Homes use a lot of energy. From heating in the winter and cooling in the summer a typical home in Lake County can average close to $200 a month in electric and oil bills. As world demand for electricity and oil increase, we can only expect the costs of these fuel sources to rise. Fortunately, with state and federal assistance, we can make low cost investments into renewable energy systems that will provide our homes with low cost heating and cooling for decades to come. Below are short descriptions of the renewable energy systems LCRI can help you install in your home. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help you make an investment in renewable energy that will pay off for years to come.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
The constant bombardment of the Earth’s crusts by the Sun’s warm rays makes the ground a reliable source of warm. This is particularly true if you dig five feet down.
At a depth of five feet the Earth’s crust almost always has a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even in the coldest of winters. Ground source heat pumps put this reliable heat to use heating and cooling homes often with 75% less electricity than a conventional electric system. By circulating a type of antifreeze through pipes buried five feet down, a ground source heat pump can both heat and cool a home. During the winter the ground source heat pump draws the warmth out of the soil and transfers it to the home through heat exchangers that keep the anti-freeze separate from the heating system. Those same heat exchangers allow the ground source heat pump to cool a home in the summer.
The upfront price of a ground source heat pump ranges from $8,000 to $16,000 depending on the amount of trenching work you can do yourself. With state and federal rebates, an excellent price when one considers ground source heat pumps provide very comfortable heat (heat evenly throughout a home and heat that won’t dry out your skin), and once the system is paid off in several years, you might expect to see hundreds of extra dollars in your bank every year.
Solar Panels and Heat Collectors
Just as the sun rays warmth the Earth’s surface so too can they heat your water and even provide your home with electricity. Lake County, Oregon is among the best places in the U.S. for solar applications. As the EPA map shows on the right, the county receives on average 5 to 6 kiloWatt hours (kWh) per square meter a day. According to Pacific Power, one of the county’s principle electricity providers, the average residence in Lake County consumes 33.5 kWh a day, meaning that it would only take 7 square meters of roof top to meet the average home’s electrical needs with solar photovoltaic panels.
The high solar incidence (amount of energy falling on a flat surface) of Lake County allows us to heat our homes with solar energy too. With the use of low-, medium-, and high-temperature solar collectors, any homeowner can capture the heat of the Sun and redirect it toward heating his/her home. The state of Oregon mandates that all public owned utilities operating in Oregon provide their customers with financial assistance in purchasing renewable energy. That means the Pacific Power customers of Lake County are in a particularly good position to purchase solar systems.
The Sun’s rays are high charmed beams of electromagnetic radiation, also known as photons. Photovoltaic panels generate electricity by placing materials with loosely attached electrons (monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, etc) in direct opposition to incoming sunlight. The sunlight then knocks the electrons loose and allows the photovoltaic panels to channel those electrons into batteries or into powering household appliances like light bulbs and refrigerators.
According to Energy Trust of Oregon, solar panels could costs as low as $1,875 and could generate $410 a year for Pacific Power customers. That’s a 21% annual return on investment, not bad considering the stock market rarely returns more than 10% a year. Click here to learn more.
Solar Hot Water
Just as the sun can produce electricity so can it produce heat. A great way to put the sun’s warmth to use is a solar hot water system. Solar heating systems can be used to heat water, a home and even swimming pools. The costs of these systems range from $2,000 to $4,000 and will provide a annual return on investment between 6% to 25% (US Department of Energy). The Energy Trust of Oregon has some great information on solar heating systems and their financial incentives. And of course, LCRI is here to answer any questions you might have as well.
Patty and Keith Barnhart, owners of the Willow Springs Guest Ranch, are very pleased with their small wind generator. Through their wind generator and solar panels their ranch is able to operate completely off the electrical grid. The Barnharts find that the solar and wind combination works really well. From their experience, their plenty of wind to power their batteries on cloudy days and plenty of sun to power their batteries on clear days.
Unfortunately, wind power can’t be generated in as many locations as solar power. The sun reaches almost every square meter of Lake County, but the wind only consistently blows through a few areas in Lake County. Please arrange an appointment with our engineer to find out if wind is right for your home. Also, here’s some great information the Energy Trust of Oregon has put together on small wind.
Energy Efficiency Measures
Before you invest in an alternative energy system in your residence, the first action you should take is to make your home as energy efficient as possible. This is by far the cheapest action you can take to achieve direct cost savings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the overall comfort of your home. These activities may include things such as installing energy conservation and weatherization measures (door sweeps, outlet covers, window plastic), conducting energy assessments, helping to design, install and maintain a variety of sustainable systems.
A few things you can do:
- Order a free home weatherization kit courtesy of Energy Trust of Oregon. By installing insulating plastic on your windows, sweeps on your doors, and outlet covers. You can better keep your house warm in the winter!
- If you feel that you might have greater weatherization needs, such as foam insulation please see if you qualify for the OHDC Weatherization Program services. For more information, please contact:
- Jim Minix, Program Director of the OHDC Weatherization Program, (541) 883-7186