Alternative Energy in Homes
Scientists predict that the day is not far off when the traditional energy resources of the world such as oil wells and water resources might some day dry off. This fact has created an acute awareness of finding alternate energy sources.
With increasing population and the development of technology, energy is rapidly consumed in countries all over the world. More so in the United States which is one of the most technologically advanced, well developed and industrialized nation. The main source of energy are fossil fuels like crude oil.
These are found to trigger global warming. Moreover, these energy sources take a very long time in formation and hence are likely to get scarce over the years. There is a growing demand for energy and as a result the rising trend in crude oil prices is bound to continue. To resolve the problems associated with cost, scarcity and pollution, there is the concept of using alternative energy sources. According to this concept, power is converted from different natural sources to produce heat and electricity.
Some such alternative energy sources are sunlight, wind, and biomass fuel. Energy is used in homes, businesses, industry, and for traveling and transportation purposes. It has been found that while the industrial sector uses about one-third of the total energy, the residential and commercial sectors combined use about 40 percent of all energy. This includes all types of buildings such as houses, such as houses, offices, stores, restaurants, and places of worship. (Source: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2005, Washington, DC, July 2006) .
A comfortable house in today’s modern society is one that uses lights, air-conditioning, TV, microwave, dishwasher and other appliances. More than half of the energy used for heating in single-family homes is natural gas, about one-fourth is electricity, and one-tenth is fuel oil (heating oil). Using alternative energy sources in homes is likely to reduce the overall energy usage of the nation appreciably. Solar power involves transforming some of the sun’s massive thermal energy into electricity.
There are two ways of using solar power as an alternative energy source in houses: photovoltaic (PV), where sunlight is directly converted into electricity via solar cells, and utilizing solarthermal power. In a photovoltaic cell, sunlight falls on a layer of semiconductors which in turn creates an electrical current. This is a proven technology that can be easily used in houses to provide heat and power. Electricity can be produced from solar power by placing solar panels on the roof. These panels consist of photovoltaic cells that can convert sunlight directly into electricity.
A modern photovoltaic cell can convert almost 80% of the sunshine into electricity . Moreover, it is interesting to note that electricity that is produced through solar power during the day may be stored in batteries for use in the night. In turbines the sun’s heat can be used to convert water into steam and then utilize this steam to running turbines. The turbines in turn can be used to run generators, which produce electricity for the entire alternative energy home. According to Bryan Wong, to heat a home a solar panel can be installed on the roof where water is heated .
The hot water is then stored in a big tank which in turn is used for a central heating system and also for hot running water. Another way to heat a home is to use solar collectors. The heat from the sun is then stored in specially designed effective collectors. Some of these collectors have shown the capacity to heat homes even in the middle of winter. The Solar Home Lighting system is a fixed installation designed for domestic application . The system comprises of Solar PV Module (Solar Cells), charge controller, battery and lighting system (lamps & fans).
The solar module is installed in the open on roof/terrace – exposed to sunlight and the charge controller and battery are kept inside a protected place in the house. The solar module requires periodic dusting for effective performance. Jeff Gilbert has found that the solar attic fan harnesses solar power to create electricity that will cool the attic by removing the same heat. The kit includes a 40-watt solar panel, a thermostat / controller and a 12-volt DC powered 11″ diameter fan .
The biggest barriers to increasing solar power generation are the cost, and the intermittent nature of the energy source. Solar power is likely to become more popular if technology can usher in cheaper PV cells and solar-thermal energy. Solar energy is much easier to use in the city area and so it is highly applicable for usage in Atlanta, Georgia. The roof solar-panels that are needed can be placed on the roof out of sight. Wind power is another powerful alternative energy source. To use wind power a windmill-type device can be installed on the house or nearby.
The wind-mill powers a turbine that can be used to generate electricity. Just like in the case of solar power, wind power can be stored in batteries. Windmills have been used for the past few centuries and initially they were used to mill grain and pump out water from large beaks or lakes to gain land . Today windmills are used in homes to run small generators for home owners. These generators produce electricity to be used in running small home appliances. It would not be possible for using windmills within the city area because windmills generally need a lot of space.
