solar/wind energy for a homestead

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Oceanrose, Nov 4, 2006.

  1. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

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    The biggest problem with the homestead in IA, is the fact that energy costs are over 150.00 a month. What are some good sites for starting to research solar or wind powered energy sources? Thanks,
     
  2. HappyFarmer

    HappyFarmer Well-Known Member

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    Check out Alternative Energy on HT.
     

  3. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In My opinion----Before you try to get a Solar Set-up----You Need to get that electric bill below $50 bucks a month--Or if you stay in the $150 per month-----My guess-----expect to spend From $100,000 to $200,000 for a solar set-up. Solar is Nice, But Not Cheap. But to answer your Question---Do A Search---You will find ALOT of Info. Good Luck!! Randy
     
  4. HydroDude

    HydroDude Active Member

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    Keep in mind that most of the of cost of grid energy costs is heating and cooling. Solar and wind are not going to generate enough stored energy to power a heater or air conditioner. So your savings will only be for lights, appliances (not your range/oven), electronic toys etc. The cost of running those things is not much and can be effectively managed without the need for investing in alternative energy sources not to mention the high cost of specialized appliances like refrigerators etc. I use solar,wind and am planning the installation of hydro on my creek. I use wood for heat with propane as a back-up. But I am off the grid. I love alternative energy but I will be the first to advise you that there is no reasonalbe ROI for grid-tied applications.
     
  5. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    AE forum has lots of info.

    Lots depends on your expectations. What is the size of dwelling you have now that you want to have energy for? Make a checklist of what you can live without for energy. Don't expect to use high amp appliances such as hair blow dryers, clothes dryers, dishwashers....anything with a motor basically. A low watt microwave might be fine. A fridge and deep well pump, etc. track all those 'essentials' you can't live without, and that will determine what you'll need for a solar set up. Wind depends on how much you get of it where you are located. Maps will show where your position is on the expectations for how much energy you can expect from wind generators. Daylenght for sun in winter, and how many cloudy days will affect how much battery storage capacity, and extra generator you might need when you can't generate enough power from solar cells.

    Having said that, I know from a visit to a local alternative energy shop. My neighbor next door a mile away operates it, and gave me a quote for 'minimal' needs for my modeste sized home. about $9,000 would give me just the basics to have lights, operate a deep well pump, a furnace motor, but I would have to have propane for the fridge and range. Clothes washer would be 'iffy' to use on those days the battery bank wasn't charged up, and the back up generator (yes, another investment not included which cost about $2,000 more and uses expensive fossil fuels).

    The catch for my region is this, and I've seen my neighbor first hand use of this. He operates his back up generator several times a week to get the battery bank charged up because the system just won't generate enough power on it's own. In winter he uses the back up generator more often due to short days (less sun). He installed recently a 200 ft. tower wind generator (cost about $6,000....the tower isn't cheap either). It has to be installed so many hundreds of yards away from trees, and that makes the wiring to the house also a factor. It helps, but it's not the panacea because I've seen many a day that generator sits still from not enough wind. No wind, no blades churning to generates power. It only is efficient to give a few more hundred watt hours, but I guess over a 20 year period it might pay for itself.

    Back to the 'catch'. With the use of that generator for say a 10 hour period several times a week, will eat up about as much fuel (gasoline or deisel) as a car would use per week of daily transport. At about $3/gallon of fuel, I'm estimating he's spending $50/wk. just on the generator. Even with a conservative guess, he's spending over $150 on fuel per month generating power enough for his dwelling PLUS what he has invested in his solar/wind system. I'm next door with hydro generated grid power like everyone else practically on the road and spend for my house less than $150 average and no cost extra for any backup fuel to generate. I can use more powered appliances than my neighbor, and not have hassles and smell, noise of that damn generator going that often. The alternative would be like someone mentioned above to spend about $50K to $100K for a multi, multi PV panel system and maybe a couple of wind generators that might give near the equivalent of what a grid hookup will do. That's a lot of years needed for 'payback', and a lot of money 'up front' for the 'conveneience' of non-grid, PLUS you have to maintain and watch the system with the battery bank that also has a shelf life for replacement.
    In my mind, I'd rather spend time actually 'homesteading' activities outdoors with animals, gardening, and such than to be so vigilant for a home energy system. Depends where you live. If you have decent access to grid power, I'd choose that first. But that's just my story, and IMHO.
     
