The easiest way for most homeowners to reduce their utility bills is by cutting back on energy consumption through self-discipline and increased efficiency. But for those who have some time and money to invest, installing one or more green energy systems can yield bigger, longer-term savings while doing more to protect the environment.
Choosing and purchasing a residential green energy system can be a big project. Some systems may not be cost-effective for your home, and others might not be compatible at all. But once you identify your options and the installers in your area, you might be surprised at what’s within your price range.
Research Local Green Energy Regulations and Incentives
Before you get carried away, there are a couple of important factors to keep in mind. First, states and municipalities vary in the way they regulate some renewable energy systems, particularly solar panels and wind turbines. If it turns out your city severely restricts either or both, it’s good to figure that out early in the process. Call your local city hall or consult a local wind and solar installer to find out what’s allowed in your area.
Second, there may be tax credits and other incentives that make it more affordable for you to purchase a green energy system. As of 2018, the federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit has been extended through the end of 2021 and applies to systems like solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and solar water heaters. Your state may offer additional tax credits, and your local utilities may even have programs to make renewable energy installation easier.
Generating Electricity at Home
1. Residential Solar Panels
Every ray of sunshine that lands on your roof is free electricity for the taking. All you need is a solar panel to capture it. And thanks in part to the above-mentioned tax credit, lots of homeowners are getting in on the action.
Solar panels should be installed by professionals, and many installers will give your home a no-obligation assessment to determine the best installation sites and offer an estimate. Some may even be able to install solar shingles, which offer a more streamlined look.
Energy generated by solar panels has to be used or stored right away. When your home is consuming more energy than your solar panels are generating, the solar energy simply offsets the amount of electricity you need to purchase from the grid. But when you’re generating more than you’re using, you may be able to sell that excess energy back to the electrical utility, driving your bills down even further. Another option is to purchase a home battery, which can store that energy until you need it after dark.
2. Wind Turbines
You don’t need the type of enormous turbines you see on wind farms to generate green energy for your home. A propeller as small as a trash can lid can take a big bite out of your home energy bills, so long as it’s installed in a sufficiently windy area.
Professional installation is key here as well, both to ensure the turbine is safe and to place it where the wind will reach it. And just as with solar panels, you have to use it or lose it when you generate energy from wind turbines.
3. Solar and Wind Hybrid Systems
If you have sunny days and windy nights, a hybrid solar and wind system may be perfect for your area. The combination makes it more likely that your home will generate electricity around the clock, so you could theoretically disconnect from the grid entirely with the addition of a home battery.
4. Microhydropower Systems
Have a running stream on your property? You may be able to divert the flow of water through a small turbine and let the current generate free electricity 24 hours a day. A microhydropower system is often even better than a hybrid system because the flow of water is more continuous and reliable than wind and sun.
5. Solar Water Heaters
If a full solar panel system is out of your price range but you still have some sunny real estate on your roof, a solar water heater is a less expensive way to capture some free energy. With most solar water heaters, the tank itself is stored on the roof as part of the installation, which gives it a bulkier look. But it lets the sun do the work of running one of the biggest energy hogs in your home.
6. Geothermal Heat Pumps
Temperatures below ground are much more stable than the temperatures where our homes are, and during the winter, a geothermal heat pump can steal some of that buried warmth. These systems use a closed loop of pipes to pump fluid through an underground channel, into your home and back underground again. Inside the home, a heat exchanger uses warmth from the pipes to heat living spaces while using minimal energy.
Renewable energy is a smart way to lighten your bills while reducing the burden on the environment. And with so many different ways to bring it home, generating your own energy might be more possible than you expected.