I feel that is the way most homes should be doing by 2010. A windmill on the roof, some solar panels something that heats up your water... What else is there?
I'm toying with the idea, but first you really have to monitor your powere usage and figure out where you can make cuts and become more efficient. My brother in law was totally off the grid back in 1999 , but sold his place for a hefty profit during the peak of the Y2K Scare ;`).
I'm thinking of starting small by taking my office off grid and running my lights and office equipment on solar panels as the investment for this is quite small.
I know a few people that have fast running streams going past their houses - I guess a water powered generator is not out of the question?
Other than that I don't really know, but I don't think you need much more than those two - wind and solar should be sufficient for most times of year.
You fall back to the national grid on still cloudy days I guess.
Well from the UK wind power would be no problem all year round! The stream idea is a good one but a lot of the people I know dont have one of those ;)
Im sure there other ways to cut down on the energy usage, so you don't need to generate a lot in the first place.
Simple ones would be double glassing, insulation... [other people add more here]
A recent article from the Daily Mirror newspaper about an engineer's dream to build an eco-friendly and energy-efficient home [mirror.co.uk].
Interesting article Syzygy!
|a lot of the people I know dont have one of those |
True, but I guess you'd make use of all the resources that you have at your disposal, so if you did happen to have one.... ;)
I guess I was thinking about what was possible opposed to practical.
Back onto practical - energy efficient lightbulbs would probably be a must, and then you have water tanks (to get either from rain water or from the ground) and septic tanks for sewerage.
Every single external square inch of house other than windows is potentially capable of generating, or storing, power.
Internet access from WiMAX or WiFi would mean you wouldn't need any cables or pipes whatsoever entering the house!
Well, my watch has a built-in solar cell that creates enough electricity to keep it running.
The downside is that I need to stick my arm out of the window for an hour or so each day to charge the thing. just kidding ;)
I agree that we should all look at ways to save energy, no question.
It's tougher than you think to find energy efficient products, apart from the obvious lighting.
I was trying to find decorative LED lighting for the kitchen. I found some products, but hardly any suppliers, and virtually no-one has samples. Yet you'll find plenty of energy inefficient decorative kitchen lighting. LED lighting is well under 5W each, wheras typical lighting uses a halogen lamp of 35W or 50W each.
If you have the space, for sure, adding the capability of energy self-sufficiency would be great. But, it isn't so easy with a small space. Not only that, it requires a relatively high outlay for the technology.
I recently heard that the UK's Energy Saving Trust has had to make cutbacks. [news.bbc.co.uk] This is lunacy! It should be the opposite.
|I recently heard that the UK's Energy Saving Trust has had to make cutbacks. This is lunacy! It should be the opposite. |
Same in Canada--the federal government recently cut the Energuide [energuide.nrcan.gc.ca] program. Hard to believe--oil prices went up about $2 yesterday...
|Not only that, it requires a relatively high outlay for the technology. |
It's coming down in price all the time, and it's far less expensive if you're building a new house than if you're retro-fitting.
I think anyone building a new house these days at least needs to give it some careful consideration. £5k on top of a £150k build cost is, relatively speaking, not a huge outlay.
|£5k on top of a £150k build cost is, relatively speaking, not a huge outlay. |
Relatively speaking, that's true.
The challenge arises when the outlay will not be recovered in savings for many, many, many years. That's one reason for an incentive to be provided, otherwise the majority of people simply won't spend that 5K.
On the contrary, well designed, properly oriented windows can make a major contribution to keeping the building warm in cold months.
Passive solar designs do not need to be high-tech as long as they're well thought out at the drawing board stage.
Getting "off the grid" is not such an efficient thing. Using the power grid as a super efficient battery is a much better solution for storing your excess energy.
I am striving in two years to have a net zero energy draw from the "grid". In the summer I feed more into it than I use and during the winter I use more than I produce. That is much more efficient than you could expect a battery charge to last.
I was all set to go to solar power a few years ago and the catch was in the storage batteries.
First, they were very pricey and second, they had a short life span.
I figured it would take around 10 years to recoup the cost when I added in the battery replacement.
I'll dive in here...
I bought last year a small... very small (about 14 acres) island off the west coast of Scotland. It had no water supply so I dug a hole inbetween two hills which now fills nicely with rain water. This is then sent down to the 'shack' which was a boat house and I am converting into a small house. The water is then filtered and pumped up to a header tank. Vacumn solar tubes on the roof heat the water. A 1.5kw windmill is being fitted at the moment to provide power. I have also installed an old range and am busy planting trees for coppicing plus make paper logs out of old newspapers. The overall objective is to build a low impact house. I use all reclaimed timber and a lot of materials washed up on the beach or just lying around. I use natural paints or avoid painting where possible. I used sheep wool for the insulation, which also has the effect of keeping the humidity in the house very stable and comfortable. The bit I'm really into is thermal mass. Buckworks is spot on, this area of energy saving is one which is very overlooked. I monitor where sunlight enters the house and make sure it falls on stone which is preferably black and absorbs the heat. Around the house I have built stone walls and encased them in clear perspex, this has a greenhouse effect and the stone stores the heat. In the evening I then syphon that heat into the house. I made a compost loo out of an old wheelie bin, which doesn't work that well but is at least a temporary solution. The sea around the island is as yet an untapped resource, but I can't figure out how to sensibly harness the tide or waves, niether being very strong as the island is in a sheltered bay.