  6. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Would help to know if you are talking just electric costs you $150 a month, and if you are on the grid now, or what your setup is.

    If it is costing you $150 a month for electric bill from the grid, you won't be able to afford the wind/solar bill to set up a replacement system. Solar & wind currently cost more than grid-supplied power. If you change over from grid-power, your cost per month will go up.

    The only time they save money is if you don't have grid power, & would need to spend a huge bundle to get connected.

    They also can be fun & satisfying to experiement with.

    But if your only motivation is cost savings, all you can do is cut down on your current electric use. There should be some room to save, $150 is a pretty big bill for just a house - must be some big power use thing at your homestead?

    --->Paul
     
  7. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    there are many other things you can do to help out. solar air heaters that fit in the window help in the daytime. solar water heating can be an option as well. i was thinking that if you have a window you can sacrifice, you could do an indoor solar water heater. if you burn firewood, there are other options for heating water as well. hot water is a big energy expense. every little project could help.

    the passive solar air heater i mentioned would obviously only help during the day...but it would help. there are diagrams on www.builditsolar.com and mother earth has a diagram as well.
     
  8. Rockin'B

    Rockin'B Well-Known Member

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    if you are talking total energy bill, 150 per mo is pretty cheap compared to the typical suburban home in the west 'burbs of Chicago!
    Before we moved back out to the country we lived in burbia and payed through the nose. The year 2005 cost us 2400.00 for nat gas alone. 200 dollars per month for nat gas and that is in a house kept at 69 deg. and 1800 sq feet. That's not counting the electricity it takes to drive the fan for the furnace. It did include a gas dryer.
    Now we heat with wood in two places in the home and don't ever hope to pay that kind of money again.
     
  9. painterswife

    painterswife Sock puppet reinstated Supporter

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    Look at this wind system. http://www.skystreamenergy.com/

    It is a grid tied system that costs between 8-12,000.00 installed.

    We are seriously considering it when we build our new home. It is quiet, needs no guide wires. The inverter is built in.

    Jill
     
  10. SolarGary

    SolarGary Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    This may repeat some things -- I did not read every post above carefully.

    For electricity, I would concentrate on conservation.

    We managed to cut our electricity use by 4700 KWH per year, saving $471 per year, all at a cost of $900 -- so this is less than a 2 year payback. $800 of the $900 was for a new frig, if you left that one out, the reduction would still be 4000KWH at a cost of only $100, and yearly saving of $400 -- a 3 month payback!! (not to mention about 8 tons of green house gas reduction)

    To install a PV system that would generate 4000KWH would be $20000+ -- so you can see the big differnece between the payoff or conservation vs generation.
    You can see the specific list of projects we did here:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Half/Projects.htm
    But, your list would probably be different based on where you live, what kind of appliances you have, ...


    For space heating and water heating (which is the bulk of most peoples energy use), I'd still do the conservation first. Look at insulation, sealing up air leaks, sealing ducts, storm windows, ... Lots of ideas here:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/conservation.htm
    These conservation projects will get you a quick return, and (usually) the best payoff -- they will also make any solar heating system you put in much more effective.
    After doing the conservation stuff, have a good look at solar space heating and solar water heating. Some of these solar projects can be quite cost effective -- even down to one year paybacks -- especially if you are willing to do the building yourself.
    I've put a bunch of these solar water and space heating projects together here:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Projects.htm
    Have a look at "Space Heating", "Water Heating", "Sun Spaces", and anything else that looks interesting.


    Good Luck!

    Gary
     
  11. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

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    The 150.00 a month is the base fees, with just a yard light on. When I lived there, and had 2 space heaters running and a microwave plugged in, electricity was around 300/mo. Somehow this cost has to come down to make the house a realistic home. I do know space heaters draw a lot of energy, but at that time, those were the only things running at all, as I was up with the sun and huddled in bed the rest of the time lol.
     
