Alternative energy can seem like just a buzzword used by politicians to bolster their position in the polls. But it is much more than that. In fact, the average homeowner is now able to harness alternative energy to make their home more energy- and cost-efficient.
Whether you are looking for ways to reduce your energy bills or your household’s carbon footprint, investing in alternative energy may be the key. Here are seven kinds of alternative energy systems that homeowners like you are using to reduce their power costs and their emissions.
You can actually engineer your landscaping to naturally cool your home during the summer, and help retain heat during the winter. Do this using:
- Wind Breaks: Plant dense evergreen shrubs or trees in the corner of your property to defuse wind chill.
- Wind Directing Plants: Plant low shrubs under your windows that can direct natural breezes into your home, keeping the temperature lower in the summer.
- Shade Trees: It’s 3 to 6˚ cooler in the shade, so planting a few shade trees can help regulate your home’s temperature.
Evaluate the way the weather interacts in your yard. Which direction does the wind most often blow? Which side of your home receives the most direct sunlight? The answers to these questions can inform your landscaping strategies to decrease your energy usage.
2. Solar Panels
Many power companies now offer options where a homeowner installs solar panels on their roof in exchange for a decrease in their power bills. The power company will pay for a portion of the renovation in exchange for the increased alternative energy.
Usually the power generated by your panels does not go directly into your home, but back to the power company. Your bill is reduced according to the amount of energy the panels produce. If you aren’t interested in partnering with a power company, look into outfitting your home with its own solar power system. You may even be able to use tax credits to pay for most of the installation costs.
3. Geothermal Heating
Geothermal heating is usually a large-scale project, so it may not be available in all areas. Geothermal heat pumps tap into the earth’s stable temperature. These pumps can lower your energy costs by 40% and they run on entirely green energy.
4. Reinforced Doors and Windows
Switching a few doors and windows to the Energy Star rated equivalents can improve your alternative energy efforts. Energy Star rated doors and windows have more layers than their generic counterparts, which makes them better able to regulate temperature (source: Comfort King Windows & Doors Ltd., who provides windows and doors in Kanata).
5. Microhydroelectric Systems
If you have a natural source of running water near your home, consider adding a small hydroelectric system to help power your home. Water-powered systems can produce up to ten times the energy of a solar or wind system and, unlike these other systems, they run constantly instead of intermittently or only during the day.
6. Fuel Cells
Fuel cells separate hydrogen ions from the electrons. An agent within the cell allows ions to pass, but blocks electrons, creating electricity. These cells can be used to produce heat as well as power.
Fuel cells are currently unavailable directly to the public. However, they are available through installation companies and you may qualify for tax credits to help you pay for the installation.
7. Hybrid Systems
Depending on the area you live in, you may be able to tap into multiple alternative power sources to power your home. The most common combination is wind and solar power, though there are also other combinations like a system of integrated wind and water turbines.
With a hybrid system, you can capitalize on the strengths of multiple forms of alternative energy. For example, a system that uses both solar and hydroelectric power will produce energy 24/7, like a simple hydroelectric system. But this combined system has the added benefit of how quickly solar energy can be refined, unlike a purely water-based system.
Choosing the system that is right for you will also depend on whether you want to be part of a power grid (which is more compatible with large-scale power sources such as geothermal heating) or a stand-alone power source (like a single windmill).
These alternative energy solutions are available almost anywhere in the world. By changing the way your household consumes energy, you can make “alternative energy” into more than a buzzword. Switch to alternative energy to begin saving money (and the planet).