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Building Solar Panels At Home

Nicole Said:

Which is greener; Building a home or Buying a home?

We Answered:

There's obviously less embodied energy in buying an existing house - and there's a VAST difference in overall environmental sustainability between building a regular house compared to a sustainable house, just as there's a huge difference in the retro-fitting needed to make an existing house sustainable.

If you can find an existing house with good bones, good passive solar design and just a few things to fix up to make self sufficient then bingo. You can be happy that you've achieved a great thing with relatively few resources. But chances are you won't be able to find a house like that, and retrofitting a badly designed house to be fully self reliant can be a massive and expensive job.

If you build a new house which is designed from the ground up to be not only self reliant, but is also built to have a total embodied energy payback over its lifetime as well as being operationally self reliant, you'd be not only achieving a worthwhile goal from your own house's point of view, but the house could also be used as inspiration for other people building, and so end up having the house become environmentally positive from that leveraged benefit.

Of course a really well done retrofit can also inspire people to retrofit their own houses... But the basic premise is that if you do it really well, and go out of your way to promote the house/project to the wider community, then either option could be equally "green". So it's up to you - but whichever option you do take, do it well.

Hope that helps, and all the best.

Lena Said:

Combining geothermal, wind and solar power at a residence?

We Answered:

Geothermal may give you the most consistent energy source - given the conditions you described. You could use solar as a backup .....what about passive solar heating and cooling? There's a good book called "The Passive Solar House" if you want to look into it more. Also, this webpage on planning your dream home might be helpful...…
Also, if you consider building an ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) home, that alone will drastically cut your energy usage. Check out this page on ICF homes...…
You also might want to check out the page on the site on energy efficient home design.
Have fun planning that dream home! I think your ideas are great!

Hope this helps.

Clifford Said:

I would like to work in the field of alternate energy (sell, install, educate). What should I major in?

We Answered:

Are you good with math and sciences? You could go about this two different ways. You could go the more techincal route or you could go the more hands-on route.

If you are more techincal you could look into going into Electrical Engineering. This is not an Easy major so you would have to consider that in most cases this a 4-5 year investment. However you would learn about most of the principles behind how we generate, route, and use electricity. You would also learn the skills needed to design some of your own ideas. If you don't have 4 years to spend learning. This may not be an option. Electrical Engineering requires you to go through all of the maths... (algebra, trig, Calc 1-3, Differential Equations, etc...) also all of the basic sciences, Chemistry, physics, thermo dynamics, etc.. And then onto your EE courses. Once you have your batchelors degree you can take your EIT (engineer in training) test or equivalent. After a few years experience you can then apply to take the PE (professional Engineer) test which would allow you to design, build, and sign off on projects. (a requirement in most states)

Another route would be to go to a 2 year Tech school for electronics or to be an electrictrian. These would give you a more hands-on knowledge of how physically connect and work on the devices you are interested in. You may not learn how to design a system but you could sure hook one up. This may require you to get an apprenticeship with an established electrician but it would provide good experience.

Jason Said:

Need info on building green home?

We Answered:

Look online at EcoStructure magazine. they cover a wide variety of articles on green technologies. When you choose an architect, choose one who has a LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering & Design) qualification. also look for the Green Building Council, they will give you guidelines too. There are some amazing and beautiful designs out there which will lower the lifetime energy cost of a home or business. Expect to pay more up front, but the amortized cost increase will be balanced by your monthly savings in energy costs. (i.e - if you spend $35,000 on a total off grid power system, and pay $150 a month to pay it off, that is the same as the money you won't pay to the power company) Now some people are into building Earth Ships, which is a really neat concept, but not all that popular with municipalities, but LEED standards are fully mainstream acceptable, and you don't have to live in a sod hut. I personally like the idea of incorporating on-site materials into the house, like using the cleared trees for project lumber, or having rocks that are on-site hewn to be part of the walls (not just covering them) If you don't have these materials on your site, then look to support local quarries and other product manufactures. You will find that your home will have a better feel of belonging there and being part of and not the exception to the surrounding environment. Good Luck!

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