Is it time to upgrade your home’s energy source? If so, have you considered an alternative form of power, or do you plan to stick with a nonrenewable? It’s all about doing what’s best for your home and budget.
As you review your options, understand that depending on your energy choice, you can cut your utility bills, take advantage of current federal and state tax incentives, and help to save the environment.
Renewable Energy Sources
Today’s homeowners have more choices when selecting renewable energy sources for their homes. These energy-efficient upgrades are becoming increasingly affordable, as they offer government tax incentives with installation. Here are three of the most popular options.
Geothermal energy is a reliable solution that will work for all households. Geothermal heat pumps provide clean cooling and heating and can cut your current energy bills by 70%. They are buried at least 8 feet underground, where the earth is consistently 50 F, and they transfer heat through loops of liquid-filled pipes.
Because the air temperature is consistent, the geothermal pump doesn’t have to work as hard as a traditional version during winter or summer to warm or cool your home. The energy is stored at a conduction rate that ensures plenty of heat for your pump to access readily. This is the primary factor in how geothermal energy saves you money and can cut your current energy bills by more than half.
Because geothermal pumps must be buried deep in the ground and require vast piping, it requires a hefty startup cost. However, it might be wise to think of it as an investment. Additionally, there are federal tax credits available for installing your geothermal unit. In time, you will notice significant savings on your energy bills.
Solar panels are an ideal energy source for homeowners living in sunny climates. Solar energy is clean, effective and reliable. You’ll find it has various tax benefits, contributes to the value of your home and offers energy independence. They also lead to lower energy bills.
Most homeowners opt to have solar panels installed on their roofs for the most efficient access to the sun. The solar cells in each one absorb photons from the sun’s rays and release electrons, which creates an electric flow. Inverters harness the flow of electricity, allowing it to move in alternate directions. A breaker box enables you to store excess energy in the solar battery, saving it for another time or returning unused power to the grid.
Wind energy harnesses the power of airflow and converts it into electricity. Typically, you’ll see massive wind farms where rows of windmills are built along coastal regions to make the most of airflow.
Homeowners can also set up a turbine on their property. However, it’s wise to consider your location and weather conditions before doing so. For instance, if you have a large amount of unobstructed property and live in Kansas, perhaps setting up a windmill could work for you. A professional installer can help you determine these factors:
- Do you live in a region with an annual wind speed of at least 9 mph?
- Does utility-supplied electricity cost on average 10 cents per kilowatt-hour?
- Is there sufficient capacity to connect the utility grid to your renewable energy system?
Depending on the amount of airflow you can harness, you can also explore options to go off the electric grid entirely or a hybrid-electric system.
Nonrenewable Energy Sources
Nonrenewable energy sources continue to be the most common energy sources powering the United States. As the name suggests, nonrenewable energy sources are finite, meaning once we use them up, they’ll be gone forever.
Natural gas heats approximately half the homes in the U.S. and currently provides 29% of our energy. Propane, which we use to fuel grills and some stoves, also comes from natural gas. This source fuels 33% of our electricity.
Unlike oil, we generate most of our natural gas domestically. Hydraulic fracking has expanded our natural gas production drastically since 2007. While we don’t yet know the effects of fracking on the environment, the use of natural gas has proven to be more energy-efficient than coal or other petroleum.
Currently, it’s viewed more positively than its nonrenewable energy source counterparts because it has a smaller carbon footprint.
Coal power generates about 20% of our nation’s electricity. America is home to one-quarter of the world’s coal reserves, but it’s uncertain how easily accessible they are.
While coal can be mined and consumed easily for energy, there’s a high environmental cost to burning the resource. It emits an elevated level of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. For these reasons, scientists recommend moving to more renewable and energy-efficient resources.
The Best Energy Source for Your Home
It’s up to you to check your budget, run the numbers and determine the best energy source for your property. Consider that many renewable sources are an investment that helps you cut your utility bills and care for the environment. If you decide to stick with a nonrenewable source, opt for natural gas, as it’s a more energy-efficient choice for your home. After doing your homework, the choice should be clear.
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, a home improvement publisher with advice on gardening, decor and DIY projects.