The electric power is supplied to all homes and businesses through a utility grid. But there are many reasons why your home might lose access to the electricity grid (e.g., natural disaster, terrorist attack).
That’s why it is important to have a plan in place to provide backup power in case there are any interruptions.
There are many things you can do around your home to reduce the amount of energy you use, which will leave more for backup devices when the grid goes down. But eventually, reality strikes and you need some electricity for your lights, refrigerator, well pump or other important appliances.
Generating electricity for your home and appliances does not necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money setting up solar panels, wind turbines or other industrial size generators. You can go simple and inexpensive by using alternative sources of energy such as batteries, ropes, waterwheels and steam.
There are many ways to generate free electricity at homestead . With some creativity, you will be surprised how easily this is possible.
So what choices do you have?
The most practical way to access an alternative source of electricity is by using solar panels (photovoltaic systems), wind turbines (wind generators) and generators (diesel/gasoline/propane). Let us look at these in a little more detail.
Solar panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity through a process called photovoltaics – PV for short. The solar panel is made up of individual units called photovoltaic cells or solar cells.
A single cell does not produce much power, but when placed in a group, they can generate enough current to run small electrical appliances such as flashlights and radios. In fact, many flashlights, radios and other small portable devices come equipped with integral solar cells so you can use them without any extra equipment.
Individual cells will vary in size from roughly 1/4 inch square to several inches on side, but commercially available arrays will be at least five inches on each side.
Solar panels are rated by the amount of power they produce in peak sunlight. This is called their “peak rating” and is measured in watts (W). A 1,000 watt panel can produce 1kW of power when the sun is directly overhead, but only about half that much power 90 degrees away from noon. Peak ratings do not indicate how much energy the panel will actually produce over time, but it does give you a figure against which other values can be compared (for instance, you might want to know if your generator will supply enough power to run one or more panels.)
You should always get at least one solar panel for every 1 kW of electricity you expect to consume daily. So, for example if you have a 1 kW well pump and it runs 4 hours a day, you should get four or more panels.
The wind is an excellent source of alternative energy. Once the initial cost of installation has been paid back (typically about 5 years,) a wind turbine will produce free electricity forever.
Unlike solar cells, which only work when the sun is shining, a good home-sized wind generator will produce power regardless of the weather – as long as there’s wind that’s strong enough to turn the propeller at a useful speed. Wind turbines are rated by their “capacity” in watts – usually from 200 to 2,000 watts per unit. Just as with solar panels, the higher the capacity, the more power it will produce.
Foundation size is also a factor. Bigger units require a much larger base and heavier towers – which makes them harder to hang and harder to install. Look for one that fits your average wind speed. The best speed range for effective power generation is roughly between 5 and 20 mph. Don’t go too far beyond these limits because your turbine will not generate as much electricity, and you increase wear on components such as bearings.
About twice as many propellers are required to produce the same amount of energy as there are blades, so you should consider getting a four-blade unit if practical (it looks nicer too.) Plan your foundation before you select a unit, then buy one that will fit.
Keep in mind that wind generators are most efficient when placed as high as possible and facing into the wind. You should always use more than one unit, placing them at different heights – especially if you want to operate anything electrical from your system.
In general, a single 200-watt / 1,200 rpm generator will produce enough power for a small household or farm on a day of average wind speed (8 mph.) A 400 watt propeller on a tower 20 feet above ground level will produce an average of 5 amps per hour between 8 am and 10 pm during a typical day of average winds. If this is enough for your needs, you’re all set. But most people find they need more than this so they use at least two generators and/or multiple propellers.
You’ll need some kind of controller between your batteries and the wind generator if you want to keep both charged at all times. A small direct-current (DC) watt meter will allow you to see how much power you’re producing as well as how much is used by your system. You can buy them for $50 or less, or make one yourself with a voltmeter, an ammeter and a single resistor – see resources section at end of article for more information on this.)
Wind generators must be placed high enough above any nearby obstructions (like trees) to get good winds. It’s also best to face it into the wind rather than across it, so the blades don’t hit anything when they change direction.
You can find out how much power your average wind speed will produce with a formula like the following:
P = .013 x A x V² / 39.37 ,
where P is power (in watts,) A is the area of your blades (in square feet,) and V is wind speed (in mph.) The answer will be in amps. Multiply this by the number of hours per day it’s likely to run, then divide that figure by 24 to get watt-hours – how much energy you can expect each day from average winds. This works out as:
Amp-hours x Hours / 24 = Watt-hours produced daily
Here’s an example for a 200 watt generator:
200 watts x 4 hours / 24 = 3.3 amp-hours per day
This means you’ll need to recharge your batteries with at least this much energy each day. If you get more than this, great! Keep recharging, but don’t use the extra power unless you need it – because if there’s too much in your batteries when the wind dies down or stops, they could be damaged.
