We all want to leave a better world for our kids, and curbing emissions would be an obvious start. From the news, it seems like there are many options for having a so-called ‘green home’…what can we, as average home owners, do to protect the environment without breaking the bank? I spoke with several ‘green home’ builders, and at the end of the day, the easy answer comes down to common sense. Turn off the lights, insulate your home as best you can, and be reasonable with the thermostat. Having said that, there are new technologies that will *hopefully* change the way homes are being built and retro-fitted.
With all of the new solar and battery technology, lets start with the electrical side of things. Lighting has a much larger impact than most people would think, and is probably one of the easier starting points. Having just 30 halogen lights (60W) on for 6 hours a day can cost around $100 / month, and takes 330 kWh per month to run. LED lighting cuts those numbers by 75%, and some of the more recent designs look fantastic…a relatively easy place to start! To put these numbers in perspective, only A/C has a higher energy footprint (assuming you use natural gas for heating). Something to consider – one lightbulb, left on for one year and powered by a conventional coal fired generator, would cause the following pollution: 5 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 5.1 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 1852 pounds of carbon dioxide. Yikes!!!
If we were building our dream home from scratch, or extensively renovating an existing home, we could incorporate solar power with a battery system. Ideally, we’d have a flat roof with a solar array. This solar array is connected to a battery bank, which, along with various bits of electronic magic, automatically switches your home from solar to battery to grid power, depending on the time of day and your energy needs. Obviously, the solar array will collect power and charge the batteries during the day when the sun is shining. Electricity is most expensive when the ‘grid’ demand is greatest, so we want to operate the house on solar electricity during the day and the stored battery energy into the evening. If your daily household consumption of electricity is greater than the amount collected by the solar array, you’ll use the cheaper evening electricity rates to supplement the battery charge. These systems don’t come cheap – the whole kit with installation costs about $40k. There are, however, leasing options that bring the cost of solar systems to ‘near zero’…that is, the solar installation would be marginally more expensive than the standard electrical installation. Here's an example.
Electricity rates in Ontario are going nowhere but up (increases of another 40% are talked about), and the cost of solar panels is predicted to fall by 50%. There will be a lot more interest in your home’s electricity in the coming years!