Powerful Changes Renewable Energy

Cutting back on energy consumption in your home is great, but chances are very good that the energy you're still using isn't renewable and is producing greenhouse gases. Although people need to encourage their governments to explore sustainable energy sources (which we discuss in Chapter 13), you don't need to wait to use cleaner power.

You can benefit from renewable energy in your home today:

l Generate the energy yourself. How much generating your own energy costs depends on where you live and whether your government offers incentives for retrofitting your home. Solar, wind, and geothermal heating and cooling technologies are becoming more widely available for home use. Currently, these costly units take a long time to realize any energy savings, but their prices may drop with higher production and technological advances.

l Buy renewable energy directly. You can bring energy straight to your home from an independent power generator, as opposed to the general service provider for your region. Your energy is still delivered through the same electricity grid, but you're bringing renewable energy into the grid to replace non-renewable energy sources. You get total independence from fossil fuels, but you can use this option only if you have a clean energy services provider in your area.

l Buy renewable energy indirectly. Renewable energy from clean, emissionsfree sources (such as wind power and low-impact water power) often costs more to produce than other alternatives (see Chapter 13). You can opt to pay a premium for your power to cover the cost of that sustainable energy. Your household energy consumption is still metered, but your payment goes to supporting renewable projects only, rather than the mix of generation sources that feeds into the grid. It's essentially the same as carbon offsetting (which we discuss in Chapter 17), but for your home.

Here's a list of Web sites where you can find information about green power in your area and how to purchase it, either directly or indirectly:

l GreenPower (Australia): This site links you to renewable energy producers near you. (www.greenpower.gov.au)

l UKGreenPower (United Kingdom): This program allows you to type in your postcode and see what options are available in your area. (www. ukgreenpower.co.uk)

l The Green Power Network (United States): This U.S. Department of Energy Web site outlines what's available for your state. (www.eere. energy.gov/greenpower)

l Pollution Probe (Canada): This non-governmental organization has a consumer guide to the green energy market in Canada that gives options by province and territory. (www.pollutionprobe.org)

Home, home in the hill

Fewer houses are greener — literally — than Dr. Bill Lishman's. His home outside of Blackstock, Ontario, Canada, is a grassy hill, covered with lush gardens. Dr. Lishman designed his home to be underground, using the earth as insulation. This alone makes the house just about as energy-efficient as you can get, but Dr. Lishman didn't stop there. The entire house is a testament to efficiency, using as little energy as possible.

Although underground, the house's interior is remarkably bright. Large sky lights in every room and white curved walls allow the light to reflect throughout the house, eliminating the need for artificial lighting (until nighttime, that is). Two sunrooms peak out of the hill and act like greenhouses during the day, growing warm in the sun. Air ducts carry the warm air from the sunrooms into the rest of the house.

For photos of Lishman's home and a detailed report of its construction, visit www.william lishman.com/underground.htm.

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