  12. afrikaner

    afrikaner Well-Known Member

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    Start small, is all I can say.
    Take outside floodlights, for instance. They draw a bit of power. Start by raplacing them with solar powered units. They won't be as strong as the traditional lights, but they are fairly cheap, come with theyr own panel and batteries and are ad ecent value. Replace them first. Then look at some other lights around the homestead. Barnlights? Run em off their own solar setup.
    Keep the grid connection and try to lower your bill as much as possible. Switch all interior lights with Compact Flourescant lights. Place all "wallwarts", TV's, VCR's and anything else that stores information on powerstrips that you can shut off when you are done with them. These items have a constant draw to "remember" their settings. It is a bit of a pain in some cases to reprogram them, but it will lower your bil. In my house, the big problem was wallwarts. We had cell phones, laptop computers, cordless phones, cameras and heave knows what else. I just started plugging them out whenever I saw one. I got a solar charge kit for my cell that I leave on my truck's dashboard during my work day and it charges my cell. Cordless phones were swapped for corded units (my wife has less chance of losing it now) and other small issues. Then turn towards your heating/air. If you have a fireplace, get an insert for it. It will warm the whole house nicely - or switch to a outside wood burning furnace. For cooling, look at better insulation for your house.
    If you want to go totally offgrid and have to get a generator, get a lister diesel generator. They are quiet and will more than likely outlast your house.
     
  13. bostonlesley

    bostonlesley Guest

    Small "stuff" has a tremendous impact on the electric bill. A few months back, people had posted about switching from conventional lightbulbs to those "newfangled" compact flourescent things. I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical..yet off I went the end of Sept and replaced every single lightbulb in my place..Just got the electric bill on Friday for the month of October and nearly fell over. NOTHING else had changed..not a blessed thing but the lightbulbs, and my bill had dropped by $35..!!!! These lightbulbs are kind of funky..when you turn on the lamp, it takes more than a few minutes for the light to get up to speed, as it were. I've noticed though, that unlike regular bulbs, they don't put out hardly any heat..I can actually put my hand on a lightbulb that's been on for an hour and it's barely "warm"..amazing!

    Sealing up things saves a ton of money..that attic access door for instance..take a candle and hold it up next to the opening and see how much brighter the candle burns..wheeee. That will show you how much heat is escaping in Winter ..open it up, cover the opening with heavy plastic sealed with duct tape and shut the trap door. You just saved a bunch of money.:)
    Windows..if you enjoy looking out of them & don't like to use plastic to seal them up, whip up some nice quilted window coverings instead. EASY to make and to maintain..
    http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/6_2002.htm#article1

    or, you can buy coiled ropes of "window putty" and simply stuff it around each window pane..come Spring, it's easily removed. (expensive too).

    IMHO, this isn't thread drift..I agree with others that before you look at using alternative energy sources as a means of cutting down on energy bills, look at other things first which are much easier to implement and will be a fairly immediate solution. :)
     
  14. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    I'm confused at this estimate - how could it possibly cost that much? We have a fairly large house (just over 2,000sf) and run on a solar system with generator back-up. On the grid, I wouldn't be surprised if we easily spent $100/mo+ in the winter on just electricity alone (not including heat & hot water) but we don't spend anywhere near that using our alternative energy system (unless you consider the "mortgage payment" on the investment we put into the solar system). We spent about $45,000 including install and later found we could have done it a LOT cheaper but we were SEVERELY overbilled on the install and the design was insufficient. Even if we fixed our system with all the necessary upgrades to all but eliminate gennie run time, we'd be well under $100K...
     
