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Tips: Renewable Energy

July 16, 2014 - 3:32pm

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Use solar power to heat water and more! Today's solar power is highly efficient. You can buy systems to heat your water, provide electricity, and even offload your home heating system.

Use solar power to heat water and more! Today's solar power is highly efficient. You can buy systems to heat your water, provide electricity, and even offload your home heating system.

A small wind turbine system can provide additional electricity in your home, or even power your sailboat battery.

A small wind turbine system can provide additional electricity in your home, or even power your sailboat battery.

Use solar power to heat water and more! Today's solar power is highly efficient. You can buy systems to heat your water, provide electricity, and even offload your home heating system.
A small wind turbine system can provide additional electricity in your home, or even power your sailboat battery.

You have many options for using renewable energy at home, including solar panels and small wind turbines.

Solar panels are the most popular form of renewable energy today. You can use them to generate heat, electricity, and indoor and outdoor light.

If you live on at least one acre of land with an ample wind resource, you can generate your own electricity using a small wind electric system. You can also use a small wind turbine for pumping water, or to charge a sailboat battery.

You may have also heard of using a geothermal or ground-source heat pump to heat and cool your home. While not technically a renewable energy technology, this energy-saving technology makes use of the constant temperature near the earth's surface for heating and cooling. See the Heating and Cooling tips for more information.

In addition to using renewable energy in your home, you can buy electricity made from renewable energy like the sun, wind, water, plants, and geothermal from your utility company. Check with your local utility for more information.

Renewable Energy Tips

  • Installing solar-powered outdoor pathway lights is one of the easiest ways to use solar energy at home.
  • Building a new home is the best time to design and orient the home to take advantage of the sun's rays. A well-oriented home lets in the winter sun in south-facing windows to reduce heating bills, and blocks the heat from summer sun to reduce cooling bills (see the Passive Solar Heating and Cooling┬ásection).
  • Heating water is a great use of solar power (see the Water Heating section). If you have a swimming pool or hot tub, you can use solar power to cut pool heating costs. Most solar pool heating systems are cost competitive with conventional systems and have very low operating costs. It's actually the most cost-effective use of solar energy.
  • Installing small wind turbines, which range in size from 400 Watts to 20 kilowatts, can provide some of the electricity for your home. Other uses of micro wind turbines (20-500 Watts) include charging batteries for sailboats and other recreational vehicles.

Long-Term Savings Tip

If you've already made your home as energy efficient as possible, and you still have high electricity bills and have access to a good solar resource, you might want to consider generating your own electricity with a solar power system. Solar panels can be easily installed onto ground- or roof-mounted racks, and new products are available that integrate solar cells with the roof, making them much less visible than older systems.

You should consider several factors if you want to install a solar power system, such as your solar resources, siting and sizing the system, the type of system (grid-connected or stand-alone), and electrical safety. Because of the complexity and need for proper installation, it's best to have a professional solar contractor install your system.

Is a Solar Power System Right for Me?

You could consider adding a solar power system to your house if your location has adequate solar resources. A shade-free, south-facing location is best. At least one of the following should also be true:

  • You live in a remote location and your home is not connected to the utility grid. Using solar power might cost you less than extending a power line to the grid. Your power provider will connect your solar system to the electricity grid and credit your bill for any excess power you produce.
  • You are willing to pay more up front to reduce the environmental impact of your electricity use.
  • Your state, city, or utility offers rebates, tax credits, or other incentives. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find out about financial incentives in your area.

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