Considering the significant amount of energy that we use at home, we should all be looking for ways to introduce renewable energy into our daily lives.
Renewable energy, or clean energy, is intended to replace energy that comes from fossil fuels. Solar, wind, and water power are examples of renewable energy. It’s called “renewable” because it can’t be exhausted, as opposed to fossil fuels that need to be mined or fracked, and that can eventually be depleted.
These days, solar and wind power are being used more and more often, and consequently, becoming more affordable. But what other renewable energy options do you have at home?
Heat pumps using geothermal energy are smaller and quieter than standard HVAC units and can be used in nearly every part of the country. Also known as ground-source heat pumps, they maintain the air temperature in your home and can also heat your water. Geothermal energy uses the natural, stable temperature of the earth below the ground’s surface, circulating a liquid that transfers the heat to or from your home, as appropriate. In general, your existing ducts can be used with this system.
Installing a heat pump will save you money on your utility bills, and as with most of the renewable energy sources listed here, you may qualify for special financing or tax and utility incentives to help you recoup your costs even quicker.
Thinking about getting power from water usually leads to thoughts of giant dams creating hydroelectric energy. However, water power can be used on a small scale — for instance, by homeowners who have moving water on their properties — using microhydropower technology. Microhydropower can be generated from the speed of the water or by using propellers, pumps, or waterwheels. And you don’t need a raging river to set up a system; as little as 13 inches of water in your stream can be enough to get your hydropower system going.
Packaged systems can be purchased and installed by homeowners, and it’s possible to store the energy produced in special batteries.
Solar Power: Alternatives to Solar Panels
Can you harness solar energy without installing big old solar panels on your roof? Why, yes, you can. Photovoltaic (PV) tiles, also known as solar shingles, can look like regular shingles and are generally easier to install than panels. While they do cost more to install, tax incentives can help lessen the pain.
PV tiles can be the same size or bigger than your current roof shingles and can be installed as an entire roof or in sections of your existing roof. Some experts recommend waiting to install solar shingles until you are replacing your roof, but that’s not really necessary. A number of companies offer several different solar shingle solutions, so it’s important to do your research since the initial cost is fairly significant.
Another option is solar tubes, which differ from traditional skylights in that they don’t just let the sun shine in through a hole in the roof to the room below. Instead, they channel sunlight into the interior of your home. From a clear plastic “bubble” on the roof, sunlight enters the tube, which is lined with reflective material. The attached tube runs from the roof through the home, behind walls or even through unused closets, and ends in the ceiling of the room of your choice. It looks similar to a recessed light and diffuses the sunlight throughout your interior room. Solar tubes are less costly than skylights and can be purchased in DIY kits.
Sure, traditional solar energy from rooftop panels is still the most accessible clean energy source for homeowners. The cost of panel installation continues to drop, and in some areas you can sell excess energy back to your local power company. Just don’t forget that other sources of renewable, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly power exist and are also becoming less expensive and more efficient for home use.
Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. | U.S. Department of Energy | The Spruce | Solar Power World | Houselogic