  15. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    But How much would it Cost you To Completely Elimate your Generator and If You were using $150 worth of electricity each month?? Over $100 Grand?? I gave Just a estimate----Nothing wrote in Concrete----But I was Figuring All Solar---with NO generator back-up----Not Rebuilding the house To Use Solar/Sun Heat---Trying to think how much reserve would be needed to take care of cloudy days---Just enough solar Panels and what was needed to amount to a $150+ per month electric Bill. Hey--It only takes a 15 watt solar panel(less than $100) to give Me all the "Lights" I need for where I live--I have my 12volt lights Totally seperate from my Other Panels and batteries, but I do conserve. Sounds Like you do Have a Nice Set-up---I wish You were closer, I would LOVE to See it. Enjoy!! Randy
     
  16. hoofinitnorth

    hoofinitnorth Well-Known Member

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    Well let's see, I have 10 175-watt solar panels on a tracker with a battery bank and gennie and inverter. Take away the gennie and I'd probably need to at least triple my battery bank. Still, if I had to replace all batteries for a seemless transition when I added the other 2/3s... that would only cost me about $15,000-$20,000 at my last price with installation. Could probably do it for much less though. In Indiana, not sure about how much sun exposure the OP gets but doing this on my southern-facing, open field in Southcentral Alaska, I could probably get my genie gone or real close to it and do fine MOST of the year. Might have a couple of days where I was really low on power and had to run the batteries lower than I'd like but without doing any hard calcs., probably could do fine. Also could add wind (or hydro in the right places) as supplemental use on cloudy days. Seriously, I couldn't see ever spending $100K to get down to $0/mo in electricity bills even up here.

    This house wasn't built specifically for alternative energy but we did buy it unfinished. We used extra insulation and fluorescent light bulbs everywhere we can but we bought "standard" off-the-rack appliances that meet today's higher efficiency ratings and we use oil heat & hot water. We conserve but don't really scrimp. Now if you were talking about running my 1500w stock tank heaters all winter I'd be in REAL trouble! ;)

    It would be more helpful to know the OP's typical loads and usage instead of their monthly costs since we don't know their local prices per KWH.
     
  17. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Still Sounds like you have a Nice System. I really was thinking you had Alot more panels(wattage). 10 x 175 = 1750 watts. I have 1500 watts, but I only have 320 watts on a Tracker---And I Know having them on a Tracker Is A BIG help. My 1180 watts are on a contraption that I can adjust the angle and position from winter to summer, but I need a tracker. I will build one------One day LOL. I am sure with $75,000 set-up on solar panels----A person could Make some serious Wattage---properly set-up. But did you catch the part of her message where she said her electric bill gets up to $300 per month-----Sounds like over $200,000 system now---LOL. Randy
     
  18. 3SistersFarm

    3SistersFarm Well-Known Member

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    http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i15/galestorm_photos/solar-wind.jpg

    It did not cost 200,000! don't be scared. It cost as much as an SUV or a boat for that matter. Every place is different so the cost varies. We're planning on expanding our solar next year (hopefully), myyyyy the wind sure does take up a lot of space with those guide wires. You just don't realize til it's up.

    well, We had ours installed a few weeks ago. It feels longer because we've been working on it for months. We had certified solar and wind installers www.midstatepower.com. I can't imagine anyone doing it themself, it's basically a power plant in our basement. They suggested both solar and wind, " When it's not windy it will be sunny". The things that cost the most was the batteries (12 huge ones) and the inverter (9,000). We have everything on it but the the air conditioners. We haven't gotten our elec.bill yet but have been eyeballing the meter, it just doesn't move anymore. We were using 30 klws a day and we haven't used that much in three weeks now. I'm looking forward to getting our electric bill, yep that's what's it's all about, freedom from the grid.
     
  19. charles burns

    charles burns Well-Known Member

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    www.backwoodssolar.com is the most beginner friendly site/company I have come across. If you go to their website and order the free catalogue you get a well written, easy to understand introduction to solar power and all the stuff they sell to drool over and spill your coffee on.
     
  20. Jim-mi

    Jim-mi Well-Known Member

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    No body has mentioned refridgiration here.
    What do you have for a fridg and or freezer ... ?
    Most all the older stuff was\is hugh guzzlers of electric.
    Cheaper to get more efficient fridg's than a bunch More PV pannels trying to keep up with the old fridg.