A greener world starts from individuals. Everyone can make an impact by his/her living style, like reducing waste and recycling, using compostable and biodegradable plastics. The advancement of technology has even made it possible for having renewable energy systems at individual households. In this article, we will take a brief look at some practical ways to power a home with renewable energy.
1. Solar Panels
Using photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert solar energy into electricity is the most common way to power your home with renewable energy. These solar panels can be put on the rooftop to save space, or in the yard for family with larger property. If you want a smarter solution, consider solar shingles. They are called building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), in other word, they are building materials embedded with solar cells. Solar shingles are thinner and less obtrusive than traditional PV panels, so that may be a good choice if your roof is getting old and ready for replacement.
Obviously, the most important factor for this renewable energy is weather, so it is recommended to check the peak sun hour of the area that you are living. Another thing you need to consider is the power rating of the solar panel, which commonly falls between 300 and 370 watts. The higher the rating, the less solar panel is needed. In the US, the average household monthly energy consumption is about 900 kWh. As a 370-watt panel can produce around 1.4-1.9 kWh per day, you may have to install 16-21 solar panels to meet the need.
2. Wind turbines
If you have a large piece of land around your property, consider installing wind turbines to power your home. A domestic 1.5-kilowatt wind turbine is able to generate 300 kWh of energy per month when the annual average wind speed is around 14 mile per hour. Wind speed and height of the turbine are two important factors that determine how much electricity can be generated.
Although wind power is more stable than solar energy, wind turbines can be too bulky and noisy in residential areas, so you probably need to check the requirements with the local authority and get a planning permission before installing the system. These drawbacks are the main reasons why wind energy is less popular than solar energy.
3. Hydro power
This is a more consistent form of renewable energy compared to solar and wind power, but is limited to those who are living near a stream or river. The vertical distance (head) and amount of water (flow) are two key factors that determine how much power the hydroelectric generator can produce. Though the calculation is complicated, it is generally expected that a hydro turbine of 500W is enough to produce the power that meets the annual energy consumption of a household.
Hydro power is the most efficient form of renewable energy. Installing a domestic hydropower system may be costly and difficult, but it is a very durable device with an average lifespan of 50 years. With a constant and stable power output, it is actually the most economic form of renewable energy.
4. Geothermal energy
After sun, wind and water, here comes the earth. Geothermal energy is drawn from an even more consistent source of renewable energy than hydropower, which originates from a few feet under the earth’s surface. At this level, the ground temperature is relatively constant, around 50 to 60℉. It is warmer than the air during winter and cooler than the air in the summer. A geothermal heat pump can transfer heat by pumping water or a refrigerant through a loop of underground pipes. It can take up the heat from the ground to warm up the house during winter, and transfer the heat back to the ground in summer to cool down the house.
Geothermal systems are more efficient than most gas furnaces and air conditioners in terms of heat transfer, however, the installation cost is very high because long lengths of pipes need to be put underground. Another issue is insulation. If you want the ground source heat pump to perform the best, keep your house well-insulated.