Many things factor into the conversion to alternative energy. If you want to live off the grid, you have to do some research for your area. You will need to know which types of energy work best. Solar depends on how much sunlight your city gets. Wind power can be used almost anywhere because wind is almost anywhere. Regardless of what others say the choice is solely yours to make. Remember, with any type of alternative energy, you will need to check local codes and regulations before implementing a system. Here are some basic requirements to get you headed in the right direction on your quest for energy independence.
If you want to use wind power, you need to find the wind. First, use wind maps to determine if your area has enough wind speed to generate the power to cover your usage. If you don’t think the wind maps are reliable you can purchase devices called anemometers. They are easy to set up and record wind speed, temperature and humidity. Depending on when you plan to make the switch, you can use the device to take readings throughout the year to see how the wind changes through different seasons.
Other considerations with wind energy include:
- Possible tower location relative to home
- Buildings, trees, and other obstacles
Solar power is one of the most popular and widely used forms of alternative energy today. You will need to decide if you want a passive or active system. Passive uses direct sunlight and heat to heat, cool and light your home. It is best if you are building your home so you can position everything to your advantage. Active uses technology to harvest the sun’s energy through the use of photovoltaic panels and solar hot water systems. Grid-connected solar electric systems are very effective due to the fact that if enough energy is connected, the meter will run backward erasing your electric bill.
Other considerations with solar power include:
- Closeness to power grid
- Cost of electricity
- Roof direction and pitch
- Snowfall and leaves
If you want to switch to a hydro system, you will need a source of flowing water on your property. Small hydro systems give one of the best returns on the initial investment. They are not as expensive to set up or maintain and give comparable energy output as their solar relatives. With good access to flowing water you produce a great amount of hydroelectric energy.
Other considerations with hydro include:
- Water head level
- Flow at turbine
- Closeness to transmission system
Bio Energy (Biogas/Biomass)
Biomatter energy systems can include such fuels as wood, vegetable oil, corn and various plant matter. We will not look at oil or coal as they are not renewable energy sources though they were originally biomass fuels. One clear advantage to this system is that you only need a fireplace or burning stove in your home to use these fuels. You do not have to meet special regulations (fireplaces may require inspection.) First, you need to make sure you have a ventilation system for a stove. If you have a fireplace it is already vented. Have it inspected to make sure it is in safe working condition.
Other consideration for Bio energy include:
- Fireplace inserts – make your fireplace up to 7 or 8 times more energy efficient for heating your home.
- Wood burning stove – use wood or pellets as fuel; versatile and efficient; can use other fuels like corn.
- Possibility of growing your own fuel if you have the land for corn.
A disadvantage to this system is it is only for heating so you will still rely on electricity or other energy for cooling and lighting.