Experts recommend that you keep one battery fully charged (but not too full) for emergencies and back-up. Then use all the rest of the power for normal loads like lights, appliances and pumps.
Hydro – power is another option. Water turbines can range in size from tiny ones for use on streams where the flow may only be 10 gallons per minute (gpm) to big industrial-sized generators of 100,000 horsepower or more.
Space considerations are even more important than with wind power, because every cubic foot of water can produce hundreds of pounds of force – so you’ll need a strong foundation and plenty of space above it for your housing.
Construction costs will depend on how big a unit you build and what sort of equipment it has. These typically cost $3,000 to $7,500 for home systems not including batteries, wiring or other components needed to make the system functional.
To prevent damage to your system, it’s important that water levels are always below the lowest point of your pipe. If you have a stream which runs dry for any length of time, consider building an artificial dam from rocks, blocks or other materials. Consult with a hydroelectric engineering firm before starting this kind of construction project.
The first steps to building your own hydro-electric power system is locating a site where there is a good amount of falling water. The best source would be a small stream running over a steep incline – but if you can’t find anything like this already flowing, you’ll have to build it yourself using pipes and/or channels dug into the hillside. Hydro engineers recommend that start at least 100 feet away from the stream so that you don’t damage native wildlife.
To figure out how much energy you’ll be producing, you’ll need to know your water flow rate (gpm,) your head (the distance between the lowest point in the pipe and the highest,) and how many hours per day it will run. A hydro engineer can help you determine this – but if not, here’s an example using a 10 gpm flow over 150 feet of head:
10 x 150 / 100 = 3.3 watt-hours per hour
This means that this system would produce about 33 watts per hour under ideal conditions – which is enough power for around 20 typical homes. If yours produces less than this, but more than 1 watt, it will still be useful as a back-up system.
Be careful not to allow the tailwater to run into a dammed up section of water or some other low spot where it can cause flooding, erosion or some other environmental damage.
is another option, but these tend to be expensive and have been slow to catch on because of this. However, there is some evidence that once they reach a high enough level of popularity they will reduce the demand for both rainforests – which are being cut down at an alarming rate to provide wood pulp for paper – and coal-fired power plants.
A third option is to use waterwheels instead of turbines or generators. These can be extremely efficient during times when little else is available – but the same problems apply as with hydro systems: you need enough head, flow and hours per day in order to produce the amount of energy you’ll need each day.
For example, if your stream runs about 10 gallons per minute over a head of 30 feet or so, that’s around 3 watt-hours per hour. That’s enough to run a 100-watt bulb for a little over a half an hour – but it would take about one and a half hours of nonstop light from this power system.
In some areas there are streams running nearly every day in spring and summer – but even these don’t always provide enough water during dry spells. If you have the space, however, you might consider building two or more waterwheels which work together as a combination hydro-electric power system.
A fourth option is to use a bicycle connected to a generator that produces AC power. Most AC generators are designed for one or two people – but it’s possible to adapt any generator you can buy at an auto parts store by placing the flywheel on the axle backwards and converting energy from motion into electricity instead of using gasoline to produce motion directly.
One objective of this modification would be to allow anyone in your neighborhood – including kids too young to operate a gas engine – to pedal their own electricity. This way everyone could feel empowered by their ability help generate power for your neighborhood!
You’d need quite a long hill behind your home, however, if you were planning on just turning this system on-and-off manually during times when no one was available to take a turn.
Fortunately, there’s a way around this problem: use a weight on a pulley system so that it can be used either manually or automatically. In order for the energy from your bicycle to be transferred into the generator, you’ll need some sort of belt – and this will require double-helical gears in order to get better grip while reducing noise and wear.
You could spend five minutes every hour pedaling the bicycle yourself if you wanted – but it would make more sense to let any member of your neighborhood plug in their own appliances during daylight hours when they’re available to do so. This would allow them take charge of their own power generation!
The figures show how these components might work together for your neighborhood. Whether you build a system like this or something different, please be sure to share them with other Do-It-Yourselfers.
