Microgeneration: Alternative Energy in the Home
If you are wanting to generate your own energy at home and are thinking of removing your home from the established power grid, it is possible in theory and even practical in some cases. What it’s not is a simple matter of sticking a windmill on your roof, cutting the cord and living happily ever after without energy bills. After all, renewable, home-brew style energy generation has been around in various guises for decades, so it follows that if it was easy as 1-2-3 millions of people would have done it. Still, as we said, it is possible and sometimes even the preferred way of providing for your energy needs. Here are a few of the major reasons people decide to disconnect from the grid.
- Philosophical reasons: Some folks just don’t like the idea of being dependent on huge private companies for life’s essentials
- The environment: There are those who feel the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is a mistake. For them generating their own power is a social responsibility
- Cost: You could potentially save money by generating your own renewable energy supply
Ways to Generate Your Own Power
You may want to consider a hybrid system where you generate some power from a home generation device and then augment that with a limited amount of power from the grid. Staying attached to the grid can have advantages should problems arise with your home generation scheme.
That said let’s look at some of the most dependable ways to generate power at home.
Before making hard and fast plans to install a wind turbine you need to poll local officials and find out if it’s even allowed. In some cases you’ll be able to proceed without official permission. In other cases though you’ll need to apply to your local planning authority, meaning there’s a chance you could be turned down. Let’s say there are no obstacles to your installing a wind turbine on your property. Where do you begin?
- First you’ll need to determine if you want the home-mounted or freestanding version
- Then you’ll need to decide if you want your new turbine plugged into the national grid
- Then you’ll need to determine the right size for your energy needs
Once you’ve addressed those matters you’ll need to learn how to install such a device or find a qualified contractor to do the same. Even if you opt for the contractor it’s still in your interest to learn as much as you can about the process to avoid getting ripped-off.
Whereas in the 80s solar units were typically bulky and generated only relatively small amounts of energy today’s solar panels are marvels of efficiency that can be installed on your roof with minimum disruption to your home’s normal operations. In a best case scenario a solar array may provide up to 50% of your average electricity needs.
Before you schedule solar panels to be installed however you’ll want to consider the following factors:
- Available space: The larger the array the more electricity you can potentially generate. However, roof space is not an unlimited resource so you’ll need to determine exactly how many panels your roof will accommodate or find another place to put them
- Direction and angle of your roof: Let’s assume that like most people you decide to install your solar array on the roof. You’ll now need to determine which parts of the roof will make an appropriate hosting area for your panels, which should face south at about a 35° angle
- Removing obstacles: So you’ve decided to put your solar panels on the roof and found significant south facing space. However, there’s a large tree that casts shade on this part of the roof all afternoon. In such cases you’ll need to make difficult decisions: do you want the greenery and shade provided by the tree or is the solar power more important?
- ROI: Return on investment with a solar array will vary from home to home. Keep in mind that if you rely on an outside contractor to handle all facets of the installation your ROI period will, in most cases (and generally speaking) may double
Hydro electricity has been a popular way to generate energy since the dawn of the electric age. It’s easy to do, clean and infinitely sustainable. In recent years a movement has taken hold to create tiny hydroelectric plants in streams on private property and that movement has taken the name “MicroHydro”. The advantage hydro has over solar or wind is that, barring drought, the water flows 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is no real disadvantage to MicroHydro. The only downside is that not many people have an appropriately sized stream on their property flowing at the right angle.
Here’s the minimum of what you’d need to implement a MicroHydro system:
- Flowing water with plenty of drop. At least 2 feet of drop between the start of your intake pipe and the turbine. More would be better
- A professionally designed turbine, alternator and proper shelter for the system
- An intake pipeline and a discharge point where water is returned to the stream
- A power line to transfer the generated power to your home
- A power inverter to convert generated raw power into AC power
As with most types of construction you’ll need to determine whether the local government will require you to apply for permits or some sort of special allowances for the system.
Final Things to Consider if you want to Generate Your Own Energy at Home
The most important thing is to consider all the potential ramifications of going off-grid before you decide to make the leap. Even if you are considering a partial disconnect where you generate some of your own electricity you still need to consider the impact to your home and/or property, maintenance costs and what happens if the system should suffer a catastrophic failure; say after a violent storm.
To learn more about alternative energy sources and how to make them work for you peruse the diverse-energy.com website and feel free to contact us with any questions.