power your home by plugging into any standard wall outlet.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, find an old treadmill and take a stab at making your own as in this video:

Geothermal

Most geothermal energy is produced large scale, so single-home geothermal is usually limited to heating and cooling solutions. Still, considering how much energy indoor climate control can consume, geothermal heat pumps can significantly reduce your energy needs.

Geothermal heat pumps tap into the earth’s stable temperature to regulate that in your home.



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Alternative energy: a guide to greening your home