A fifth option is to use the exhaust from a vacuum cleaner as an energy source. This may sound surprising, but there’s a simple electrolysis process by which water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen – and someone has already figured out how to make a system that does this efficiently enough for it actually to work!
This device makes electricity directly from water vapor – and this means you can run off of pure steam if your home runs on regular tap water or well-water. In other words, any form of “waste” water which normally goes down your drain could instead become power for your home!
There are some cautions here: since you’re extracting the H2O from the air where it’s already present, this means you need somewhere to exhaust the O2 – and it can’t just be dumped out into your yard. The safest thing to do would probably be to run this O2 off through some kind of scrubber before releasing it into the air.
This same scrubber could also remove any dust or other contaminants which might get blown into your home along with your H20, so it would actually clean the air coming out of your house as well as purifying this water vapor!
The next step is to find a way to compress all of this steam until it’s at least under 100 psi – about six times atmospheric pressure. This would require something like an automobile air compressor, but if you have a-powered AC generator there’s a good chance you could also use a belt and pulley to power a small-scale air compressor – or hand-crank one, even.
Once this is done, all you need to do is hook up your steam-engine generator!
You might wonder what happens if your home runs on well water instead of tap water: after all, the only difference would be that the O2 is removed from regular tap water rather than being added to well water. So it might seem like this device couldn’t work.
The answer depends on how deep your well actually goes: if it’s still pumping down into an underground reservoir or lake it should be possible to remove the hydrogen and oxygen – and since these gases bubble up naturally out of water, you can still “catch” them using this electrolysis process.
Before getting into that, though, let’s stop to consider what the complete system would look like if your home is powered by well water rather than tap water.
All you’d need to do is remove the H2O from the air path before it reaches your generator. You could accomplish this by simply running a scrubber on each side of the steam engine so that everything gets filtered out before it reaches the water vapor – and either dumped directly outside or run through another scrubber which returns it back to room-temperature so it doesn’t condense inside your house.
The best part about doing things this way is that you shouldn’t have to make any changes to your water heater or plumbing – in fact, with this setup you’d probably be surprised how little home-work would have to go into making this happen!
In 2013, the city of Boston, Massachusetts saw a tremendous amount of rain which caused widespread flooding. In an example of how Puerto Rico could become more self-sufficient following a devastating hurricane , one MIT design student looked at how he could turn his own sweat into electricity to power his electronics.
As someone who has been caught in downpours and had no umbrella or trees to take cover under, I was intrigued by this idea. Here’s a look at how it works:
The man behind this is Qing Lin He, a senior studying mechanical engineering with an emphasis on energy conversion at MIT. To show just how much power can be generated from body heat or any temperature gradient between two points, he filled balloons with hot water and placed them on one end of a strip of metal.
Then, on the other side, he placed another balloon filled with ice water . Quite quickly, enough power was generated to light up LED lights all along the strip.
He says that this is because “a temperature gradient is the same as producing electricity.” In other words, if it’s hot on one end and cold on another – just like when you place your hands around a steaming mug of coffee or a frosty glass in wintertime – heat flows from high to low in an attempt to balance out temperatures.
That flow can be harnessed in a form of energy called thermoelectricity . Such reactions were used in camping lanterns for outdoor activities before LED lights became easier and cheaper to produce.
But what if there was another way to turn heat into electricity? A research team at Georgia Tech has found a way to do just that using graphene , which is an ultra-thin form of carbon that’s flexible, transparent and more conductive than copper.
The key to their device lies in how it’s constructed: Graphene is placed on top of a black silicon photovoltaic material, with electrical leads connecting the two. This allows for graphene electrons to move freely as they’re exposed to sunlight or any other kind of heat source .
To show just how much power could be generated from such a simple construct, the team placed one such “graphene thermo-electrical generator” underneath a piece of ham as it was heated up.
In fact, they found that it could produce electricity with 88 percent efficiency at room temperature and with 85 percent efficiency when heated to 200 degrees Celsius (392 F). To put things in perspective, a regular silicon photovoltaic cell has an efficiency of just 25-40 percent . Furthermore, the graphene generator did not experience any degradation over 30 hours of testing.
“Our work is the first report of graphene being used as a thermo-electrical generator for energy conversion,” says Jin Hyeon Kim, one of the study’s lead authors. “We believe that this will pave new ways for high-efficiency clean power generation not only from heat sources such as solar energy but also from low-temperature heat resources such as human body and waste heat from engines.”
