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Wind Power, Solar Energy, Geothermal Energy and Renewable Building Materials (my favorite is Bamboo Flooring!)
Renewable, relatively inexpensive, Alternative Sources of Energy. Man, that sounds good, doesn't it? I have always been very interested in how you can incorporate Solar Energy, Wind Power and Geothermal Energy into the next house that I build. Now one area where I am not quite like some of the other proponents of Alternative Energy Sources -- they often encourage people to drive a wee car and have a wee house, but I used to live in Alberta, land of the Massive Amount of Snow, so we required a large Vehicle, and Dwight's a Contractor, so he just needed a Truck. And you already know how much I looove a Big House. Big and Beautiful. And Energy Efficient!
It's very windy in Alberta, so it's an ideal place to make good use of Wind Energy. When we were on a trip down to California, we saw some Energy Poles of some sort disguised as Palm Trees. Oh, those clever Californians! Anyway, I couldn't get that image out of my mind, because it struck me that if you had individual Windmills that were high above each indivual home, you could quite easily disguise it in the same way. My Auntie Joyce (a Former Nursing Instructor and interested in Alternative Medicine -- mostly the Wellness Movement, which I also find interesting...) mentioned that there could be a problem with Birds, which I hadn't thought of... so you could have some sort of light wire mesh around the Windmill Blades. Don't know if that would work, though.
The Individual Windmill, if you will, would be tied to a generator in the home to collect Energy for the house. It would either be connected to the Roof (thus would be smaller -- maybe a Series of Smaller Windmills) or far enough from the House to be able to look like a tree of sorts, and be safe for the Home Owner. Wonder if there would be a Lightnening Risk for this? Just thinking out loud!
The other thing that could be a very real possibility, especially in Neighborhoods like ours (Acreage Estate Areas) would be to have a certain area set aside -- maybe an Acre -- where a group of moderately sized Windmills could help to produce Energy for the whole Neighborhood.
We have a New Housing Development in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada ( the wee town we live about 7 minutes from), and this new Housing Development is using Geothermal Energy (Energy that comes from the Ground via Underground Pipes full of Water -- the heat from the Earth heats up the water, which is then used to create energy for the homes...) for the whole Neighborhood. Isn't that cool? I think it's called Drake's Landing, but I'll check it out for you and see what kind of info I can get.
Dwight is a Heating and Air Conditioning Contractor, first, so anything that has to do with Heating and Cooling is endlessly fascinating to him (sometimes a tad bit dull for me, but at least I learn a lot...). We have been busy investigating how to go about using a Geothermal Energy System in our next House Build. We estimate that it would probably cost around $25,000. to put one in, but in a High-End Home, that's not all that much money. Even for Builders, since if the End Property sells for around the $800,000. mark, then $25 Grand seems quite reasonable. I'm sure it would be a fraction of that cost in a Moderately Sized Home, and then with Fuel Costs rising, the cost of the Geothermal System and the Installation would pay for itself in about 5 - 7 years, if you are planning to actually stay in the house that long...! (Builders are always moving because it's impossible not to see another beautiful piece of land you're just dying to develop! ha,ha!)
It can be expensive to run a Large home -- our house right now is 5400 square feet, fully developed, and our Energy Bills are very Moderate thanks to some of the Energy Conscious Features we put in this house. We have 38 very Large Windows in this house, which not only looks fabulous, but it makes great use of the Sun. We have more Sun year-round than anywhere else in Canada (apparently -- hard to believe, I know!), so the Windows allow for a great source of Heat in the Winter. I designed this house so it would be Energy Efficient, so the vast majority of the Windows are on the East and West Sides of the House. The Garage is on the North Side of the House, to protect the home from the Bitterly Cold North Winds. The Sunroom is on the South End of the House (my favorite room, it's sooo gorgeous with an incredible view fo thousands of trees...). I have made good use of Dark Curtains to keep the Heat down during the Summer.
