Become Your Own Energy Provider
Ah! The thrill of getting the utility bill in the mail. I actually look forward to it every month, because our bill always says the same thing: 0 KWH. In 2002 we installed photovoltaic panels that run the meter backwards whenever the sun is shining. At night, or on cloudy days, the meter runs forward, and we use our credit. We pay less than $5 a month for a service fee, and nothing for electricity.
The key to producing your own power is to start by conserving energy everywhere you can: insulate and weather-strip the house, wrap the water heater and hot water pipes and install a solar water heater, upgrade to energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs, etc. Make your house as efficient as possible, and then it doesn't cost so much to install a system to produce your own power. Be sure to read Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction for essential tips on building low-cost, high-efficiency homes.
Thomas J. Elpel House-Building Projects:
-Building a House on Limited Means
-We've Gone Solar!
Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office
Navigating the Maze of Solar Options, Incentives, and Installers
by Stephen & Rebekah Hren
Solar power, once a fringe effort limited to DIY enthusiasts, is now fast becoming mainstream. Many home and business owners are curious about solar electric and solar thermal systems, and wonder how to go about getting a clean energy generation system of their own. The vast majority will hire a professional installer to do the job. But what should they be asking of these installers? What system makes the most sense for their home or office: solar electric, solar hot water, solar heating, or some combination of these?
A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office explains the options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers-the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.
The market for solar systems has been growing at an exponential rate and strong tax credits ensure continued growth even in a sluggish economy. Many of those who would like to catch this undeniable wave of the future are held back by widespread confusion. A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office clears the air, allowing property owners to move forward with confidence to make their homes and offices more comfortable, environmentally sound, and secure against wild swings in energy prices. Paperback. 152 pages. Chelsea Green Publishing ISBN: 978-1-60358-261-2.
The New Independent Home
People and Houses that Harvest the Sun, Wind, and Water
by Michael Potts
Because of its impact in bringing the almost unknown promise of solar energy to thousands of readers, one longtime observer of energy trends described the publication of the Independent Home as "the most important event in the solar industry in more than a decade." The book's initial publication in 1993 coincided with a National Tour of Independent Homes. When more than ten thousand people attended this one-day event, it suddenly became clear that the promise of living in homes powered by sunlight, wind, and falling water had caught the imagination of far more Americans than expected.
In this newly revised and expanded edition, Potts again profiles the solar homesteaders whose experiments and innovations have opened the possibility of solar living for the rest of us. Potts provides clear and highly entertaining explanations of how various renewable energy systems work, and shows why they now make more sense than ever. He is a brilliant guide to the stages of planning and design faced by everyone who seeks to create a home that reconciles the personal and global dimensions of ecology.
Over the past five years, the concept of an "independent" home has evolved beyond the energy system to encompass the whole process of design and construction involved in planning a renovation or a new home. Independent homes are homes with integrity and personality. Beautiful abodes are now being built with age-old materials, such as straw bales and rammed earth, and combined with state-of-the-art electronic technologies for harvesting free energy from the surrounding environment. Potts writes with lucidity about a group of homeowners some would consider to be the lunatic fringe and others would regard as among the only sane people on the planet. This move toward self-reliance is an important trend that will continue to surprise and delight us as we approach the inevitable dawn of the Solar Age.
See also: Off-Grid