Generate your own power with the latest renewable energy technology

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Generate your own power with the latest renewable energy technology

As the green building boom grows, more building professionals and homebuyers are looking for ways to incorporate renewable energy into their homes.

For someone with a high-performance home, solar panels and wind power can take the home to the net-zero level of producing more energy than it uses. That’s becoming easier as building science helps reduce the electrical load on the home, which then makes it more affordable to generate the amount of electricity necessary to offset the usage in the home.

This exclusive feature from Proud Green Home explores some of the latest innovations in renewable energy for home use. Basically, it’s never been easier to generate power at home and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

According to  the Energy Information Adminstration, electricity generation capacity from residential solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind technologies roughly doubled from 2010 to 2012. The EIA estimates it may double again through 2016 before slowing considerably as a result of the planned expiration of the investment tax credit (ITC) after 2016. So if you’re considering renewable energy investments, take advantage of the tax incentives available now.

Solar PV water heaters

A lot of building professionals want to make solar photovoltaic power part of their home project, but find all the red tape intimidating. And it can be expensive.

The paperwork required to install and connect a home solar system may add up to 50 percent of the total system cost, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

But now there’s an easier way to get the benefits of solar power for one of the largest energy hogs in the home, without all the hassles – and cost – of a grid-tied PV system.

Water heating represents up to 25 percent of a home’s energy use, so energy efficient water heaters are usually a big part of a high-performance home project.

With more than 30 years of solar and water heating experience, Next Generation Energy LLC developed the Sun Bandit Solar Hybrid Energy System, a solar PV operated water heater that operates independently of the power grid. There’s no need to get permission and inspection from the power company. The solar modules are tied directly to the water heater’s electric resistive heating elements. The water heater can also be tied into electric or gas utilities for back up or high-demand situations.

Building contractors and architects looking for a way to make a home more energy efficient can incorporate the Sun Bandit in a new home design or a remodeling situation. It’s available in both electric and gas fuel as back up for the rare case when solar power may not be adequate.

It’s also a much easier installation and long-term operation compared to traditional solar thermal water heating systems that use heat exchange liquids and pumps to generate hot water.

“Sun Bandit makes the makes adoption of solar more practical than ever before,” said Bill Beedon, marketing director for Next Generation Energy.

In fact, Beedon calls the Sun Bandit a “solar appliance” because it’s basically a plug-and-play solar device. Of course it requires installation by a professional plumber or other knowledgeable contractor, but it’s an easy fit into a new or existing home.

“It uses its own inverter to create a micro grid and works independently of a utility or fossil fuels,” Beedon said. “You don’t need the utility’s permission and it’s an easy entry into the world of solar for building professionals and homeowners.”

After all, even a high efficient water heater still uses some form of fuel. But the Sun Bandit solar PV water heater heats water for no cost.

“There’s nothing cheaper than free,” said Dave Kreutzman, Next Generation Energy CEO.

The Sun Bandit water heater is a tank system using a commercial grade, stainless steel, glass-lined tank wrapped in 2 inches of non-CFC zero ozone depleting foam insulation. For electric service the tanks are available in 30-, 50-, 80- and 119-gallon capacities. For gas service, the 100-gallon tank can be configured for natural gas or propane, with a 76,000-Btu burner for backup. The tanks can also be configured to work with radiant heating applications.

The Sun Bandit can be installed as the primary water heating capacity or serve as a pre-heater for an existing system.

The solar heating capacity can be expanded to keep up with demand, for example a growing family. The solar modules are plug-and-play, so connecting new capacity to the system is easy.

“Sun Bandit is the most practical and affordable way to employ solar power for domestic water heating and provides an opportunity for everyone to contribute to energy independence,” said Dave Kreutzman.

Watch a video aboutSolar Hybrid Energy Systems.

Wind turbines

There’s a new twist in the way the wind blows. The most common wind turbines are the giant propeller drive generators that dot the landscape. Vertically oriented axial flow turbines fight for a place in the market.

Now a new wind turbine based on the natural form of the Nautilus shell has hit the market with claims of highly efficient –and quiet operation.

The Rotterdam based research and development company "The Archimedes" has revealed the Liam F1 Urban Wind for domestic use. The company says this wind turbine will gain much more energy out of the wind than current generation wind turbines.

Company officials say the Liam F1 generates an average of 1,500 kilowatt-hour of energy at a wind-speed of 5m/s, which resembles half of the power consumption of a common household.

Photo: Michel Van Nederveen-LiamF1

In combination with solar-panels on the roof, a household could be totally self-supporting for its own energy needs. Engineer Richard Ruijtenbeek from The Archimedes explained that "when there is wind you use the energy produced by the wind turbine, when the sun is shining you use the solar cells to produce the energy."

Ruijtenbeek  noted that there are few wind turbines for residential. One reasons is that the yield from current generation wind turbines is very low (average of 25 percent), and that the blades produce too much noise.

This is where the inventor of the Archimedes wind turbine, Marinus Mieremet, has adjusted the design. By combining the form of the Nautilus shell, the theoretics of Archimedes and his own mathematics, he created a new turbine that hardly has any resistance and has resulted in a design that is virtually soundless.

Because of its screw-form, the Liam will automatically aim to the optimal position of the wind, just like a pennant and will therefore have a maximum yield. According to Mieremet the yield is 80 percent of the maximum that is theoretically feasible. The Liam has been tested over 50 times because initially the developers couldn't believe the results they saw.

The company has already sold 7,000 turbines in 14 countries and is developing relatively small turbines for use on boats, on lampposts and in water.

Geothermal heating and cooling

While most people don’t consider geothermal heating and cooling to be a renewable energy source, it really is. Geothermal heating and cooling uses the earth to heat and cool homes without using fossil fuels. Instead of burning gas or electricity, geothermal uses a ground-source heat pump to exchange energy with the ground. When it’s hot, the system dumps heat into the ground to cool your home. When it’s cold, the system draws heat out of the ground to heat your home.

If you’ve paid for propane or heating oil especially over the last winter, you know the pain of paying for fossil fuels. Electric and natural gas heat are also subject to rate changes. But the energy of the earth never costs a penny.

"Geothermal heating is a lot simpler than most homeowners realize. It takes the natural heat from the earth and transfers it through pipes in the ground into the house," said Steve Smith, president of Enertech Global, a geothermal systems manufacturer. "It is a cost-effective solution for homeowners facing higher heating costs and the possibly of limited access to supplies during cold weather streaks."

With a geothermal heat pump, homeowners and property managers will see several benefits including:

  • Monthly heating and cooling bills can be reduced by up to 70% over conventional systems.
  • Average life expectancy is nearly 25 years compared to the 13 year average life expectancy of conventional systems.
  • Lower maintenance costs primarily due to geothermal equipment being indoors. There are also fewer moving parts reducing opportunity for malfunction.
  • Opportunity for hybrid hot water, which also reduces hot water costs in addition to heating and cooling.

Geothermal heat pumps offer a reliable, long-term solution, with state-of-the-art equipment and earth heat exchange loops with a life expectancy of over 100 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that geothermal heat pumps are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space conditioning system available today.

Also, as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the United States federal government allows a 30 percent tax credit for Energy Star-qualified geothermal equipment installed before December 31, 2016.

Read more about renewable energy strategies for your home.

Topics: Building Green, Cost of Ownership, Energy Star, Geothermal Heating & Cooling, Going Green, Healthy Homes, Heating & Cooling, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Rebates / Tax Credits, Solar Power, Water Heaters, Wind Power

Companies: Sun Bandit, Enertech Global, LLC

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