Friday, January 29, 2010

Using Wind Energy For Residential Applications

What is wind energy? Wind energy is tapping into the second largest abundant renewable resource on the planet, the wind. It is harnessed by the use of wind generators, either with horizontal axis turbines, or a rather new technology, the vertical axis turbine. When the wind is blowing, the blades on these turbines turn, producing power for homes, farms and businesses.
Here in Texas, we get quite a bit of wind that will produce vast amounts of Texas energy.

The power of the wind is not a new concept. It has been used for generations to pump water, and grind grains. With the energy crisis today, it has been a way to seek alternative sources of power, that doesn't use our non renewable resources. It is becoming more and more popular all over the world, and large amounts of Texas power are now being generated by wind 'farms' can be seen in just about every country around the globe.

Because of the technological advances in this area, wind turbines can now be applied to individual residential homes. No longer are they so large that a whole acre of land has to be wasted in order to put up one turbine. Not only are they becoming smaller, but they are able to capture wind at just ten miles an hour.

So how affordable can these be? Not only has the price of prefabricated turbines come down to less than a thousand dollars, but there are also many DIY project kits available today that you can use to build them yourself. Including the price of these kits, the materials needed, and the time it takes to make them, the cost can be well under $500.

One man in middle America actually spent much less. He purchased three ten foot lengths of 3" PVC pipe, and using an alternator, three bicycle rims, and materials around his house, he made a vertical axis turbine that cost under fifty dollars. This he set on his back porch, and on windy days it produces enough electrical energy to run part of his home.

Vertical axis turbines are becoming increasingly popular, because they can gather minimal amounts of wind, can be made from practically nothing, and don't need long poles to be mounted. They are used by celebrities like Jay Leno, who uses them to power the garage where he stores his collection of vintage vehicles.

While not everyone has wind blowing on a constant basis, used in combination with other renewable resources like solar power, you can run a family home totally from renewable resources. Using batteries to store the electricity when not in use, cutting down on energy consumption, and using high energy efficient appliances, like inline hot water heaters, not only can you save thousands of dollars annually on energy bills, but you are helping Mother Nature in many ways.

For one, you are not drawing upon our quickly depleting resources. Two, because these alternative power sources do not burn fossil fuels, you are not contributing to climate change. Three, in some cases, if you are hooked into the power grid, and produce more electrical energy that you can store and use, this extra energy goes back into the grid, and utility companies by law have to buy it back from you thereby cutting down on their emissions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Smart Meters - Will They Help Us Save Money?

It's a great question to ask, and an important one for the future of our electricity needs. If you're not familiar with these little systems, they were built to help us save money on our utility bills. Now, you probably want to know more about it, but the thing is this is what the electric companies tell us. It's our job to figure out whether or not it's true, and who will actually benefit from it.

Soon you will be able to find these electricity meters in your neighborhood - in fact many are being used today. It's said that we will be able to save all kinds of energy when we do. Right now they are only found in a small fraction of the 3,000 utility companies across the country.

Smart meters take the place of regular power meters. They send data about power consumption by radio signal. This data is received directly by the power company, which can send signals back to tell the meter what to do. This means no more meter readers and no more delay in bills. That means that companies will be able to keep track of consumption as it rises and lowers throughout the course of the day. That permits them to start implementing based on supply and demand, giving users at off-peak times bargain pricing. This kind of pricing is already pretty common among industrial users. It's just recently that it's reached commercial and residential electricity markets. As of 2005, the federal government is recommending that state utility commissions consider demand-response pricing. Utilities have planned to deploy over forty million smart meters by 2010.

How does that break down into cheaper power for you? Well, you'll be able to choose when you're using power and look at pricing in real time. You can see how much your usage is costing you and make choices based on that. If rates are high, it might be time to put off some energy intensive chores or turn up the thermostat a little to save power. If rates are low, it might be time to do a lot of laundry or just enjoy the savings.

So to answer your question, we believe it's going to help all of us save money down the road. However, until we actually see how it working, we can only hope at this point. There will be nothing like seeing that your bill is low and thinking; "Okay, today would be a great day to do some more laundry or cook a great meal in the oven." There are many scenarios we could share, but being able to see live results will be very beneficial to both the power companies and customers just like you.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Cash For Caulkers Program

Recently, President Obama made a new program proposal that could help homeowners be greener and boost the economy, too. This "Cash for Caulkers" program would reimburse homeowners who purchased insulation, energy efficient appliances, and other green home improvements. It would encourage people to buy needed green additions to their homes, and help them save money in the long run.

Currently, we don't have details from the Obama administration. However, the administration has stated that it'll work with Congress to put together the legislation. According to officials assisting with the bill, homeowners could be eligible to recieve up to twelve thousand dollars worth of rebates, depending on the improvements they make.

This proposal is part of the larger spending program suggested by the President. Other spending includes offering money to small businesses, to the renewable energy sector, and to help support and expand infrastructure. These areas are being supported because of the great role that energy efficiency and infrastructure play in our lives. More efficient policies create jobs, help families save money, and reduce pollution and waste.

There are two main parts to the program. They include money for companies in the efficiency and renewable energy industry and money for homeowners embarking on efficiency projects. The plan will probably allow audits to be conducted by private contractors, who then purchase the appropriate items and install them. Coverage is likely to be available for washers, dryers, windows, insulation, heating and cooling and other important, but expensive, items.

The suggestion currently is for consumers to be eligible for a fifty percent rebate on both installation and purchase of equipment, up to a total of twelve thousand dollars. A household could spend up to twenty-four thousand in improvements, and expect to receive half back. For many, that will reduce the overall cost enough to encourage more improvements and larger purchases.

Homeowners who take full advantage of this proposed program will benefit in other ways, too. Energy bills could drop up to twenty percent due to greater efficiency and lower levels of waste produced by newer appliances. This could be a real help for homeowners in the long run, as long as the program is well planned.

Currently, it's not clear how this plan will be administered. Tax credits, direct rebates, or state agencies are all options. The current projected cost for the program is in the ten billion dollar range. Critics note that people who have to spend a lot up front to receive the rebate may be reluctant to participate, and that fraud may be an issue.

If well planned and well administered, this program could be a big economic boost and a great encouragement for people to go green. It all depends on how the final legislation comes out. If you're considering improving your home and making it a little greener, be sure to keep an eye on this interesting program. It could be a real help in your efforts to green your lifestyle.