Alternate household power, any starting points?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Garrett Lundy, Apr 29, 2006.

  1. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    The wife and I would like to move out of our apartment and into a small rural home in the next few years ("rural" as in 'a few miles out of town', not like '100 miles from a paved road in Canada').

    With the ever rising costs of power (both electric and fossil fuel), we have an intrest in exploring alternative fuels (solar and wind turbine) that we would be able to use in conjunction with the established power-grid. We don't want be "off grid" and live with nothing more than a 5 cubic foot fridge and a 50watt light, we just want to lessen our heating and power bills every month.

    Can anybody suggest any good books or websites that cater to people just getting into alternate power? Most of the websites I'm finding are aimed towards cabin dwellers, and threy are pretty skim with alot of the basics (like "how to hook your house to your 12' turbine 101").

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Blu

    Blu Screenwriter

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    I would suggest a corn stove. It does require electricity to run the auger and fans but not much at all and it will keep your house toasty warm all winter and drastically cut down on your heating bills without the problems of a wood burning stove.
     
  3. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    One of the more common things to put on solar power in the water heater. It sounds like a small deal, but those things can eat up energy. There was a thread here several months (perhaps a year or more) ago about the various systems that can be used for this purpose.
     
  4. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I think the water heater units run about $5,000 - and this may be a little steep, but I think that for about $20,000 you can solar panel your whole house. I haven't looked into it a lot, but Home Depot does that!

    It is possible to 'make' too much electricity, and thus sell the excess back to your local electric company. Good luck!

    Glenn
     
  5. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    And remember, your use of alternative energy can net you significant tax benefits if you follow all the guidelines.
     
  6. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    wind mills only work if you have a good prevailing wind, and if you want to sell power back to the utility company, it has to be in sync with their 60 cycle power, there are several inverters that sense the phase of the grid power and make sure the stuff you make matches, but it involves having your home generated power as DC so it can invert it to AC matching the gird
    besides, with DC, you can store power in a big forklift battery for those pesky outages, big commercial batteries can last 20 or more years with proper maintenance
     
  7. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    OK, first, find out what state your in. (This should be easy... HAHAHA [​IMG] ) and find out what kind of rebates your state offers, whether it's for solar electric or solar hot water, many states have a cache of money allocated per year for rebates (when the cash runs out, you are SOL til next year). Anyway, you have to qualify too, so you can't just go install the solar panels and expect your state to give you money, you need to go through your states BPU (board of public utilities, or whatever it is called for your state) and apply for solar credits /rebates and then they will send a licensed engineer to evaluate your house. If you haven't bought the house, DEFINITELY look into this before you close a deal, in NJ, your house has to have an equivalency of 75% solar exposure between the peak hours (something like 9am to 2pm) which means your house has to have a good southern exposure where the sun travels during the day to qualify for the rebate.

    This is solar electric and also "net metering" which you can google til your heart's content.

    Solar hot water has been around since the 70s if not earlier, in fact, some systems are still functional today. This is where the best ROI will be because it's a lot cheaper than solar electric, some states may start issuing rebates for this (rather than solely solar electric) and the principal is simple and the solar collectors last longer than the solar electric panels.

    As far as heat, you should look into geothermal, which is kind of like a refridgerator from the earth.

    www.geoexchange.org

    I wont bother describing what it is, the website above is all you need to know. It is BOTH heating and cooling which is a plus, but you need a good hous with little drafts because the air isn't going to be super hot or suped cold, unlike say a forced hot air/ Central AC. However, it is the best since it's free power from the earth.

    Secondly, a wood stove or pellet stove, or corn stove is good too, depending on where you are. You should look into the cost of pellets or corn in your area. Obviously, corn is going to be more plentiful in the midwest than in Alaska. And you should realize that Wood is probably the best in terms of not having a shortage or having to go to HD and hope their pellet supply is still around. Wood stoves don't need electricity so it is probably the best if you want to consider power outages, and stuff. Most (not all) pellet stoves need electricity. But pellet stoves are probably more efficient and the use of pellets is good cause supposedly the pellets are recycled from timber plants and lumbar yards.

