Your home’s energy efficiency is definitely influenced by the fuel sources that power everyday living, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon traditional energy sources like electric, gas and oil in order to get optimum energy savings.
The best power options for your home depend on a variety of factors, including the cost and availability of fuel sources, expenses involved in purchasing the corresponding equipment for your home, and the fuel’s impact on the environment.
A combination of standard and alternative sources is becoming a common solution thanks to consumer-friendly, utility-approved technologies that supplement existing systems to provide energy savings.
Two important elements influence the success of any residential power source: sealing the envelope and maintaining equipment. A poorly insulated home leaks away valuable energy dollars whether you’re using new solar or old-school electric, so do all you can to improve your home’s structural efficiencies before taking on a new power technology.
Heating and cooling equipment also impacts energy efficiency if it’s not in tip-top shape, so keep bi-annual system check-ups, filter changes and other maintenance chores at the top of seasonal to-do lists.
What were once considered way-off-grid energy options are now available in most U.S. neighborhoods.
Solar, wind and geothermal energy systems can easily complement the basics provided by your local utility, and in most cases, the utility actually helps you add green power through valuable equipment rebates and energy credits.
Here are just a few strategies for bringing green energy home.
There are several ways to harness the power of the sun’s rays for improved efficiency and comfort of your home. Leased solar systems allow you to enjoy the benefits of a customized solar panel array without massive expense, requiring only a minor monthly fee while the system delivers immediate solar power results. Hybrid and strictly solar water heaters use solar panels and an efficient heat-transfer system collect and circulate the sun’s heat, warming up your household water supply for cheaper dishwashing, laundry and showers. Super-compact solar collection systems can help power everything from rain barrel water pumps to skylight dimmers.
Also consider the power passive solar improvements like your home’s shade sources (overhangs, awnings and landscaping), windows and window coverings, and construction materials with the thermal mass to effectively absorb and store solar energy during daylight hours.
You don’t need a whole wind farm to turn everyday breezes into electrical power. Manufacturers are introducing smarter, ever-more-compact wind turbines that effectively and affordably generate electrical power for a standard residence. The new small wind electric systems are not only non-polluting but also keep the power on when local utility outages let you down.
Wind turbines often have a low enough profile to capture the wind without gathering negative attention, but it's important to investigate local zoning and permit requirements before shopping for a wind power solution. Without proper clearances, this reasonably priced energy investment can turn into an expensive addition.
Geothermal heating and cooling components draw upon the earth’s natural warmth to provide power and performance. It’s not a new idea─people around the world have been going geothermal for thousands of years─but geothermal is generating renewed popularity through technologies that easily complement existing systems.
The geothermal heat pump is the most common, and is far more clean, quiet and efficient than its standard air-sourced counterpart; in fact, Energy Star-rated geothermal heat pumps are over 45 percent more energy efficient than standard models. Though specialized planning and significant system costs are involved, the substantial energy savings produced make for a brief payback period with this green power investment.
The Energy Star program was created to guide consumers to energy-efficient products that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants while offering savings on energy bills and superior performance.
These include such solutions as solar water heaters and geothermal heat pumps, and you can get specs, buying guidance and current info on tax credits and rebates with a visit to EnergyStar.gov. You’ll also find room-by-room tips for improving household efficiency, compounding the savings from your green power investments.
The best way to balance a green power plan is to combine standard and “new” sources and systems. That way, you can integrate significant savings while having the backup needed to live comfortably and protect the integrity of your home’s vital systems.
As you assess solar, wind and geothermal options, give a critical eye to equipment and installation investments required and the minimum savings you’ll receive, because depending on where you live and how your home is designed, the equation may not always work in your favor. Also make sure you’re up-to-date on the impacts of local codes and the resources offered by utility providers, as they also figure into your power plans.