The newspapers tell us every day; energy bills aren’t decreasing. On the contrary, we seem to be told that provider ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ are hiking up their bills – meaning that most of us simply have to dig deeper to power our home.
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Renewable energy systems are nothing new, but a lot of them are becoming more accessible than ever before. What was once a pie in the sky type of idea, is now a reality and this means that homes up and around the country are really starting to see a difference with renewable energy options.
Following on from the above, we have collated the best six which are currently available, and delivered our views on whether or not they can benefit your circumstances.
Let’s start with the most obvious solution out there. Solar roof panels have now been around for a few years and it would be fair to say that they are more accessible than ever before.
Sure, most countries may have put an end to the incredible incentives that were once on offer for homeowners who installed these devices, but the fact that prices have tumbled means that most people can accept this.
Traditionally, these solar panels will be installed on the roof. It’s not been unheard of for some people to install them in other places around the home though, with the yard being one of them. The position of the panels obviously matters immensely and if you get this right, you could be looking at generating more than 10 watts per square foot of solar panels. Considering the fact that the average home will use about a kilowatt of power, it doesn’t take an obscene number of these panels to satisfy your requirements.
As well as the above, in some countries at least it’s possible to sell energy back to the grid. This means that you can even profit from your panels, and pretty much pay back the amount that it cost you to install them in the first place.
So, what’s the downside? It should go without saying that you need the sun to be shining for these to be effective and when it’s not, you’ll need to be tapping into a different source of electricity.
Following on from the first suggestion, we simply couldn’t ignore the concept of solar shingles. This is something which is a much newer concept than the panels, yet many believe that over the next few years they will become much more common and uptake will soar.
Hopefully, the name has given everything away here. Unlike the panels, which are mounted to an existing roof, the shingles are the actual roof structure. SolarCity, run by none other than Elon Musk, is the most high-profile player to offer such a product.
This next suggestion certainly isn’t going to be applicable for all of you, but if you do live in an environment which allows for hydro power then the benefits can be immense.
Firstly, let’s cut to the basis of a “suitable environment”. For a successful hydropower system, you need a source of flowing water. The idea is that this flowing water will divert through a turbine, and generate electricity this way.
The beauty about this science is that if you have your flowing water, it’s going to be continuous. In other words, you’re not reliant on the sun shining and this means that it’s a much more consistent form of energy. At the same time, for obvious reasons, a lot fewer households have turned to this form of energy and it means that you may find it more difficult to install the system for you.
We’ve all heard of wind turbines, they relate to those gigantic windmills that tend to sit on the top of hills. The energy potential from these systems is huge but at the same time, only those homeowners who have a lot of land around their property are going to truly benefit.
Sure, you don’t need to create a wind turbine that mimics the commercial ones that you might see dotted around the country. However, it is still going to be substantial in size and you need somewhere to put it. Not only this, but they tend to be quite noisy, meaning that even if you do have a location quite close to your property you might deem it unsuitable due to the noise-factor. We should also comment about your neighbors – who may object through such a contraption being situated so close to their property.
Nevertheless, if everything is in place to install this, you can benefit tremendously. Again, this trumps solar power from a stability perspective no-end and you will most probably satisfy all of your home’s energy needs through this device. It’s for this reason that most people feel that wind turbines are a much better investment than other renewable options – with the main problem being that they just aren’t accessible to everyone.
Solar water heating
If we return to the concept of solar power, another way you can tap into this energy is by heating your water. So, this isn’t strictly a method to generate electricity, but it will save you a lot of energy as you won’t be relying on your boiler to heat the water in your home.
We won’t dive into the drawbacks of solar here – the exact reliability restrictions still exist here. However, many believe that solar water heating is a much more straightforward form of technology, with the premise being that the sun simply heats a tank of water. This water is then pumped through your home into your radiators or water supply. Suffice to say, it’s a much more efficient method of using gas and electricity.
Ground source heat pumps
This is something which is much different to anything else we have looked at so far, for the simple reason that ground source heat pumps are situated underground. The idea is that pipes are buried outside your house, in your yard, with these pipes able to extract the heat that is based down there. The pipes are formed from water and antifreeze, meaning that heat can easily be absorbed into this fluid before then be passed through an exchanger and into a heat pump – ready to be used for the house.
It goes without saying that this is a complex project, but one that can utterly lucrative for the homeowner. This is because they aren’t just able to lower your fuel bills considerably, but this is one technology where incentive payments still exist and you can benefit in the tune of thousands every year.
Even though the system is technically huge, the fact it is all based underground means that it doesn’t take up much land so to speak – and isn’t going to be an eyesore to you or your neighbors.
There’s another deviation of this technology, coming in the form of air source heat pumps. As the name suggests, these are designed to extract heat from the air before being circulated around your home in the same way as we documented previously. Quite surprisingly, even if the outside temperature is as low as -15° C, they can still be effective. On the downside, they do need to be attached to the side of your property, which might be a turn-off for some of you.
Regardless of whether you opt for the ground or air solution, the major downside is the expense. Both systems tend to cost five figures to install, which unsurprisingly puts a lot of people off.
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