A Reddit thread once asked what would humanity do if they had an unlimited source of renewable energy. With tongue only partly in cheek, I responded that such energy existed already. It’s called the sun. For the author of a sustainable living blog, this is a no-brainer. Although we’re a long way from building our own Dyson Sphere to run our civilization completely from solar energy, the technologies exist for both small-scale and large-scale harnessing of solar energy. There are at least four easy ways that you can use solar energy to power your home and your portable devices, and each has its merits and drawbacks. There is some initial investment, but my guess is that if you are reading this, you are already interested in solar energy for its environmental benefits and not strictly for its capacity to save you money. There is also good reason to support solar energy standards in our country. Here are some easy ways that you can go solar:
On The Grid Home Solar Conversion
The initial seed money to convert your home entirely to solar energy used to be an expensive endeavor, however, companies like Solar City have recently made it much easier and much more affordable to convert to solar energy. Here’s how it works: With little or no installation cost, the solar equipment provider will install solar panels on your property or roof. You lease the equipment from the company and pay a monthly fee for a fixed term (25 years seems to be the industry standard) that is usually approximate to your monthly energy bill. In return, they hook your equipment to the electrical grid, and you become your own energy producer, selling your production to your local energy company. At current rates, it will save you money if you already use a lot of electricity and you have a space that gets full sun (makes much more sense in the Western US). In the future, it may save everyone money, but one thing is for sure, it will help save the environment.
Solar Water Heater
A good amount of home energy consumption goes into heating your water for bathroom and kitchen use. However, recent technologies have made solar water heaters much more accessible for residential and industrial use. Generally, the solar element “pre-heats” the water being funneled into the main tank. As a result, it takes much less conventional energy to heat the water heater to a desired temperature. Depending on how hot you like your water in the first place, solar water heating can reduce your energy usage by half or even more. Current models are rather expensive, but as a long run investment you stand to close this gap or actually save money (as we predict energy prices purchased from your local energy company will steadily rise, while the energy you generate will always be free)
Off Grid Solar
There are a number of ways in which you can make use of off-grid solar energy. Solar panels, when combined with an efficient storage battery, can power many home appliances or recharge your electric cars or bicycles. It’s relatively cheap to buy panels from distributors like Home Depot and Walmart, and the handyman/handywoman can certainly fashion adaptors to harness solar energy. Recently, companies targeting the outdoorsy crowd like Goal Zero have created portable solar kits designed to charge your mobile devices like tablets and smartphones in a matter of hours. They are lightweight, sleek and easy to use. For around $100, you can have your own portable solar charging station. Consider using decorative solar lighting in your garden.
- Do a cost benefit analysis – You may find that what you thought was a prohibitive investment becomes much more affordable, or even profitable if you project solar costs vs. non-solar costs over the course of a 5-,10- or 30-year period. Be sure to factor in the rising cost of energy, and consider the benefits of sustainable energy production.
- Consider Rebate Programs – The Federal Government, individual states and localities and your utility company may have considerable rebate programs that will knock off some of that initial investment. There is free money everywhere, you just need to know where to look.
- Environmental Considerations – There is no cleaner energy source than the sun. Anything you can do to participate in and promote residential solar projects is a step towards moving our country and the world towards a sustainable energy future.
- Aesthetic Considerations – Solar Energy is cool. It looks nice and its a great conversation starter. If you run a green living blog, it will also give you something to write about!
Syndicated from Dude, Sustainable!