inside of the glass with argon between
the glass panes on the inside to prevent
the metal from oxidizing.
Don’t forget the doors. Make sure
they seal well so that air can’t escape
Passive Solar Design
Optimal positioning of your new
home on the homesite to take advantage of the suns rays during summer
and winter is the easiest way to reduce
future energy bills. Homes constructed
as passive solar design use the natural
movement of heat and air to maintain comfortable temperatures. Home
design can maximize the benefits it
receives from the sun with standard
construction features. Passive solar
takes advantage of local breezes and
landscape features such as shade trees
and windbreaks. By making the building the right shape, properly placing its
windows and pointing it in the right
direction can cut the building’s total
energy use by 30 percent to 40 percent
at no extra cost.
Let the Sun Shine
Generate your own energy by installing
solar panels on your roof. When sunlight hits solar cells (also called photovoltaics), electrons are released. The
electrons then flow onto wires, forming
direct current (DC), which is the same
kind of current that flows from a regular
battery. A 4-inch silicon cell can produce
about one watt of DC electricity, according to the Northeast Sustainable
Energy Association (NESEA).
The amount of power produced
depends upon the size of the system.
In regions that enjoy a lot of sunlight,
a solar system might deliver all the
electricity you need—but the cost to
install a 100 percent solar system may
be prohibitive. “The most economically
feasible size is usually between 50 and
75 percent of your annual household
needs,” according to AMECO, a source of
solar products in Southern California.
Federal and state governments do
offer incentives to make it worthwhile.
As systems get larger, the cost per watt
is lower. A 2-kilowatt system may cost
between $16,000 and $20,000 ($8.00
to $10.00 per watt), while a 5-kilowatt
system may be installed for as little as
$35,000 ($7.00/watt). All prices are figured before the rebates or tax credits.
The final cost may be as low as $2.50
per watt (or $12,500 for a 5-kilowatt
system), according to AMECO.
Dig Down with Geothermal
While our weather may change from
minute to minute, temperatures four to
six feet below ground remain relatively
moderate and constant all year. That’s
because the Earth absorbs 47 percent
of all the heat energy that reaches its
surface from the sun. A geothermal
system circulates a water-based solution
through a buried loop system to take
advantage of these constant temperatures. A single piece of equipment has
the ability to heat and cool your home,
while providing some or all of your
home’s hot water as well. Geothermal
systems can save you 30 to 70 percent
on your monthly utility bills.
According to the U.S. Department of
Energy (DOE), Energy Efficiency and
Renewable Energy, on average, a geothermal heat pump system costs about $2,500
per ton of capacity, or roughly $7,500 for
a 3-ton unit (typical residential size). In
comparison, other systems would cost
about $4,000 with air conditioning.
When the cost is included in a mortgage,
the home owner has a positive cash flow
© iStockPhoto.com/Frank Short