Going Off Grid: Home Energy Independence

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clean energy wind power turbines

The nature of home energy will change in upcoming decades as sustainability and efficient grids becomes a priority. What are some residential energy options?

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After decades of debate, a climate agreement was reached last month. There is now a global push to finally move completely away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy. This will take several more decades, but it has been said; fossil fuel emissions are a detriment to our environment, climate, and the health and well being of earth’s inhabitants.

From National Geographic about the climate talks:

What was clear, above all, however, was that countries gathered in Paris considered it essential that the world move beyond the fossil fuel era.

Homeowners going off-grid

I think that message coupled with the climate agreement goal of zero fossil fuel emissions gives homeowners permission to use renewable energy.

If you are on the fence about using solar, wind, and geothermal energy, this is a very clear message of Go Ahead! The higher powers, so to speak, have said it’s the route they are going, so I think property owners should lead the way.

Solar energy at home

The price of solar PV has gone down to where it’s affordable, and the paybacks are high. If you feel you can’t afford a system, you can lease from a solar installation company for a fixed fee every month. They would maintain it, saving you that trouble, too. The lease can be passed on to new residents, if you sell, or you can remove the panels at the end of your contract.

Another option is to look into community solar, where users buy in to the installation of a solar array that serves a small area, such as a neighborhood. There are no panels on the house and no maintenance, just a discount on your regular electric bill.

solar energy at home

Solar thermal for hot water has always been a good investment with a high and fast ROI. Water is heated through a solar panel, and is stored in a water tank, a little larger than a water heater. When hot water is drawn out of the regular water heater, for a shower, for example, the water warmed by the sun goes into the water heater. Less energy is needed to heat this water, because it is already warm. The original water heater run by fossil fuels becomes the back-up source for hot water.

Both solar PV and solar thermal can be expanded for greater energy usage in the future. There is no reason to not put solar on your list of 2016 home improvement projects.

Wind power and geothermal energy

Wind turbines are continually being developed to be smaller and quieter for home installation. They are also more sensitive than their predecessors, responding to the slightest breeze instead of a substantial wind. They can be installed on top of a house or on a tower away from all structures. Your site and budget will determine the best options for you. I’ll have more details on this topic in a future post.

Solar and wind combined can produce most or all of a home’s energy needs.

Geothermal energy is a pricey option, but one that might be best for certain parts of the world. Heating and cooling systems begin underground where the temperature is a constant 55º. Air is brought up from that depth as a starting point to heat and cool living spaces.

geothermal energy pipes

geothermal heating pipes

It’s more effective to heat up 55º air, or to cool 55º air, than it is to warm or cool the air outside. The principle is the same as solar thermal for hot water, where water is preheated before going into the water heater. The air used in geothermal heating and cooling is not extreme, saving energy to change it for its final use. More later.

Energy independence begins at home

It is hard to know how the new climate goals will play out and how quickly, but renewable energy will surely become more affordable over the next several decades. That should not be a deterrent to installing it now, though.

Follow the example of Nassau NY, and lower your emissions, and free yourself from fossil fuels.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.