This isn’t the first time that graphene has been explored for energy harvesting, but it’s impressive to see how in just five years scientists have managed to improve upon their previous research results.
Now, I’m looking forward to following future developments of this type of technology in hopes that something like a small unit attached to my shirt could generate enough power from sunlight or my own body heat that powering electronics becomes simple.
There are ways to use alternative sources of energy in powering your electrical appliances.
One good example is heating strips, which can be placed beneath pots and pans for cooking . When plugged into the wall socket, it converts electricity into heat that you can feel while cooking even when your stove is unplugged. If you live in cold places , this will be helpful for you.
The important thing about these heating strips is that they draw little power so they won’t affect your electric bill much. You can also save more on electric bills by using them frequently because their function doesn’t depend on the stove being turned on or not; unlike traditional stoves, which still uses up to 30% of its energy source even when cooling down .
Another thing to consider is a product called TEGway that converts body heat into energy . It’s basically a thin, bendable strip that you can attach on your shirt or anywhere close to your skin so it can absorb heat from the human body. The good news here is this kind of technology has been around for quite some time now and it’s been tried and tested already whenever there are occasions where power outages happen.
In 2010, an international team of researchers successfully used the principle behind these heating strips in building an electricity-producing carpet , which was made up of intertwining nylon loops coated with thermoelectric material lining the edges. This arrangement then connected to wires that were connected to an external battery that had enough power to charge a cell phone and laptop after 20 minutes of use.
To give you an idea on how much energy can be produced from such carpet, let’s say it has the same surface area as one square meter. The researchers said that if you kept your feet on the carpet for an hour while watching TV, it could at least power a small television set.
Of course, this technology will not yet produce enough energy to replace electrical grids or large battery banks, but it’s still helpful whenever there are disasters where electricity is down for days .
Also, TEGway strips can be worn by people wearing neckties made out of graphene-based material . Graphene was used because this material absorbs body heat easily without overheating unlike other materials. With this technology, energy loss in buildings can be significantly decreased because air conditioners won’t need to work as hard when the human body emits heat.
Home appliances like cooker, washing machine and similar can be powered by something other than electricity. This is a huge advantage and the popularity and awareness about it is growing in India . Power generation from many sources like methane gas, cow dung , water etc. has been possible for years but to power devices we use in our homes requires an inverter.
So this list does not include items that work directly with such power (and thus do not require an inverter) but only those that use conventional energy sources like AC or batteries to convert them into alternative energy sources .
1) LCD TVs & LED TVS – These are the most popular home appliances that can be run with anything from solar energy to methane gas.
These are high power consuming devices. A regular TV will require an inverter of at least 300 W . If you use CFL, LED or tube lights in your house, you can install a solar power system for lighting purposes only. That saves electricity bills too.
Most LCD TVs today consume 250 watts of power when your switch on the device and it is highly advisable to switch off all electronic items when not in use. Any appliance left plugged into the socket without being switched on continues to consume up to 4-5 units per hour even if they are turned completely off – this effect is called vampire power draw . This will add up to your monthly electricity bill.
The usage of power backup systems works out cheaper for people who consume more units of electricity. These are devices that store energy in batteries or some other source so that appliances can be powered on during a load shedding.
2) Refrigerators – This is another appliance that should be switched off when not in use. Refrigerator consumes a lot of electricity and impacts your monthly energy bill considerably whether you switch it on or leave it idle. But this device does more than costing money, it’s bad for the environment too!
Greenpeace talks about environmental impact of refrigerator:
Even though there are substitutes available like solar refrigerators, they are expensive by comparison to conventional ones.
3) Washing Machine – Another high power consuming home appliance that can be run with methane gas, biogas etc. A washing machine uses up about 25 liters of water per load and if we do around 3-4 loads a week, we’ll save around 137 liters of water per week!
Regular washers are usually of the size 7 Kg whereas half sized or compact washers are also available that can be run with methane gas. A US based company “Novotech” offers a machine that converts biogas into electricity which runs the washing machine. The patented technology powers up electrical home appliances like TV, fridge, AC, mixer grinders etc.
This product is expensive but works out cheaper for people who consume more units of electricity . Another device – Bio-Electro Fuel Cell is also available in India , it’s cheaper than Novotech’s product and uses natural gas to produce electricity that runs various home appliances.
4) Microwave Ovens – These are very popular kitchen appliances also known as microwave ovens or microwaves. Microwave ovens (not to be confused with MWO) work on the principle of heating food by surrounding it with electromagnetic waves that are produced inside this equipment either by using electricity or gas. Microwave ovens consume around 800-1000 watts of power when your switch it on and should be switched off when not in use .
