Alternative Home Energy

by Vickie Adair - Date: 2007-04-21 - Word Count: 659 Share This!

Hydrogen fuel cells, biomass gases, solar collectors, solar hot water systems, heat storage vaults, photovoltaic electricity, solar panels, solar greenhouses and solar house plans will are all part of the growing trend toward homes that are powered by alternative energy sources. This trend is being driven by ever-more government recommendation and sometimes backing of alternative energy research and development, the rising cost of oil and other fossil fuels, concern about environmental degradation and global warming, and desires to be energy independent. We as individual also face the need of becoming more energy independent from giant energy companies who have a stranglehold on people when it comes to powering their homes by grid-driven electricity.

Zero energy homes, extremely energy-efficient homes, and off-the-grid lifestyles have faced difficulty with the mainstream audience because, until recently, so many grid-free homes have been prohibitively expensive or aesthetically-challenged and ugly. However, Lori Ryker's book, Off The Grid: Modern Homes + Alternative Energy, foils both arguments, profiling "ten beautiful homes in regions as diverse as New York City, urban Germany, suburban Southern California, rural Canada, and the remote 'bush' of Australia,(and) shows you how to take responsibility for your future choices and conveniences by living in a beautifully designed home that uses much less energy. Off-the-grid living is a concept that can be easily understood and adopted by everyone, regardless of where you live or how much money you make."

Since Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to make California a world leader in solar energy, California already is the third-largest consumer of solar power equipment, behind Germany and Japan. The goal of his plan, to create a large, stable solar market that will lower the cost not only of components but also of installation, seems to be helping make solar energy more affordable for home owners here at home.

However, for many of us, building a zero energy or energy efficient home may be financially out of the question. But, homeowners can improve their situation in two ways: by using less energy and by wasting less of what is used and by making their existing homes more energy-efficient. Here are some specific ideas that can be put in place right away.

Using less energy:

Check the ducts for leaks and repair ducts with mastic or special metallic-backed tape. Leakage of conditioned air from broken or disconnected ducts accounts for 20 to 40 percent of energy loss. Turn up your air-conditioner to 78 degrees in the summer while you are home and at 85 degrees while you are away, in the winter set at 68 degrees, you can significantly trim your energy bill and contribute to a lighter load on the power grid. Fans can help make the higher summer temperatures comfortable at a lower energy consumption. Turn off lights, appliances, televisions, computers, stereos, radios, etc. when not in current use. If you are going to be gone for even twenty minutes, or the stereo is on upstairs and you're going to be downstairs for twenty minutes - flip the switch! Products and projects to make your home more energy efficient:

Purchase compact fluorescent lamps and energy-efficient appliances help reduce electrical consumption. Limit the impact of the sun with shade such as building a vine covered trellis that will cast shade on your windows or sunniest side of the house. You can also use awnings, shadecloth, or trees to block the sun on the exterior. Replace your windows with double paned or other energy efficient windows that block some of the heat from the window in the summer and block cold air in the winter. Upgrade your ceiling insulation to keep heat captured in the attic during the summer from entering living spaces and to keep heat in the house during the winter from escaping through the attic. Look for do-it-yourself solar thermal projects that can make your house more energy efficient. Just check the internet for energy efficient projects, and you'll find some. The books stores are usually well-stocked with do-it-yourself project books.

Related Tags: hydrogen fuel cells, zero energy homes, energy-efficient homes, biomass gases, solar collectors

Vickie Adair is the senior technical writer at Media A-Team ( and also publishes as a freelance writer. She writes for several websites such as, an online directory and news site for the Houston manufacturing community and, a directory of online business that sell or manufacture organic and/or natural products.

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