What would you do if you couldn’t light or heat your home, cook or use any electrical appliances due to a long-term power failure? Should the worst happen, it would be comforting to know that you weren’t solely reliant on the national grid. With a number of different alternative energy sources available to generate your own power at home, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Here we look at them in turn, providing you with the pros and cons to allow you to make an informed decision about which will be the most suitable choice of alternative energy source to power your home.
Solar panels Solar thermal panels work with your existing heating system to provide you with hot water. As long as the sun shines you get hot water for free. However, they can be expensive to install and might require you to buy a new water tank. Another type of solar power is photovoltaics, which use the sun’s energy to produce electricity. If you are able to generate a surplus of energy, this can be fed into the national grid, providing you with additional income, though their installation cost means that it will take you some time to recoup your initial outlay; however grants are available to help with initial set up. Both types of solar panel rely on your roof facing within a 90 degree angle of the south to benefit from the sun’s rays, so you are limited by the position of your house.
Wind turbines Far cheaper to buy than solar panels, but a certain amount of controversy exists over how much power they can generate – whilst they work well in more exposed areas where wind speeds are higher, in more built-up residential areas their ability to generate as much power is generally diminished. Be warned, they are also noisy, so you probably don’t want one too close to your house.
Heat pumps These utilise refrigeration to generate heat from water, the ground or air, using an electric pump to deliver it to your home. Once set up, there is little in the way of maintenance needed and like other forms of alternative energy, subsidies are available to encourage us to install them in our homes; be aware though that air-source pumps are the cheaper option of the three. If you intend to use a heat pump ensure that your home is well insulated, as while you are still able to heat a poorly insulated house, the pump has to work harder, resulting in more electricity being used and higher bills. If you’re a landlord with an all inclusive package of rent and bills this can represent a huge opportunity to increase profit without increasing rent.
Micro-hydro While this is only an option if you have a river close to your home, unlike solar panels and wind turbines they guarantee a much more reliable source of power. On the small scale for residential properties, there is not the environmental damage that is usually associated with hydro-electric schemes. However, this is likely the most costly alternative power supply to your home, as more initial construction is still required compared to other methods.
Micro combined heat and power This is a type of boiler, which contains a generator to produce electricity. While they are currently used for a whole community, developments are underway to allow them to be used in individual homes. For this reason some uncertainties remain over how efficient these boilers will be in a home. They also have the disadvantage that the boiler is likely to run on fossil fuels, so you won’t be blunting your carbon footprint to the same extent as with other alternative energy sources.
Your budget, location and power needs may well influence your choice, but whichever you plump for, with increased interest in alternative energy sources, you will be far from alone in making the switch to generating at least some of your own power.