5) Pool/ Space Heater – A pool heater uses natural gas to heat water and warm air for heating purposes. Both these appliances work on the principle of convection or conduction. These units use between 300-1500 watts of power to operate. If we do not plan to use it for a couple of months, we should switch them off as they continue to drain electricity .
6) Lawn Mower – Another home appliance that runs on gasoline and other fossil fuels like other generators and lawn mowers. A mini petrol generator can be used for small scale requirements but they are very large in size compared with inverters that are compact in design . Apart from its large size, there are some technical problems associated with this equipment which creates noise pollution by emitting harmful gases into the environment
6) Power Boards – These are used for plugging in several appliances at the same time. It uses up more electricity than what you actually use because power boards keep on charging even when switched off. If this is done, it eventually consumes more energy . This creates problems during load shedding or power cuts resulting in poor working conditions of other appliances plugged into these boards. So, instead of keeping your AC on standby mode for hours together, try switching it off everytime you leave home and then switch it back on while entering home.
7) CFL Bulbs & Tube Lights – Compact fluorescent lighting is also known as CFLs which are being replaced by LED bulbs all over the world due to non-availability of mercury content in them. CFLs offer 5 times more energy efficiency than the standard incandescent bulbs. There are some CFLs available in India which work even with batteries and some of them come attached with remote switches so that you can switch it on/off from a distance .
8) Halogen Cooktops – These use halogen gas that emits very high levels of heat for cooking food quickly, thus making them high power consuming appliances. They use about 1 kW of power during their operation but they’re less expensive than induction cooktops . At the same time, if we compare both of these types (halogen and induction) with conventional stoves or chulhas, we see how much fuel is wasted while preparing simple dishes like rotis, fry sabzi, etc. Halogen cooktops are energy efficient but they’re not as much as induction cooktops .
8) Table Fans – These are common home appliances found everywhere in India which use up a lot of power to operate them. They consume around 150 watts on an average, thus increasing your electricity bill sharply. This is because if you have 5-7 table fans in your house, the total consumption will be around 25 kW at any given time which means that these fans will increase your electricity bill by 50% . A simple solution to this problem can be either switching off these appliances when not required or buying more expensive fan called ‘ ceiling fans ‘.
10) Ceiling Fan – Ceiling fans are slower than pedestal/table/floor fans but more efficient as they keep rotating slowly on a fixed axis instead of oscillating and circulating dust all around. This means that their blades will rotate slowly without any noise and you run the risk of getting allergies . They’re better than pedestal, table or floor fans in terms of energy efficiency but they cost around double the price than these other types while having almost similar features.
Apart from the use of solar power systems, wind turbines, biogas plants or methane generators for household purposes, there are many other sources of energy that can be used to support the need for hot water, cooking food and generating electricity in your home. Some of these newer sources of non-conventional energy include:
– Geothermal heat pumps make use of hot groundwater or deep soil layer known as ground source to provide heating inside buildings. This type of system is not only environment friendly but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40%. It even cools down rooms during summer by extracting warmth out of the air .
– Biomass boilers are preferred over solid fuel powered boilers they don’t emit any harmful gases and emit less ash as well. This is why these biomass boilers are considered as one of the most efficient sources of energy for domestic purposes .
– Solar thermal is very similar to solar photovoltaic but they can’t use electricity from sun directly as they don’t have photo voltaic cells inside them. Instead, they store hot water in an insulated tank which makes it useful for bathing and washing purpose .
Non-conventional sources of energy are relatively cheaper, safer and healthier than conventional sources. They can be used for various purposes like heating water, cooking food , generating electricity etc.
Many appliances that run on non-conventional source of energy have been designed to help you save money as well as the environment. Since they don’t require a direct connection to a power grid, these appliances can provide you with many benefits which do not exist with their conventional counterparts .
What is the cheapest source of renewable energy?
Biogas plants are considered to be one of the cheapest sources of renewable energy. It is produced using farm waste and is highly efficient .
What is the best sustainable energy source?
There are many sustainable energy sources that are available. Biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal and solar energy are some of the best sustainable energy sources .
What is the most expensive source of energy?
Oil and coal are considered as the most expensive energy sources .
Is nuclear energy cheaper than solar?
No, nuclear energy is not cheaper than solar. Nuclear power plants are extremely expensive and do not offer a good return on investment .
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