The whole project is making me re evaluate my own life, especially the enormous wasted energy in my main home. When you start to work out how much power is needed to run one light bulb for an hour and then build a system to achieve that, you realise how difficult and how much energy is required. Insulation and thermal mass is probably the most important and simplest thing to do. The second is installing the new vacumn solar panels for hot water. The price of this kit has now fallen to a level where it makes financial sense as well as being ethical. Windmills are good if you have the right location, but they do make a noise. Having said that, the gentle swish of blades making free electricity is actually pleasant :) The downside is the need for batteries for storing the electricity, which are very environmentally unfriendly.
I will be expanding what I have learnt on the island to apply to my home. The whole experience is not only good fun, but essential. Global warming is no joke. At the island the climate has changed significantly enough for the sand eels to stop breeding. This effects a whole food chain causing the loss of birds in the area. Native fish are moving north and we are now seeing exotic fish appearing from further south. This has really started to happen in the last two years! Things are changing fast and we need to act now. The good thing about oil prices rising is that low energy light bulbs, alternative energy sources, heat pumps etc. etc are all becoming economically sensible and viable. I wholly recommend anybody to explore ways of saving energy. It not only saves money, but hopefully saves a lot of unpleasant hassle for our children.
If you look at it logically photovoltaic is the way to go then as monkeythumpa is doing try and use the grid as a storage device and aim to become a net generator rather than a net consumer.
Windmills seem a bit pointless to me, the energy generation will be sporadic and unpredictable. Also who wants all the noise and vibration with possible damage to the roof structure.
In a 100 years or so I expect every home will have it's own nuclear power plant. If cold fusion hasn't been invented by then there could be a new cottage industry making shells out of the depleted uranium.
Let's step back from all of the excitement of getting off the grid and think about this for a moment.
The alternative power sources you're talking about are very expensive sources of energy and most of them are environmental nightmares.
Wind energy kills birds and bats [cbsnews.com...] and require wind (not a lot of places in the world are "windy" enough).
Water turbines stop up rivers and kill fish [en.wikipedia.org...]
Solar panels are expensive, a maintenance nightmare and a future source of polution with their 10 - 20 year lifespan. And many homes don't qualify for solar panels (the best bet is for a home that faces North so the panels go on the backyard roof).
Most individuals purchase this equipment at a deep discount due to rebates from electric companies. And guess who pays for all those rebates? Hint, it's the ratepayers. If it were inexpensive to install all of this equipment, don't you think the electic generating companies would be building this out?
In the US, the best hope for energy independence comes from nuclear power and fuel cell technologies. And in case you're wondering, I happen to conduct these studies for electric companies.
LOL, you talk about pollution from dead solar panels and push nuclear energy in the same breath?
|LOL, you talk about pollution from dead solar panels and push nuclear energy in the same breath? |
Indeed. And to add to the skepticism, I'd like to point out that fuel cells [en.wikipedia.org] are not energy sources, they're energy storage devices.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about energy independence coming from a storage device–the energy still comes from somewhere else. Or were you actually suggesting the best option out there is to use nuclear energy to produce hydrogen to run fuel cells?
|I bought last year a small... very small (about 14 acres) island off the west coast of Scotland |
>I happen to conduct these studies for electric companies.
and are you as inaccurate in your studies as you are in your posts? There is always a downside, but the bats, birds and everything else is far more threatened by current energy systems. New technologies are not perfect, but we have to do something now, not wait for something to be invented.
I suppose you row over to this island then?
|I suppose you row over to this island then? |
Whats it called? (The island).
Personally I'm more interested in hearing about any new technologies in this space - like next generation solar or wind powered devices.
I'm sure there must be a fair amount of money being pumped into the technology at the moment? Presumably it's a growing market?
I have seen solar towers researched in desert regions. Initially devised in Germany as a solution to food shortage, they are now being applied as a method to supply large amounts of energy into the (global) grid.
They use a combination of solar cells and thermal convection windmills to generate large amounts of electricity. The ones I saw proposed in Australia stand as tall as a small skyscraper and can produce huge sums of energy.
How viable they are is still under scrutiny - but smaller scale devices have already proven very efficient.
artists rendition: [enviromission.com.au...]
>>And to add to the skepticism, I'd like to point out that fuel cells are not energy sources, they're energy storage devices.
Read the article, they are "like" a battery in that a chemical reaction produces energy. They were used during the Apollo space missions to produce heat, electricity and water.
They take fuel (H2 or hydrocarbons) and convert to heat and water.
>>LOL, you talk about pollution from dead solar panels and push nuclear energy in the same breath?
Read what I said, "the best bet for energy independence." I never said nuclear was without problems.
|They take fuel (H2 or hydrocarbons) and convert to heat and water. |
But to do that at home, you'd presumably need a fuel source which doesn't occur naturally?
The only things I know about that can be used at home are solar and wind energy (and perhaps water, but that's more of a long shot).
Is there anything else that's practical and does not require delivery of an external fuel source?
>>But to do that at home, you'd presumably need a fuel source which doesn't occur naturally?
Depends on what you think is "natural." I suspect you meant "renewable."
You need a fuel with an H and / or C in it. That include hydrogen gas, natural gas, propane and other hydrocarbons such as ethanol (think corn...).
Peeps here can make fun of my opinion, but I live this stuff nearly everyday. If you want to get off the grid, electric utilities are worried most about fuel cells - not the technologies mentioned earlier.
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