They are a few meters in diameter and fairly high. However, small-scale building-integrated wind turbines suitable for urban locations are currently being developed and will be available to install in homes and other buildings within the next few years. Hydropower can be tapped by using the power of running water to run generators. These generators in turn can store electricity which can be used for running the home appliances. This technique is also used in the past where waterwheels were used to grind grain into flour, just like windmills.
But like the windmills this form of alternative energy is not feasible to use in the city area. The fourth technique is biogas. Biogas is produced naturally via the decomposition of different biomass. Biomass refers to plant matter, such as plants, trees, grasses, agricultural crops, and animal manure. Farmers can successfully use this method to produce biogas. The biogas can be used for heating to home or can even be used to cook. This form is also not common to use inside the city area. It is best used in houses closer to farms or within farms.
Currently the most economical type of biomass for generating energy comes from residues, organic byproducts of food, fiber and forestry including sawdust, rice husks, wheat straw, corn stalks and bagasse (sugar cane residue). Chicken manure is also becoming an important fuel for generating electricity from biomass. In some cases, especially where the cost of biomass is very low, it is co-fired with a fossil fuel, such as coal, to lower the overall cost of the electricity produced. Currently, cofiring is the most economical form of electricity generation that is used in alternative energy homes .
The typical American household spends about $1,400 annually on heat and electric utilities. Due to this huge cost, across the US some 185,000 households have switched from the local power company to their own homegrown, renewable energy. People are learning to heat their homes with a wood-burning stove. Wood burning stoves work on the principle of radiant heat coming directly off the stove. These stoves provide heat by having an electric motor blow the heat produced by the burning pellets into the room the stove is in much the same way a furnace would blow heat through ductwork.
The fumes from pellet- and corn-burning stoves are typically vented directly through an exterior wall to the outside. Liquid propane is also used in some houses to run water heater, dryer, and stove . At Belmont Avenue, Salvador Lamas the owner of the Taco Burrito King, decided to go solar when he found he was paying hard to heat 500 gallons of water every day. He installed solar panels on the roof of his Belmont Avenue building, and soon saved money by heating water directly with solar thermal. He also uses solar power to wash and cook vegetables. As a result, he saves close to $2,000 a month (Pink, 2005).
A panel of state officials, utility executives, environmental advocates, business leaders and academics have been working on the issue of finding alternative energy for the state of Georgia. The Governor’s Energy Policy Council has recently published a report that lays out the importance of taking a leadership role on alternative fuels. The report from the governor’s council recommends that Georgia should “go native” by investing intelligently in untapped energy resources readily available in our own backyard. Among the most promising and profitable resources on the horizon are (Harris, 2006) :
• Trees and timber products. Georgia has many thousands of acres of pine trees that can provide the raw material for cellulosic ethanol, a type of biofuel that burns more cleanly than conventional fossil fuels. Ethanol derived from timber products requires less energy to manufacture than ethanol derived from corn. • Biogas: Georgia’s livestock and poultry could also prove a plentiful source of biogas, another renewable fuel. Animal wastes can be treated in special digesters that create methane gas, which in turn can be used to generate a cleaner form of electricity without adding to greenhouse gases.
The main drawback in using alternative energy sources for home purposes is that one needs to invest in equipment to convert these sources into the energy needed. Thus while the price of an alternative energy home will be high, it must be noted that the expenses for such a home will be reduced. This would be an ideal home in which there is greater market value and reduced costs of living. The alternative energy home is the future in many ways. Bibliography: Pink H. Daniel. The New Power Generation. Wired Magazine. Issue 13. 05 May 2005. http://www. wired. com/wired/archive/13.
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com/Article/Wood-Burning-and-Pellet-Burning-Stoves/1802 Harris V. Lyle. Our Opinion: Georgia can be energy pioneer. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Published on 01/21/07. http://www. ajc. com/search/content/opinion/stories/2007/01/21/edenergy0121. html Sarah E. Douglass. Special Report: Identifying the opportunities in Alternative Energy. https://a248. e. akamai. net/7/248/1856/29de4d06b10347/www. wellsfargo. com/downloads/pdf/about/csr/alt_energy. pdf Bryan Wong. Energy Efficient Homes. http://www. energyefficienthomearticles. com/ezineready. php? id=3906