The renewable energy market has gone through many innovations in recent years. Consumers now have more alternative home energy options than ever before.
If you’ve just started your journey to determine which alternative home energy option is right for you, we may be able to help. We have assembled this basic guide to give you an idea of what is in the marketplace and what might make sense for your needs.
What Are The Options?
Keep in mind that before you investigate any options, you need to make a serious effort to reduce your current energy consumption. Finding simple ways to reduce energy consumption through the use of efficient lighting, programmable thermostats, and Energy Star appliances will help you save thousands in your long-term investment.
The primary options available to you include solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro power. While there are certainly other more exotic options, these are the ones that most consumers have access to, so we’ll focus on them.
Keep in mind that most of these options may require battery back-up to support off-peak hours when there is no wind, sun, or otherwise. If you are looking for a truly off-grid solution, a combination of these options may be ideal.
Alternative Home Energy – Solar Panels
Solar has largely become the gold standard by which alternative home energy options are measured. While the initial investment is substantial, the long-term benefits and flexibility you gain are excellent.
Innovative advancements in the technology have dramatically improved the prices for solar panels. Additionally, those innovations have made the panels blend more seamlessly into the roof line of your home making them very low in maintenance.
Just a few of the advantages of solar include:
- Sustainable energy source.
- Clean energy.
- Panels last longer than ever.
- Easily integrates with grid power.
- Outstanding solution for remote areas.
- Minimal maintenance.
- Noise free.
You can check out our more comprehensive breakdown of solar advantages and disadvantages for more information.
Alternative Home Energy – Wind Turbines
If your home is in a remote location with consistent access to wind, a wind turbine may work for you. Like solar, wind turbines have made good progress in recent years.
Planning for wind may require some additional due diligence. Different local zoning restrictions will need to be validated before any firm commitments are made. Some localities have restrictions in place.
Wind energy has consistently been the least expensive renewable energy source. While this is true across the board, you will need to be mindful that your experience will be largely based on the solution you install and more importantly, the amount of wind your location experiences.
Wind energy is clean, renewable, and sustainable.
Alternative Home Energy – Hydropower Systems
If you are fortunate enough to have a running water source on your property, hydropower may be a viable option for your family. Specifically, micro hydropower systems can provide enough power for a modest sized home.
Just as is the case with wind energy, people have been leveraging the energy in water for centuries. This it was initially used to drive mechanical process, that application took a huge step forward to create electricity.
What’s great is that you don’t need the Hoover Dam to create enough energy for your home!
To gauge the amount of electricity that can be produced from your water supply, you will need to know the amount of water moving through the system per minute and the vertical drop from the point where it is removed from the main water supply and where it enters the turbine. This is a gravity fed system and the greater the drop the better. The calculation to determine that wattage that can be produced per day is as follows:
Example: For a drop of 24 feet and a volume of 11 gallons per minute, the calculation would look as follows:
Beyond capacity, one of the biggest considerations with a micro hydropower system has to deal with your water rights of those downstream. Be sure to thoroughly research this prior to moving forward.
If you think hydro is right for you, you can check out more information here.
Geothermal is another great option when it comes to alternative home energy options. This tried and true technology has been around for decades and been installed in millions of locations.
Geothermal taps into the year-round, consistent temperature found deep in the earth to provide efficient energy. These systems can provide heating and cooling for your home as well as hot water.
Some of the biggest benefits to geothermal include:
- Consistent HVAC experience – your home will remain comfortable year-round.
- Tried and true technology – it’s been in use for decades.
- No additional units required outside your home for heating and cooling.
The most practical downside to geothermal is that these are usually most effective when installed during the construction of new homes. While your home may still be a viable option, you should be prepared for some additional expenses to get your system up and running.
The bottom line is that you now have more options available to you than ever before. While those options have come a long way in recent years, you may also need to consider pairing two different options together to supplement any shortcomings. For example, a small wind turbine may be a great complement to your solar panels on a stormy day with little sunlight.