There is something powerfully satisfying in using renewable energy. The process of harvesting energy from the daily activity of the sun and the wind is technically interesting, spiritually uplifting, and economically realistic. Not too many years ago renewable systems were technically challenging. Contemporary systems are not only technologically more sophisticated and reliable but, from the consumer’s point
of view, easier to operate.
A good analogy would be new car technology which has produced more sophisticated vehicles that require less maintenance. Coincidently, your throw-away dollars spent on a new car lasting only 10 years is similar to the cost of a renewable energy system that will produce a lifetime of renewable electricity.
The process of creating and living a renewably powered life is one that will open your eyes to personal patterns of energy consumption. You become aware of the weather patterns affecting your life. You can directly monitor and affect your consumption, and extrapolate your impact on our amazing planet and its diverse inhabitants. You can become part of the network of many small scale producers of renewable electricity so power companies don’t have to build as many new, large scale, centralized power plants.
Most renewable energy investments are long term commitments which will probably require somewhere from 10 to 30 years to offset your original investment, assuming current energy costs remain stable. Grid tied electric photovoltaic and wind generation systems can receive a cash-back reward from Focus On Energy of 30% of the installed cost, with a maximum reward of $35,000. Solar hydronic systems can receive up to 30% of cost, with a maximum of $2,500. Also, federal tax credits can accelerate the return on your renewable investment.
Many homeowners start with a solar hydronic system of 60-100 s.f. to heat water for household use. Larger scale systems (300 – 400 s.f.) can offset around 50% of your hydronic space heating load and 75% of domestic hot water, while adding the additional comfort and convenience of radiant heating systems to your home. Hydronic systems are powered by photovoltaic panels so that even if the electrical grid is down, heat is being circulated into the home. The photo above shows an 800 s.f. system used to heat water for an indoor swimming pool.
To read about one homeowner’s renewable energy system,
click here to read the HomePower Magazine article.
Burning wood is one of the oldest sources of renewable fuel. In many ways, this renewable resource is the most accessible to homeowners. Sustainable harvesting combined with low-emission combustion techniques allows the warmth and pleasure of a central hearth without environmental penalties. EPA certified Phase 2 parlor stoves, some zero-clearance fireplaces, pellet stoves and our favorite choice, masonry heaters, are all environmentally friendly wood burning devices.
A sunny winter day in our north country is itself a great pleasure, but in a renewably powered home, as the bounty of the sun heats your floors and spins your electric meter backwards, it is truly awesome.