Today we look at what a typical home design might be in our near future. The shell or structure of our new home will be made of dense Styrofoam that are 12 inches thick blocks that interlock like a jig saw puzzle, giving the home strength and stability. Covered with special space age sheeting, our home will be well protected because; the special siding warms in the winter-time and cools in the heat of summer.
Our contractors are busy installing our alternative energy green enery boilers systems; starting with the plumbing system, our water comes from a well deep in the ground that will bring us fresh spring water. Our well pump will be powered by one of our many solar systems that charge battery banks to store our electricity in case of dark days and nights. Along with the water we have installed a solar hot water collection system which will use a special insulated hot water tank to store the water which has been heated for free by the sun.
We check on our electrician that is busy installing our solar photovoltaic panels which when completed will face the south capturing the power of the sun, producing our electricity to charge are many storage batteries. By installing energy efficient light bulbs, we can light our house in a normal fashion. We use infrared technology with sensors installed in every room so that when someone walks into the room during night time or low light conditions the lights will come on, and when that person leaves the room after a predetermined amount of time our lights go off.
We have also decided to install a wind turbine to help keep our electrical system fully charged even during night time or dark periods of no sun. Our electrician is installing electronic monitoring to run our system without maintenance. Considering that we have eliminated our electric bill completely, the only cost we have is the initial cost of solar and wind system. Considering, the average U. S. household in 2008 used 920 kilowatt-hours per month, at an average of. 12 cents per kilowatt, would be $110 a month for electricity alone. Say that we live in our new home 30 years that is $39, 600 dollars just for electricity! And now we pay zero!
This may sound like science fiction, but these concepts are all available today, not in the future. Sure you will pay more today than when people realize that green energy is the future. The old adage is about supply and demand, as more and more alternative energy homes are built the prices for solar, wind, and other sources will begin to drop so that all of us can afford off grid living.
Some people may doubt about the ability of these alternative power sources – to much like science fiction they may say. But then you can remind them that using the sun for heating to the point of combustion has been around since the time of the Greeks. The Egyptians used the sun to reflect on highly polished brass mirrors in order to light the interior of the pyramids for the workers to be able to see. The Romans used large quartz lenses to magnify the sun’s energy in order to light the interior of their palaces. They also thought of and incorporated the first skylights to use the sun’s natural light for lighting. Why then are solar panes so far off?
Solar cells were actually developed into working units as far back as the 1940’s. Solar cell technology dates to 1839 when French physicist Antoine-Cesar Becquerel observed that shining light on an electrode submerged in a conductive solution would create an electric current. In 1941 an American, Russell Ohl, invented a silicon solar cell. Within a few years these cells had been adapted as alternative energy sources in such places as out of the way ranches and such.
Later on in the 20th century, solar water heaters were developed and perfected to the point that they were extensively used on housing in Europe and North america. Now in the 21st century, the industry trend is to move away from the solar water heaters due to the amount of space they take and the actual heating efficiencies are not sufficient to justify the amount of space they take. Today the move is to make all of the solar panels generate electricity and use an electric flash water heater thus eliminating the need for a separate water heater and tank.
Even though many people will tell you that today solar cell technology is dead, this is far from the truth. The thing is, that since a solar array can be somewhat hidden away or not readily visible, most people do not notice that they are being used when in fact they are so much more a part of their lives than they realize. One of the most obvious and visible uses for solar panels are the emergency call boxes on the side of the freeway or in the National Parks. These units can be places just about anywhere without the need to string power lines to the individual call boxes.
Do this quick test – get out your last 12 months utility bills and add up what you have spent on electricity and gas. Do the math! Now figure out what that amount would have been if you only paid 50% or even dare to think of 20%. That amount, which can easily be in the thousands of dollars, is a real number. What does it add up to? A week or two of your work salary? Think of how many bags of groceries this amount of money would by? Think about it.
Once you have established that you are basically giving your money away for free, then the construction and addition of a solar electrical generation system is a no – brainer. You will find that the construction and installation of your system will take you perhaps a weekend or two, but in the end you will have taken your first step towards energy independence and you will see tangible results of your efforts on your very next utility bill. Couple that with the tax credits and grants that may be available in your area and you will be laughing all the way to the bank!
Finding out how many solar cells you need is much easier than most people think. This is as easy as looking at your utility bills for the past year or so and calculate the amount of energy (in kilowatt hours, kw/h) that you have consumed for that year and divide it by 12. The number that you get is your consumption of electricity per month. You then plug in the amount of electricity produced per square foot of solar cell and divide that number by the monthly consumption. The number that comes out will be the actual square footage of solar cells that you will need for your house.
When figuring out your energy consumption in order to figure out your square footage of solar cells that you need to build and install at your house it is always a good idea to give yourself a 20% buffer to take into account any future power consumption needs such as having your clothes dryer or water heater switching over to electricity from gas because you will be able to afford running them off of electricity due to your use of the solar cells.
When figuring out how many solar cells you need to install to generate electricity in your home, you have to decide whether you want to cut your dependence of the local utility by 50%, 75%, or completely 100%. Many people will still keep a portion of their energy coming from the utility in order to keep other services such as trash collection and sewer hookup.
When choosing the location to mount your solar cells or your windmills you need to remember that although these items are as close to maintenance free as possible, there still has to be access since they occasionally require some light maintenance. The solar panels occasionally (depending on where you live) need a washing in order to clean off the dust and any debris that may have collected on their surface. This is usually done with a solution of water mixed with white distilled vinegar. You have to remember that most cleaning agents such as Windex or such have chemicals such as ammonia that will actually reflect the sun’s rays and not let them penetrate the substrate to generate the full wattage of electricity.