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Renewable & Efficient Energy Systems

Grid tied fossil fuel Energy systems are going to die off like the dinosaurs

One of our greatest challenges of the modern times is reinventing how we power our homes. Grid tied energy piped and wired into every home has led us down the path of complete reliance on large scale energy generation like coal fired electric generation. The unfortunate truths about this type of energy creation as we all know are being realized world wide with its high carbon footprint contributing massively to climate change, contamination of ground water, and its quickly becoming not even economically that competitive to cleaner types of energy. in 2018, more than four out of 10 (42%) of the world’s coal-fired power stations are running at a loss and by 2030, in virtually every case (96%) it will be cheaper to build new renewable energy capacity than to keep coal plants running , according to the latest study from research group Carbon Tracker.

The replacement of coal fired power plants with natural gas fired power plants in not the solution. Natural gas resources like coal are non renewable, that means they will run out some day, Natural gas like coal has a high carbon footprint and have high green house emissions as do most fossil fuels, The costs of fracking to extract the gas is especially high due to its contamination of our dwindling clean water resources, visual pollution, etc. The trap of thinking that fossil fuels are cheap energy has cultivated a spirit of energy dependence and abuse. Much like the banks of modern day the too big to fail mentality is failing us.  There are pros and cons to every sort of grid tied energy whether it be a fossil full or a renewable resource.  An example of a negative attribute of a renewable grid tied product is  hydroelectric which alters a river ecosystem  so much that spawning fish are unable exist.

Grid tied fossil fuel energies are harmful to the way we think of and use energy. For one because we don’t see everyday that powerplant, the coal, the fracking we loose sight of how dirty and harmful it really is. Perhaps even more harmful is how they make us forget about our energy consumption. The direct connection to energy production and its usage is lost. If you have ever had to stoke a fireplace or woodstove from your own hard labor needed to cut, split, stacked. and carry the firewood necessary to heat a home throughout the winter you know that you begin to take care of how much you stoke that fire its called conservation of a resource. It is this direct connection to the use of energy that also gets us to think about reducing our needs for using so much. That gets us to think and interact with how to use less energy resources. This is the point. First importance in a home design is reduce the need and usage of costly energy resources. With smaller energy needs in a home a approach of utilizing renewable energy sources like the sun or wind can easily offset grid tied energy consumption.

Examples or renewable strategies and resources

Below are some of the ways we can accomplish onsite energy generation and/or savings. Each client has a budget, lifestyle, and energy saving goals which will predicate the outcome of chosen methods. As said previously the first method is to use less energy to start with. This means starting with a space efficient design with a tighter well insulated building envelope. Next we plan for methods of onsite energy usage in conjunction to considering energy saving appliances, lighting, and heating. Finally it comes down to each homeowner making conscious decisions about how they control their own environment. Examples of our interactions with our homes are turning off unnecessary lights, setting thermostats to reasonable levels, using less hot water, opening and closing window and blinds to help with keeping a home cool reducing the need to run cooling appliances. It is with such thought that we can reduce our total fossil fuel and grid tied reliance.

Natural lighting

Its pretty obvious, light that comes into a home and each room throughout the day is light to see by reducing the needs for electric lighting.  Every lumen of light brought into a home to light with is reducing total electricity need.  Daylighting and even moonlighting not only adds some of the most aesthetically pleasing light it makes for good overall ambient lighting which add safety to a home.  Designing homes to share light throughout a variety of spaces, either by way of translucent or transparent windows, doors etc., we take advantage of the valuable exterior window light.  This example shows a high polycarbonate window which shares light from a bedroom into a hallway without compromising visual privacy.

LED lighting

It’s hard to beat the value offered by modern LEDs. Not only are their prices getting more affordable every day, they also last up to decades longer than the competition.

  • Light up immediately, like an incandescent bulb
  • Don’t heat up much at all – they stay cool to the touch even after use
  • Last up to five times longer than CFLs; can literally last a lifetime
  • No sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • Do not contain mercury
  • Some models can be used with a dimmer switch
  • Available in soft, warm, and bright white hues

Photovoltaic Power

is an active solar method of electricity generation. Whether you live on or off the electric grid generating your own power on site makes sense especially in regions similar to Montana which has numerous year round clear or semi clear sky days. Montana’s solar resource is 26 percent greater than the national average. And surprising to some, solar panel efficiency is significantly higher at -13 °F than at +113 °F.  To further dismiss the argument that solar panels dont work in the winter,  solar panels which had the snow removed only experienced 1% to 5% more production than their counterparts which were left un-maintained over a 3 year time span.  This result is intriguing as it directly shows that snow does not critically effect the production or viability of solar projects.

PV Benefits

  •  It can either drastically reduce or totally eliminate your electric bills when you install solar power into your home, you generate your own electricity, become less reliant on your electric utility and reduce your monthly electric bill. A solar panel system typically has a 25-30 year lifespan, which means that you can cut your electricity costs for decades to come by going solar
  • It improves the value of your home, the undeniable benefits of having solar panels on a home, complements recent studies that found property values increase after solar is installed.
  • Going solar gives you control over rising energy costs  While the cost of solar has decreased by more than 70 percent in the past decade, the cost of electricity has risen by about five percent, and that trend in rising electric cost is expected to continue.

Passive Solar Heating

In passive solar design, the sun’s natural energy is harnessed to help heat a home. “Windows, walls, and floors designed to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer.” This process is passive because it requires no plumbing or wiring, just good design. There are different passive solar strategies, but typically, sunlight enters through the building’s south facing windows and is stored as heat within a concrete floor. The heat then emanates from the floor mass during the day and night. Passive solar heating also provides natural day lighting, which reduces the need for electric lights.

Natural air conditioning

Using natural convective cycles, breezes, and outdoor pressure to bring in fresh air and cool your home makes sense.  Why use electric powered fans when you dont have to.

Heat pumps

An air-source heat pump can provide efficient heating and cooling for your home. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.

One of the more notable innovations in air-source heat pumps is called a reverse cycle chiller (RCC). It offers the advantages of allowing the homeowner to choose from a wide variety of heating and cooling distribution systems, from radiant floor systems to forced air systems with multiple zones. It also offers the potential for lower winter electric bills and hotter air out of the supply vents for greater comfort.