Installing a New Stove

If you burn wood in your home, chances are you are using an old, cast-iron stove that may have sentimental value but is inefficient and highly polluting to boot. The vast majority of wood stoves are over ten years old, and that means they're substandard compared to today's technology. New wood stoves use advanced combustion technologies that make the burning process up to five times more efficient than old stoves. This means that it'll cost a lot less to heat your home and reduce the amount of pollution you're emitting by about ten times. You'll be feeding wood into the stove much less as well, not to mention the chopping and carrying and stacking and spiders and backaches.

Even if you don't switch to a new stove, you can probably use your existing stove more efficiently. I describe how in Chapter 14. You'll save money and help the environment at the same time. It may take a little effort to learn better techniques, but once they're in place you'll benefit forevermore.

Even better, change from wood to natural gas, which burns much cleaner because the combustion process is so highly regulated. When you burn wood, it's nearly impossible to get the same emission efficiency as a good gas stove because wood burns differently depending on how much of a given chunk has already burned (when you first light a wood stove, the burning is very inefficient, and you can't get around the starting phase unless you simply burn in perpetuity). A good gas fireplace emits far less pollutants per unit of heat produced than a wood stove.

However, I will have to concede that burning gas can be more expensive than burning wood (especially if you have a source of free wood). I switched from wood to gas and my overall cost of heating went up around ten percent. But it's worth it. No more spiders or dirt. No more chopping wood, or stacking or carrying or cleaning out the filthy ashes. With a nice new gas fireplace all you do is press a button and you have heat (sounds kind of lazy, doesn't it?). The new gas stoves look very nice, and the flames don't seem artificial at all. (Forget electric fireplaces — they look weird and consume a lot of electricity.)

Best of all, install a stove that burns biomass-produced natural gas. Or install a corn or other biomass stove that's extremely efficient. Check out Chapter 13 for more details on biomass stoves.

Using Solar

If you're in the right climate, solar PV can be a great investment, and it helps the environment more than any other alternative-energy source you can employ. Solar power entails no greenhouse gases at all (aside from the invested energy consumed in the manufacturing process of the panels and equipment). And there will never be a shortage of solar power. See Chapter 9 for more details on the great advantages of going solar.

338 Part V: The Part of Tens

Governments are subsidizing solar PV systems to the tune of nearly 50 percent of system cost, in some parts of the country. You can obtain financing from some utilities, which makes the out-of-pocket expense minimal. And once your solar system is up and running, your power bills will be very small. Solar customers love their systems; just ask somebody who has solar. They'll tell you the investment was well worth it. In fact, a vast majority of solar customers will tell you that they wish they had installed a larger system. That's not a cheesy sales hook, it's a fact.

Another good solar investment is installing a solar hot-water heater on your roof. The typical home consumes anywhere between 15 and 20 percent of its total energy budget on heating water for use in dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, and showers, among other things. A solar water heater can displace up to 80 percent of this cost, depending on how you use the system and what type of climate you live in. The same subsidies that apply to solar photovoltaics apply to solar water heaters, so the cost can be reduced significantly. At this writing, a federal tax credit of 30 percent applies to both solar hot water and solar PV. That's a big incentive.

^ And if you install a solar water heater, you can install solar PV later on; they work very well together. You can make a smaller investment now, and leave ■ VQJ ■ the big bucks for later (when you get that raise you've been working so hard for). Just make sure you plan ahead and have enough roof space because solar PV is fussier about how it's placed on a roof. If you want to install solar hot water, followed by solar PV a few years later, get quotes and information for both types of systems now and you'll understand the limitations and advantages so that you can get the most benefit.

Consult my book Solar Power Your Home For Dummies (Wiley) for a lot more details on how to use solar power.

Using Biofuels to Power Your Car

You may not even know it, but most new cars can burn biofuels, like ethanol, without your making any changes to the engine. You can find local gas stations that provide biofuels by asking around or consulting the Internet, and you can make a habit of filling up at these stations.

You can also make some minor modifications to your auto's engine and burn higher concentrations of biofuels, or different types of biofuels. See Chapter 17 for more details.

Biofuels burn cleaner and the engine works better. Plus the carbon cycle is closed loop so you're not contributing to global warming as much as if you use pure gasoline. You won't be able to tell the difference in your car's performance either.

Driving a Hybrid

The cost of a hybrid auto or truck is higher than the cost of an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, but you'll get much better gas mileage, and you'll be emitting a lot less pollution. So while the upfront cost may be more, you'll see savings all along the way in terms of paying for gas. See Chapter 19 for more details on driving hybrids.

Hybrids are here now, and there are more and more of them on the road every year. Most major auto manufacturers offer various versions of hybrids, so your choices are broad, and getting more so every year. Many auto manufacturers offer their conventionally powered autos with hybrid options (for instance, Camry, by Toyota). You won't be able to tell the difference in performance, but your gasoline bills will be much smaller.

There's a less direct effect as well. When you buy a hybrid, you help reduce the cost of future hybrids so that even more people will get into the game. The cost of any manufactured product is a function of how many of them are built, so the more hybrids on the road, the less they will cost. When you buy a hybrid, you're investing in the future in both a direct and indirect way.

Installing a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System in Your Home

I explain the pros and cons of geothermal energy in Chapter 12. The technology is not cheap, but it's extremely clean and reliable. New homes, in particular, can benefit from the installation of geothermal because it's much less expensive to start a geothermal system from scratch than to retrofit an existing home.

You will need to have access to the right soil conditions, but if you do, this option is an excellent investment, particularly where heating and cooling bills are high year-round. The upfront cost of geothermal equipment is high, but the power bills will be forever low. You'll not only get lower power bills, but m m you'll be immune from energy price spikes in the future. The value of a home equipped with geothermal equipment is much higher than a conventional home, so you'll recoup your investment if you decide to sell your home. The higher energy prices go, the more your geothermal system will be worth.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

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