Inexpensive Renewable Energy for Homeowners: 6 Types
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Perhaps you recycle and repurpose and try to reduce your waste. Is there anything more that you can do? You can, especially if you own your house. You have the freedom to make upgrades that benefit your pocketbook and the planet by reducing your home’s energy consumption. How can you segue from fossil fuels to something more sustainable? Here are six types of inexpensive renewable energy for homeowners.
1. Solar Panels
There’s a good reason that solar panels appear first and foremost on this list. Converting to solar power for your entire home is the ultimate way to reduce your carbon footprint. If you hurry, you can reap tax benefits — but they expire in 2024 unless Congress renews them.
Best of all, this method offers to save you the most money on your monthly bill. Many residents see their energy charges drop to zero. Solar is so effective in areas like California that invested heavily in this technology that it created surpluses, causing them to pay other states to take their power to avoid overloading their circuits. Clearly, this technology’s time has come if humans are to reduce emissions in time to halt global warming before it’s too late.
You need a considerable number of panels to power an entire home. The average house uses about 30kWh per day or 30,000W. Conversely, each solar panel averages around 300W to 350W each hour or about 7,800 a day. Therefore, you’d need at least five panels to power a standard home.
Typically, your solar system hooks to the conventional grid. You save money on your electricity because your power company essentially buys energy from you, resulting in a rebate on your monthly bill. The advantage of this system becomes apparent if your panels ever become damaged or covered by three feet of snow — you won’t suffer an outage. You’ll simply use power from the traditional source.
Off-grid systems cost more and require more space because you need sufficient storage to contain your extra energy until use. Solar panels convert the sun’s energy into DC or direct current that feeds into a battery. You then need an inverter to convert DC to AC — the type of power most homes run on today. You probably want an inverter on off-grid builds instead of going with DC wiring throughout your tiny house if money is a factor. While you can find DC appliances, they typically cost about three times more than conventional models — and aren’t necessarily more energy-efficient.
Here’s where homeowners have a distinct advantage. They can convert to solar any time they have the upfront money or financing to install it. While some renters have successfully convinced their landlords to go solar, most aren’t so lucky.
However, you do have other options if you rent. Portable solar panels may not run your entire apartment, but they can fuel your laptops and phones. Plus, they set up in minutes and come with you when you camp — keeping you connected if you like to get far from the madding crowds on weekends.
Additionally, you can investigate joining a solar collective. In these models, you subscribe to a third-party company to offset your energy usage by selling the solar they collect to your energy company. Some more progressive apartment and condominium complexes even have private rooftop solar collectives.
2. Solar Water Heaters
Maybe you aren’t ready to go solar for your whole home. One appliance that uses considerable energy is your home’s hot water heater. Converting this gadget to solar will reduce your monthly bills and carbon footprint.
Like many home solar panels, converting to a solar water heater won’t mean disconnecting from your regular oil or gas. These systems tie into your existing water heater. Although many traditional solar water heaters are pricey, ringing in at as much as $8,000, you can now find a $2,000 model that you can install with a little DIY knowledge.
3. Solar Air Conditioning
If you’ve ever been broke in the desert, you might know that you can make a decent DIY solar air conditioner with a portable panel, a USB fan, a repurposed styrofoam cooler, some PVC pipe and ice. These gadgets work surprisingly well for one room — what about cooling your whole home?
Solar air conditioners use traditional panels to power the appliance directly. They need no connection to the grid, running on a DC current drawn right from the power source.
Solar thermal systems operate similarly to solar hot water heaters. The heated water converts a refrigerant from a liquid to a gas. The remaining hot water is then available for household use, saving even more energy.
4. Wind Turbines
You must have acreage to harness the wind’s power to fuel your home. However, this option might be your best bet if you live on the windswept prairie and have plenty of room to roam.
Some wind turbines can mount on your roof — check with your homeowner’s association before installing the device. Some are made to mount to the earth, while others are portable. If installing a large model, check your local zoning regulations first. Many have ordinances specifying maximum turbine height.
Here’s another option that depends on your parcel. This form of inexpensive renewable energy won’t work for everyone but might come in handy if you have a river or stream running through your property.
Hydropower directs water through a pipe to run a turbine — a fan-like object that spins to run a generator and produce electricity. Designing such a system is relatively simple but expensive. You’ll need a place to store your energy, incurring the greatest costs.
It might sound exotic, but biomass is one of humankind’s earliest forms of power. Do you have a fireplace? Congratulations — you’re already using this inexpensive renewable energy source for homeowners.
A cord of firewood costs roughly $200 to $300 depending on where you live and provides enough fuel for many homeowners to heat their homes for the entire winter. Typical energy bill costs are at least that month during high energy months. Combining biomass heat with traditional electricity still saves you money.
Additionally, pellet stoves are even more energy-efficient, although they may cost slightly more. These devices turn on with the push of a button — no more struggling to light the fireplace. They use organic materials like wood and discarded plant scraps to heat your home, and the combustible material takes up far less room than cordwood if you don’t have a place for your stack.
Inexpensive Renewable Energy for Homeowners
Tackling climate change is everyone’s job. Perhaps you already do your part by recycling and reducing your use, but you want to expand your efforts.
Why not investigate inexpensive renewable energy for homeowners? The six types above offer various options depending on your property type and location.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.