Renewable Energy

The early twenty first century might well be remembered as both an information and gadget age. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the average household where renewable energy gadgets abound.

A quick household inventory demonstrates the degree of any particular household’s interest in all things renewable energy gadget, especially the so called green gadgets that ease the transition to a wireless and paperless information society. Talk of smart grids connected to smart homes compliments the gadget age frame. Consumers remain interested in the energy sources used to power them.

Maybe the easiest way to think about the types of renewable energy products available on the market today to compliment the gadget age begins by using a familiar five category renewable energy starting place.

  • Biomass
  • Water (hydropower)
  • Geothermal
  • Solar
  • Wind

In theory these sources are infinitely available, and of course inter-connected. As long as the earth continues to revolve around the sun, the sun will continue to produce free energy. Heat from the sun additionally creates atmospheric conditions conducive to wind and water production, although not in even quantities throughout the world. Finally, working in combination with the natural world, the sun produces the light necessary for growing the plants and trees of the biomass world.

Solar and biomass remain the renewables of choice for most household consumers, as highlighted by the three examples provided here. Before moving on, it’s also important to remember that its also possible to expand the renewable home products category. Wool, for example, easily serves as a natural substitute for manufactured insulation products, with the added benefit of awarding sheep shearers a renewable home products badge. In fact, entrepreneurs continue to find new and imaginative ways to link the twin concepts of renewable energy and home life in ways that make sense for the entire renewable building materials industry.
With that caveat in mind, here’s a look at three must consider home renewable energy options.

Pellet Stoves: A Biomass Energy Alternative

Technological advances such as improved heating efficiencies provided a jump start to the petllt stove craze among American consumers with a competitive edge in the home heating market. Their competitive edge builds largely on the logic of using computer programs to control thermostat and fuel delivery settings.

Consumers can choose between two commercially available types of pellet stoves: free-standing and insert stoves for homes with an existing fireplace. Residential pellet stoves range in size and style from larger versions capable of replacing traditional furnaces for the average 2,000 plus square foot home, to smaller, room heating versions.

Pellets, the generic fuel name for the stoves, can be produced from many sources, including wood chips, round wood and animal waste. Because pellets contain much less water than even the best seasoned fire-wood, they burn more efficiently, and produce more heat and less smoke and ash than split wood. Wood pellets, the most common and most efficient of the manufactured biomass fuels today compete with other pellet fuels produced from sources such as corn.

Environmental concerns with the pellet stove industry focus on the current extraction and use of round wood as a source of raw material for pellet production. In the early stages of industry development, the limited number of wood pellet consumers translated into a stable supply of pellets made from wood industry waste products. Increases in pellet stove use ultimately translated into increased in wood pellet demand, leading the industry to search for other fuel sources.

Maintenance Tip: Along with pellet stoves, wood stove and fireplace technologies also continue to improve over time. Whatever the type of wood burning system in use, proper system maintenance insures maximum heating and environmental efficiency.

Experts recommend cleaning fireplaces and chimneys once per year to remove creosote, the tar like build up found in the smoke that attaches itself to the chimney.

Leaks or cracks, especially in wood stoves, can be sealed to keep smoke out of the room and prevent unnecessary air flow into the fire.

Consumers using fireplaces or older wood stoves can also improve their fire wood use efficiency by choosing proper wood. Fire wood, unlike most other wood around the home, is natural wood, cut, split and stored explicitly for heating.

Beware of using chemically treated household lumber products. Typically they have been treated with chemicals to withstand the assaults of weather and insect invasion. When burned, they can emit potentially toxic chemicals.

Solar Recreation

Improvements in thin film solar technology create a great fit between solar power and outdoor recreation. Consider the case of solar camping.

One stop at the local outdoors store, or a quick look at their catalog, shows that many traditional camping products such as tents, lanterns and stoves are solar adaptable. Most of these items sell for less than one hundred dollars, and offer the same advantages as their non-solar counterparts, without the hassle of needing battery or kerosene refills.

With a little imagination, and an investment in a portable, lightweight, solar powered generator, solar camping can easily move from the traditional roughing it experience to a high-end outdoor excursion. The key to a pleasant, high-end solar camping excursion starts by matching the portable solar generator with consumer gadget preferences.

Many solar-powered generators are designed to be compatible with today’s specialty made twelve volt appliances such as flat screen televisions, coolers (semi-refrigerators), heaters or fans. Don’t like solar ovens? Bring a twelve volt stove, popcorn maker, coffee pot, microwave oven and/or toaster oven on the trip for a taste of home made cooking away from home. What about family members allergic to the dirty outdoors? Packing a solar shower, twelve volt curling iron and hair dryer are often sufficient to keep even the most finicky stay at home proponents happy.

Choosing between low-end or high-end solar camping option amounts to a decision between getting away from it all, or bringing some of it with you. Either way, solar camping comes close to being a zero emissions camping experience.

Speaking of environmentally friendly camping…ever hear of PETT toilets? It stands for a personal environmental toilet. Take them wherever or use them at home during natural disasters such as floods, fires hurricanes and the like.

Renewable Energy: Solar Chargers

Nothing says renewable energy at home like a solar charger. Choosing among the competing solar charger packages can be as easy as matching up a brand name electronic device with a specific charger. Single device consumers, for example, seeking extra power for a tablet or a digital camera, can easily find a small, 4-6 watt, solar charger that comes with a supplemental battery. Charger prices can range from $30-$100, and each charger package includes a set of adapters suited to specific device brands.

Build it yourself solar chargers substantially increase solar charger power capacity, often doubling or tripling the consumer’s charging capacity compared with the charging capacity of the more portable, commercial devices. With solar panels measuring in the 3-4 square foot range, the home built solar charging system remains small enough for placement on most decks, patios and porches.

Building a solar battery charger can be a relatively simple task, involving five separate solar battery charger parts, put together in two steps.

The five solar battery charger parts include:

  • Solar Panel
  • Solar Charge Controller
  • 12v Deep Cycle Battery
  • Inverter
  • Connecting Wires
With the parts in hand, a simple two step process applies. First, charge the battery by connecting the solar panel and the battery to the solar charge controller. When charged, connect the inverter to the battery and it’s ready to recharge any device.