Dwight and I installed a Radiant Heat System, which is an in-floor method for heating the floors to a nice 72 Degrees (or hotter if it's really cold out!). It costs a wee bit more to put in this In-Floor Heating System, but it is very efficient for heating a large area. Plus, it's essential to have In-Floor Heat in the Tiled Area in a 'Northerly Home', since the Tile can be terribly cold if you don't. We're accustomed to lovely warm Tile, now, and wouldn't want it to be any other way. Now, it's a different story if you have Hardwood Floors. The chances are high that you wouldn't need any heat under a Hardwood Floor (other than Forced Air Heat -- your usual Furnace Heat...), and it could cause some damage to the wood if you were to put it in. It's ideal for any Basement Development, though, since it keeps your feet and the rest of the room nice and warm. (As opposed to cold and freezing, like many basements!)
I want to check out the new Solar Tiles that have a bit of a look for regular Roofing Tiles -- must know about them before the next build! They would be a really inobtrusive method of gaining Solar Energy (the heat is collected in a panel in the house to help with the Electrical Power), and they can be used in conjunction with regular Tiles, so there shouldn't be a big problem with Architectural Controls.
Which brings me to a Pet Peeve -- 'Architectuural Controls' have to lighten up in some areas to allow Builders to go ahead and use Renewable Energy Sources where they can. In this day and age, it's crazy not to try to incorporate some Energy Saving Materials, where they are Cost-effective and non-intrusive. It's just plain wrong to prevent people form helping the Planet... ugh. Makes me mad!
Rats, I've run out of time. once again! I'll be back in here to chat a wee bit more, but here are some good sources of information for you to check out...
Bamboo Flooring is one of my favorite new Products -- it's a totally renewable source, so I really like that, and it looks fantastic! There are different Shades (Light - Dark) so you can choose your own color preference. I need to show this to Dwight because this is what I want to use in our next House Build.
<><FastFloors.com- Bamboo Flooring from environmentally sound sources><Up to 70 % off name brand flooring! Click here!>
React Energy Corporation. www.reactenergy.ca Dwight met the Project Manager, Dennis Terhove, of this Geothermal Company a while ago. Very interesting fellow, and his Site is full of real information about Geothermal Energy, which Dwight is obsessed with -- in a Good Way!
< Renewable Energy Systems Energyally provids a Comprehensive and up-to-date Collection of Educational Resources on the various forms of Alternative Energy.>
Home Power Magazine, The Hands-On
Journal Of Home-Made Power
Download current issue at http://www.homepower.com -- This is a good site for Wind and Solar Power Generation -- check it out!
Home Safety - Home Safety - Power Utility Bills (These are my pages... www.buildyourownhouse.ca)
Dwight , my ex-husband, and I went to my Queen's University Alumni Dinner, a couple of years ago -- what a whole lot of fun! It's nice when you live somewhere far away from where you grew up or went to School to reconnect with other people who know that particular area inside and out... plus, they always have great food and the drinks they just keep a comin'...! ha,ha,ha! It's one of the few things I do that doesn't involve Children and does involve Drinking! And Dwight is my Designated Driver, so I can have as much fun as I like, so that's fun! We always have lots of great Conversations and get to meet new Graduates who are doing interesting things, but one really cool thing they had last night was a Presentation from the Queen's University Solar Car Team. Very cool!
I've got the link for their website for you (www.solarcar.queensu.ca), so you can go in and have a wee look at these amazing cars, and I wanted to let you know about a program that is offered through Queen's and the Solar Car Team to bring this field into the High Schools. The Solar Team has a Program called SolarQuest where they will send Entrants into their Contest a Kit that includes a small photovoltaic array and the basic Instructions on How to Design and Build a Miniature Solar Vehicle. How cool is that? So if that is something that captures your imagination, or you know someone who might be a little bright spark in the universe, check it out!
Alternative Energy Resources < Click Here! >
Offers an e-book titled Understanding and Installing Your Own Solar Electric System. Includes worksheets, resources.
www.abc.com Keyword: Homemakeover. If you have seen ABC's Extreme Home Makeover, you'll know that they always use some very interesting Alternative Energy Products, especially for collecting Solar Power and Wind Energy, so check them out. Plus, it's just a great Building Show with a Heart!
It's a Great Big Site, chock full of all sorts of Fun Stuff and Useful Information... take your time and have a wee look around -- I think you might be surprised by some of the stuff you find! <
The best way to get the word out about a new Website is by 'Word of Mouth', or in our case, by e-mail! I'd love it if you dropped a line to your Friends & Family about www.buildyourownhouse.ca -- many thanks in advance! Ailsa