This article details a number of methods that are used to generate energy, mitigate energy costs, and what options could be available in the future. The general idea of personal residential renewable power resources is beating the grid in terms of power, and in cases of emergency when the power grid can go down having a backup store of power to rely upon. The biggest cause of energy loss in the home is through heating, so circumventing that problem is with insulation. Additional information about insulation can be found here. Also, when combining multiple sources of energy, or when planning to use the energy gained in case of emergency and grid outages having a residential power bank will allow you to access the power you’ve stored up later. To find some current models and price points, go here.
Solar panels produce energy through the process of absorbing light. This is different than the common thought that they use the temperature or heat from the sun, but instead they use photons of light themselves through something called the photovoltaic effect which is both a physical and chemical process. Typically it is only sunlight that carries enough power to activate the process of generating electricity but this is not the sole case. Light coming from the Moon (technically just sunlight being refracted back to the earth) is still strong enough to power solar panels, though at a lower efficacy than during day hours.
Solar panels are now produced by many different companies making want of choice a non-issue and have proven themselves to be able to recoup costs in a timely manner. Low-efficiency low-cost panels, high-efficiency high-cost models, and middle of the pack have all the gamut made. A comparison of some different products and their wattage per hour can be found here. Entire roof solutions made of solar tiles have also been created. Though the implementation of solar tiles is not yet to spec with the financial cost of acquisition and installation in the current market, given that it is an emerging product, it will most likely become more cost-effective as the decades roll on.
The simple wind turbine is an American farmhouse staple. The combination of wind with solar on the same grid help generate a higher uptime of power. Just like solar, there are many models of wind generators and considerations for each kind. Vertical residential models can be found here, and Horizontal residential models can be found here.
For those operating in rural locations that have more frequent outages, having two systems of power generation may be more worth considering given that two systems working in tandem will increase the likelihood that you aren’t left without power. If you want to know the average wind speed for your city monthly, consult this site, enter your city, and navigate to the bottom of the page to find it. (though it may pull data from a different larger local city.)
Wind still continues to blow during times when solar doesn’t have as much, or any intake such as on cloudy days or nighttime.
Vertical Acess Wind Turbines (VAWT) can take in omnidirectional wind meaning that it works much better in urban or rural environments, especially at lower altitudes in comparison to HAWT.
Most VAWTs are easier to maintain than HAWTs in that the gearbox parts that need servicing can be stored on the ground.
Unfortunately, for Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWT) the upfront cost for residential models to money saved over time isn’t as up to snuff as solar is quite yet with most estimations taking a decade or two to eat the cost, making it less advised for urban or suburban homeowners were money would be better spent on solar instead (or other money-saving methods for that matter). HAWTs work better high up in the air to get wind that is more stable and free from the effects of buildings and trees.
HAWT models of wind turbines have rotors and other moving parts inside of them that need maintenance as well as parts that need oil however because those parts are stored in the turbine itself they have to be removed per recommended servicing. Because HAWT models also want to be high up in the air self-installation isn’t very viable.
VAWT models are still new tech in terms of engineering and design which means generally they have a lower output that the highest efficiency HAWT models currently.
The bleeding edge of wind technology can even have no blades!
The idyllic scene captured in your mind of an old mill with a waterwheel gently turning and abiding nothing but the flow of water babbling and spraying. And while the implementation of such a feature might be the fun odd bauble for those who can afford river or streamside property (or the wheel itself) it doesn’t do too much for those without said access. OK is a landlocked state with a couple of man-made lakes and only a few hydroelectric damns in the whole state, which won’t exactly serve the whole populace. Running water is of course, basically free power if you have access to it as long as the water you are accessing is stable and not subject to diverting over time. If by some chance you are handy enough though, some people have tried putting small hydro rotors in or at the bottom of their rain diverters and gutters. More than likely that type of system wouldn’t work too great for places that don’t experience a high amount of rainfall, but it is amusing to think about!
There are ways to create hydroelectric dams that are closed systems that do not need to be fed or feed out into river systems, but those are much more suited to the scale of state and local municipalities feeding to multiple residences or cities rather than single residences.
Energy as Heat
Typically most American homes come with infrastructure to facilitate heating through the means of natural gas with furnaces and/or fireplaces. However, there are plenty of other pieces of tech that can perform those tasks just as reliably and in many cases, for cheaper! (barring the old chestnut of upfront costs of course)
Heat pumps are very efficient at moving the temperatures you want into your home, and even moving heat between rooms as well. There are plenty of ranges and modes of heat pumps, but the core principle is the same. Either condense and store heat or cold for when you want it in a place that has low-temperature fluctuation (such as underground) or simply absorb heat from the ambient air around your home then condense and pump that into your home.
For even more information concerning heat pumps including the different kinds, you can consult the U.S. Department of Energy from here.
Maintaining that energy
Smart thermometers can help track energy consumption from heating and cooling and will allow you to make adjustments to your home automatically and will help especially when you are not at home and can self-regulate along with the ambient heat from the daytime though this will definitely take some dialing-in. Knowing what hours the largest loads are on the energy grid reduces costs as well, and as stated before, insulation is one of the quickest ways to make sure you are keeping the temperatures and heating/ cooling bills where you want them. Another thing that some smart thermostats can keep track of is the ambient humidity in your home as well which will greatly affect how your body perceives the temperatures.
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