Renewable Energy: Options for Environmentally Conscious Homeowners

Renewable energy has become a realistic, practical and viable energy choice. There are many people whose perceptions have changed and likewise are prepared to stretch the envelope when it comes to supporting efforts to develop and adopt renewable sources of energy in light of concerns over the rising price of fossil fuels, the fact that these may one day run out, and the detrimental effects these fossil fuels have over the state of our environment.

As a result of these changing perceptions, governments have begun instituting policies and adopting programs that would develop and increase the use of renewable energy sources to reduce reliance on diminishing fossil fuels and protect the environment at the same time. On an individual level, people have also started taking matters into their own hands in support of these efforts. Just as people have made the decision to take the initiative and practice recycling garbage in their homes to clean the environment, we are currently in a situation where renewable energy options for householders have become a serious consideration and a viable option for implementation.

The same forms of renewable energy that governments are tapping into on a large scale to power or address national needs are also available to homeowners in smaller versions. The idea is to take an existing workable solution – namely renewable energy sources like tidal and wave energy machines harnessing the power of the oceans, or wind / water turbines usually used in coastal areas or on mountaintops, and convert this to a suitable version in your home, back garden (providing your garden is a viable and reasonable size) or farm. The same applies to solar power, which can be harnessed through installation of solar panels. These choices are varied and available to those homeowners who would prefer to use renewable energy.

A number of people have already gone out and done this on their own initiative. In certain areas, communities have also pooled resources to utilize renewable energy sources for their power needs, especially if they outside the national power grid and in remote areas. There are people however who have hesitated in pursuing this initiative due to financial considerations. There is some perception among some people that setting up a renewable power source in their homes or farms is an expensive proposition. Fortunately, that is not the case and there are existing technologies and equipment that make this a very practical and cost-effective option. Among those options are:

  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity from the sun's energy. These solar panels are suitable for many homes, as they only require daylight rather than direct sunlight. A home with a south, southeast or southwest roof that is shade free would be suitable for a solar technology system.
  • Solar thermal panels are different to PV panels as they collect the sun's energy and use it to heat water. The panels run alongside conventional boilers. Solar energy can generate up to 65% of a household's electricity and reduce carbon emissions by over a ton.
  • Biomass systems burn wood (pellets, chips and logs) to power heating systems and boilers. Homeowners can use wood burners or stoves as a biomass appliance to heat a room, if a whole system is not a viable option.
  • Micro combined heat and power (CHP) systems replace the conventional boiler system. The system burns gas to heat water, and produce electricity at the same time.
  • Geothermal heat pumps, which are also known as, ground source heat pumps, draw heat from the ground. They are able to extract the heat using pipes buried in the soil. This system warms the water in radiators and homeowners can use it in under floor heating systems.
  • Air source heat pumps draw heat from the air outside the building. The pumps use the heat to warm the air within the home, heat the water in radiators, and in under floor heating systems.
  • Micro hydro power is a combination of water pressure and flow. This system is like a smaller version of industrial hydro power plants. If there is a source of fast, running water, such as a stream or river in your garden, then you can install a small turbine to generate electricity.
  • Micro wind power has similar technology to that of wind farms, which are now becoming commonplace. The system harnesses wind energy through small turbines to generate electricity, but does require space for the turbine, so it would not be suitable for small gardens.

All these renewable energy sources are efficient enough to provide much of the energy needs for the average household. Some energy companies will even buy any surplus energy produced back from you at a preferential rate. For example, in the case of solar power you can use as much energy as you require during daylight hours. Any surplus energy will transfer to the energy company overnight. Every homeowner can make energy changes that help the environment, no matter how small, such as changing a boiler. For many years, people overlooked wood as a fuel. However, recent studies prove wood is an excellent source of renewable energy. Modern wood-burning boilers offer high efficiency with low emissions.

Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel with little to no net carbon emissions or corrosive gasses. It is even possible to convert old coal-fired boilers to wood burning boilers, with logs, wood chips, and pellets being the sources of fuel. As a bonus, homeowners can spread the waste potash on the garden as a fertilizer. Opting for a renewable energy source such as wood (biomass) forms a chain reaction as it helps the environment in other ways. It encourages the management of woodland, the establishment of densely planted short rotation coppice plantations, and the improvement of the biodiversity of woodland. Fossil fuels will eventually run out, and until that time, the cost of oil, gas, and coal is likely to rise. A renewable energy source offers several benefits. Besides making a positive contribution to the environment, you can save money. However, it is important to make an informed choice when adopting a renewable energy source to power your home.

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