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Optimizing Alternative Energy for Your Region

When determining the best way to remove your house from the grid, terrain considerations will dictate the best options for your home. Alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal require certain factors in order to provide sufficient power for a house. Before searching for information on installing these various systems, first consider what your property has to offer.

Where Do You Live?

If you live in the southern United States, most particularly the southwestern United States, you will have extensive, consistent sun exposure. Solar panels will provide your home with considerable energy year-round. If you live in northern regions, your daylight hours are limited during the winter and you will have less energy when your heating bills are highest. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, your region has extensive cloud cover and receives a great deal of rain during the winter. This will also reduce the amount of power that your solar panels can provide.

If you live on the Great Plains or in a hilly or mountainous area, your property may be a good candidate for a windmill or wind turbine. The consideration here is whether the wind turbine will receive a constant breeze and generate a consistent amount of power. If you live in a valley, the turbine will not receive a consistent breeze and thus is not a good option for your home.

If you live in a mountainous area, you likely have a great deal of solid rock under your property. If so, installing a geothermal system may be a very costly process. Geothermal systems provide a constant, uninterrupted flow of heating and cooling for your home. However, if the system is too cost-prohibitive, using a combination of other alternative energy sources may be most effective for your home and budget.

Hydropower is also dependent on region, as it requires you to have running water such as a stream or river on your property. If you live in the north, the stream may freeze over during the winter and prevent your water turbine from functioning properly. If you live in an area prone to drought, your stream may dry up and deprive you of power. If you have a stream or river available and wish to use this form of alternative energy, consult with your local land use department to determine if you need special permissions to install a water turbine. You may require permissions if the stream runs across a neighbor’s property as you cannot block or reduce someone else’s water supply without them.

Your Property

Along with regional factors, consider the layout of your home and your property. Does your house have a southern exposure? If so, you are already taking advantage of passive solar properties to brighten and heat your house. Solar panels on the south-facing roof surface are a good option for providing energy to your home. However, solar panels are not optimal if your home is heavily shaded by trees or nearby structures, or if the house spends an average of less than six hours per day in direct sunlight.

Does your home have a small hill or large field that receives relatively constant breezes? If this is the case, purchase or rent a device to measure the wind speed at those locations, and chart the numbers over the course of one year. You can also consult with a company that sells wind turbines to see if they can provide this service for you. A wind turbine will provide dependable power for your home if the wind speed at that location is strong enough and consistent.

Of all alternative energy sources, geothermal is the least dependent on location and terrain. Geothermal heating systems can be installed in almost any location, and they provide consistent power that greatly reduces or eliminates heating and cooling costs. Finally, as noted in the previous section, hydropower is solely dependent on whether you have a constant flow of running water on your property.

Your Home

If you already own a home, you can adapt it to run off alternative energy sources rather than on the grid. Your best option may be to combine several forms of alternative energy, such as using solar panels and a wind turbine, to provide sufficient power for your home and appliances on a 24-hour basis. Consult with an alternative energy professional to determine the power output you need and the best system configuration to achieve it.

A further consideration is whether you can perform any remodeling to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Upgrading insulation can reduce the amount of energy required to heat and cool your home. Utilizing energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs will also reduce your electricity needs, as will properly insulating your hot water heater. Reducing your electrical requirements may allow you to use a smaller energy array to provide power for your home.

If you are considering purchasing a house, investigate whether building a new home might best meet your need to get off the grid. A custom-built home can include alternative energy sources from the start and will not require retrofitting to improve energy efficiency. Newer construction materials and insulation will provide you with a sound structure that can maintain your preferred indoor temperature using less energy. Building your own home also allows you to determine the most suitable placement rather than accepting the shortcomings of a house not properly placed to take full advantage of solar power.

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6 comments

  1. Looking at removing an old satellite dish that came with our home that is of no use any longer, where is the best information on a win turbine so electric energy? What is the recommended hight for these wind turbines to be?
    Arlington TX

  2. There has got to be a way to build a wind turbine unit (for a single family home) on my own property—One that doesn’t cost a darn fortune? All the ones I have found (on line) are either super expensive–and/or very hard to understand (directions wise) for the regular- do it yourselfer- to build. What the heck?

    I don’t know– but it sure seems like a frigging (stupid-assed-conspiracy) that someone got together with many other someone’s (higher up, where-ever) who build these things and have (priced them all) out of the regular homeowners pocketbook… On purpose? Is it just for the uber wealthy? Or is it just for the mega corporations to (buy and then sell) to the people in the form of electricity at sky-high rates?

    Is it unreasonable for me to want MY own unit, on my own property for (making juice for my family) to use and not to be sold (to me) on down the line??? I don’t think so!!! Mass produce these damn things already and bring the prices down- for the ordinary family to be able to buy them…

    Then the damn grid wouldn’t go down (all the frigging time) like it did during the last snow/ice storms (plural) we had here in Texas… Which was unusual in and of itself. We never have that much snow in a single year like we just did…

    This just proves our weather here on planet earth (happens in patterns) thru our sun–such as (solar cycles) due to our orbit around our sun and its orbit thru our galaxy. This planet is designed (by God) to be here forever barring any unforeseen meteorite/comet/asteroid collisions.

    Global warming my butt! Al Gore needs to get his (greedy LITTLE head) out of his butt and smell the friggin coffee… 😛 God Bless,

  3. I came from the country. Back when I was young I went to country schools [late 30’s early 40’s]. No one in the country had electric power at that time unless you lived very close to a town. I remember this one farm house had electric lights. Their power came from a very small type of windmill that was wind driven which charged a large supply of batteries. In fact there is a very old farm stead across the road from us, here in the mtns., that had a small building full of batteries which indicates to me they too had electrical power.

    Some electrical engineer came up with the ulgly design of these huge, slow moving windmills that everyone thinks is the only way to go. I’ve never understood how this could be considered “green”. Look at the future land fills that will be filled with all these acid batteries from solar as well as windmills, how in the world can that be GREEN?

    We have a neighbor that is off the grid, using solar. Every 10 yrs. or so he has to replace his batteries which run him some $26,000. You can purchase a lot of electricity for that. This powers a very small house. They have a lot of problems with their computer as they don’t have enough continual power to run it. I understand, because of this they are now also connected to ‘the grid’.

    We also have a friend who is totally off the grid, and has been for years. That is a tough way to live and only for the very hardy soul.

  4. Grandma, In a year or two, we may not have any choice as to where our power comes from. If the dollar goes poo poo, who knows if we will have utilities. Either you can produce our own power, or you will be in the dark and have no no heat (except for gravity wood stove) I live in Wiscosnin, no back up heat= death.

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