What New Homeowners Should Know About Renewable Energy

by Megan WildJanuary 6, 2017

Renewable energy is on the rise, and 2017 is the year to get in on the action. Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydropower can all be used to generate power at home and will save you money on your utility payments. They will also have a much smaller impact on the environment than nonrenewable energy sources.

Solar

Solar Power Sunset
Photovoltaic (PV) systems, commonly known as solar panels, use sunlight to generate power. Multiple solar cells make up a panel, which can produce anywhere from 10 to 300 watts of electricity.

They’re usually installed on rooftops or on a rack on the ground. They can withstand the elements and require little upkeep. Solar systems usually cost about $10 per watt but will save you money on utilities. You can even sell back extra energy to the grid.

Wind

For certain homeowners, a small wind energy system is a good choice. Wind turbines produce electricity when wind turns a shaft that is attached to a generator.
Wind Energy Field
The amount of power a wind energy system produces depends on the size of the turbine, as well as the speed of the wind. Smaller systems can produce 2 to 10 kW and bigger ones can produce up to 100 kW.

If you have at least one half acre of land, the right zoning laws and building codes, an area without tall trees or buildings that will block wind and an average annual wind speed of at least 10 mph, wind may be the option for you. Wind systems cost between $4,000 and $8,000 per kW to install. It’s the same deal as with solar, though. It’ll help you cut down on utility payments, and you can sell back any excess.

Geothermal

Geothermal heat pumps are extremely efficient. They rely on the temperature of the top 10 feet of ground, which remains relatively stable between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be used to heat and cool a home and even supply hot water.

Geothermal heat pumps cost about $2,500 per ton of capacity to install. An average home requires about three tons of capacity. Once installed, though, the unit will save you 30 to 60 percent of heating costs, as well as 20 to 50 of cooling costs compared to a conventional heating and cooling system.

Biomass

Biomass is energy from plants or plant substances, such as wood, food crops, algae, food waste and even fumes from landfills. Biomass can be used to heat homes, although efficiency varies widely depending on how you use it. An open fireplace is the least efficient method, while a masonry heater may be the most. Masonry heaters work by letting the fuel burned inside heat the masonry, which in turns heats your home. Masonry heaters cost between $2,000 and $3,000 if you build it yourself and between $10,000 all the way up to $40,000 for professional installation.

Hydropower

Hydropower is the most common renewable source of energy in the U.S. at 6 percent of all electricity generation. Hydropower is generated by moving water, so hydroelectric plants are usually located near large rivers or other sizeable water sources. You can also generate your own hydropower on a smaller scale by installing a microhydro system.
Hyrdropower Dam
You’ll need flowing water and a point where the water falls. The amount of flow and drop will determine how much power you get from your micro hydro system. The cost of building the system can vary widely but will probably be in between $20,000 and $100,000. It’ll save you a ton on your utility bills though.

Benefits of Renewable Energy

Installing the means to produce your own renewable energy comes with some upfront costs, but the benefits are enormous. That initial cost can also be reduced by taking advantage of government tax credit and rebate programs.

Once you start producing energy, you’ll see savings in your utility payments. Your renewable energy system may end up paying for itself in electricity savings. You might even make a bit of money by selling excess power back to the grid. Renewable energy also has plenty of environmental benefits. Generating it produces little to no emissions. Not creating these emissions leads to cleaner air, less global warming and a healthier planet.

By switching to renewables, you’re also investing in the future of energy and creating new clean-energy jobs. The benefits of renewable energy are enormous, and there are plenty of different ways to generate renewable power. The best method for you depends on where you live and the resources available to you.

A well-executed renewable energy system can save you money and help the environment. It’ll probably be an interesting conversation starter the next time you have guests over, too. You’ll be so proud of your new renewable energy system, you’ll never run out of things to say about it.


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About The Author
Megan Wild
Megan Wild enjoys finding easy and low-stress ways to improve your home. In her downtime, she enjoys flipping flea market finds, hanging out with her dog, and writing on her home-themed blog, Your Wild Home. She's passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, and you can find her tweeting about both @Megan_Wild.

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