    Wood stoves are more efficient than wood inserts, typically, but depending on how large your house is, you might want to conserve floor space.

    Think about biking to work!

    Reel Mowers!!

    Jay
     
  8. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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  9. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    Garrett,

    The wife and I looked into alternate power for our home and actually discovered that really the place you want to start is conservation. If you never use the resource in the first place or can go longer with less fuel as heat, it's a win-win. After you have done what you can to conserve, see what is left to replace with alternate fuels.

    Great ways to conserve:

    * New double pane low-E windows can lower a heating bill 30%+ (I know, we did it and lost 35% of gas usage year over year every month.)

    * Install a programmable thermostat for heating and cooling. These can be had for $30 at home depot anywhere and can save you a good 5-10%.

    * Make sure there is enough attic insulation and that the roof of house is in good repair.

    * central heating (furnaces) and AC units are useful, but be open to use spot heating systems or other heating/cooling alternatives. If only one or two spots in your house get too warm or cool, why not just go with a ceiling fan or a space heater when in that room?

    * The corn stove (or really ANY stove) is a great idea for heating, they can be 2x to 4x more efficient at heating a house than a central furnace. We are looking into this now, you can actually retro-fit an old fireplace with a closed-system, stove type heater that can save you big $$$ in heating bill and only costs about $1500-$2k to install. The one we are looking at runs off of natural gas (it's what is piped into that fireplace now), but there make all types.

    * Going with CFLs wherever possible can save you a bundle, they are great for night or frequently used light sources. These can save you a bundle long term.

    Anyway, good luck...
     
  10. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I'm afraid that in CANADA you are really not at the right lattitude for solar power. Sorry.

    You may want to look into geothermal however.
     
  11. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    At high latitudes, prospects for solar generation are very good during the summer, when there is plenty of daylight ; it's in the winter, when you really need it more, that it's not so great. Even still, I understand that there has been quite a bit of success using solar heating in the Toronto area, particularly a perforated black metal widget, serving as an intake manifold for the central-heat system on large buildings, which warms the air drawn into it.
     
  12. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    I didn't even know what geothermal was 3 days ago, but since its been mentioned I've read about it and bumped it upto 1st priority of green building.

    I'm thinking between geo + solar + turbine I should be able to keep all of the modern luxuries of living, and still keep my utility bill under the cost of a Netflix membership.
     
  13. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Garrett, when I bought my house, I immediately looked into alternate energy sources. It was odd talking to all the installers and stuff, they would always ask me what my energy uses were and since I didn't have any history, had to explain to them this was my first house, having lived with my parents (mom has been sick for a bit) for a long time after college so I had really no energy history and my parents house is way bigger than mine.

    Geothermal was one of the first things I looked into knowing that it is both heating and cooling. However, my house has hot water baseboard heat and window units for A/C and being an old house, I'm sure it's not the most sealed and efficient unit. However, being log sided, I know wood has a decent coefficient for heat storage and the windows are newer double paned (circa 1997 models).

    However, I could not find a HVAC guy who installs them in northern NJ! Talked to the folks at geoexchange.org and the folks at IGSHPA...

    Found one in south jersey but that is a lot of ask for them to come up here and I figured I'd go at least one winter and see what my energy uses are.

    Depending on what your ground situation is, you may or may not be a good candidate for it. They can do a site survey, they even typically have geological charts so they can get a rough estimate of your land simply by your address. There is typically drilling involved so the rockier it is, the harder it is and they can drill the piping either vertically or horizontally, usually depends on your layout and land area. If there is a lake/pond/water nearby, they can also run the pipes through that if legal.

    In any case, they need to get below the frost line and that varies depending on the latitude, and forced air is the way since it's a heat pump. Things that I have learned along the way is what's mentioned here, really work on improving windows, drafts, attic, insulation first, you want the most sound house as possible for geothermal to be effective, from what I've been told.

    Jay
     

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