Sunday, November 1, 2015

Solar Powered Home Design

The key to having a solar powered home is not generating thousands of kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar power, but rather designing your home to be efficient, function well and only use 1,100 kWh of electricity per month.

First place to start is with the biggest users of electricity which are things that change the temperature like the A/C, clothes driers, heaters, ovens, refrigerators and freezers.  It is critical that we minimize the electrical consumption of these.
  1. Use natural gas (or propane) for heating, cooking and drying clothes.  
  2. Learn to survive with the temperature 2-4 degrees cooler in the winter and 2-4 degrees warmer in the summer and have energy star ceiling fans in each room. 
  3. Use a smaller energy efficient refrigerator (and freezer) set at 45 degrees.
  4. Have on-demand hot water, natural gas or propane; set the temperature at 120F.
  5. Get the absolute most efficient A/C you can buy, especially in the south. Geo Thermal uses the cold ground (well) water to cool your home with lower energy. Often you can use the same well for a water supply.
Second is to address the largest waste of energy from homes.
  1. For this reason, it is important to minimize the number and size of windows and to get the most efficient triple pane PVC frame windows.  Note aluminum frames conduct too much heat.  
  2. After this comes the walls of the home.  This is why we need to use 2 X 6 (spaced 24" apart) walls and ceiling with closed cell spray urethane foam insulation.  It must fill the walls and be sprayed on the roof immediately under the decking/shingles inside the attic.  This keeps the attic at a more constant temperature instead of having the attic 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) immediately above the home ceiling which is 76 degrees.  Instead the attic is 86 and the home is 76.
  3. Other large users of electricity are lighting and vampire loads like the displays on clocks, ovens, microwaves.  Energy efficient devices with low energy LED displays will help.  
  4.  Even more important is the use of LED light bulbs.  A 60 watt incandescent bulb uses 60 watts.  A 60 watt florescent bulb uses about 18 watts and a 60 watt LED bulb uses about 9 watts to produce the same amount of light.  Even better is to use the 40 watt LED bulbs which use 3-5 watts.  This cuts the lighting load by over 90%!
  5. Use motion detectors that turn the lights off when no one is in the room, or timers (LED compatible) that can be set for 5, 10, 15...or 30 minutes before turning the lights off.  The timers work great in closets, bathrooms, wash rooms or places that are visited less frequently while the motion detectors work well in high traffic area's. 
  6. Have faucets with both a hot and cold water valve.  Having one lever type valve that operates both cold and hot is very wasteful on hot water. 
Other important factors to consider:
  1. Build the house smaller than normal with less space to heat and cool; no high ceilings.  
  2. Have a porch over hang on the south side of the house that prevents the high mid-day summer sun from shining directly in your window but that allows the low winter sun in, IF you heat your home a lot in the winter. 
Again, the key is an energy efficient home.  At time of this writing, a 5,100 watt system to deliver up to 500 kwh/month, the cash cost after utility rebates & tax deductions is under $14,000. Only 6,000 watts runs everything in energy efficient homes 24-7 except an electric drier/heating & A/C.
Questions/Comments? E-mail me at the address in the Prepper Handbook Introduction that can be previewed free on Amazon Kindle.

For additional information see the following links:

 Here is a link to a unique sustainable living system:  EcoCapsule

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