Forms of Alternative Energy
Read More about the different forms of Alternative Energy available by clicking "Expand Article" next to the one you want to learn more about.
Solar energy is an alternative form of energy that harnesses the light produced by the sun and converts it into electricity. Solar energy is a great source of alternative energy as it is the most abundant energy resource on our planet and is an inexhaustible fuel source that is pollution and noise free. Solar energy is also a very versatile technology that can generate energy in rural or urban landscapes. Photovoltaic cells are the most common devices that use sunlight to generate electricity and are found on many products that utilize solar energy.
Solar panels are a great option for incorporating alternative energy sources to your home, cabin, RV and more. Solar panels are made up of connected assemblies of solar cells that collect and use solar energy to generate electricity. Multiple solar panels can be connected to generate more power. For homes in remote areas, solar panels can help avoid the high cost of extending utility power lines to that particular location. If you are interested in installing a home solar electric system, there are a few key factors that should be taken into consideration. First, you must consider if your location has enough solar resource or energy to meet your electricity needs. There are resources online that have maps that show the solar resource for particular regions. Another factor to take into consideration is if you have a large enough area or roof to accommodate a solar electric system. The tilt and geographic orientation of your panels can have a big impact on your system's performance.
Another important issue to consider is if the panels are worth the investment. You may want to consider either having your home solely run on solar energy or to have a grid-connected system. You will also want to take examine your energy consumption by looking at your utility bills over the past year, calculating your household energy consumption and recognizing consumption trends. Before selecting and investing in a solar electric system, to try to reduce electricity use in your home and become more energy efficient. If you become more energy efficient, you will reduce the size of the system that you would need.
If you have determined that a solar electric system is right for your home, before you purchase a system, make sure that it would comply with local permits and homeowner association rules. You can contact your city or county building department to determine if you need a building permit, an electrical permit or both. You may also need to look into code requirements for your system. If you live in a community where a homeowner association is required to approve installations to your home, you will probably need to submit your plans and get approval before you can get started on your project.
If you have determined that solar panels are right for your home, Menards offers several panels to help you get started. Many of the solar panels are easy to install and are ideal for RVs, homes, boats, back-up and remote power use. They are also weatherproof and built for durability. Some also have features that minimize power drop that is caused by shade.
If a solar electric system isn't the right solution for your home, Menards also offers other solar powered products, such as charger kits that are great for maintaining 12 volt batteries for cars, RVs, tractors, ATVs, boats and other vehicles. The solar charger kits range from 1 to 18 watts of maximum power output. These charger kits are convenient, as they are easy to install and will continue to charge even during cloudy conditions. Most charger kits are weatherproof and some can be used for both indoor and outdoor use.
Besides solar panels and chargers, Menards also offers other solar powered products such as motion lights, shed lights, pool filters, outdoor lamps and more. From lawn ornaments to solar panel kits, Menards offers many products that make it easy to utilize solar energy and help the environment.
Wind energy, with the use of turbines, is a great option for alternative energy. Wind is a great source of energy because it is plentiful, renewable and clean, producing no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Wind turbines also use little land (a home or a business should be located on at least one acre of land before considering a wind energy system). Wind turbines are very flexible, as they can be used either with current sources of energy or as a stand-alone system. A stand-alone system is one that is not connected to the electrical grid. Stand-alone systems are a great option for homes in remote locations, as they can help avoid the high cost of having utility power lines extended to their area. Many successful stand-alone systems take advantage of a combination of techniques and technologies that can generate reliable power and reduce costs.
If you are considering installing a wind turbine for your home, you may want to take into account a few factors. You will want to do some research to determine if your location's wind resource is suitable for a turbine. A wind resource map is used to estimate the wind energy available for use in a particular area and you can easily obtain one for your location online. Another option is to call your local airport for wind data, as airports often collect meteorological information. However, you may take into consideration that the wind speed recorded at an airport may vary from your location due to differences in terrain and other factors.
Before you can install your turbine, you will need to look into any potential zoning conflicts. You can contact the county or municipal zoning office for information on zoning restrictions in your area. There are many areas that may already have zoning ordinances specifically designed for smaller wind projects due to wind energy development. However, if there aren't any ordinances already in place, you may need to obtain a special use permit.
If you are a part of a homeowner association, you may need to get approval before setting up a wind turbine. If you are not part of a homeowner association, as a courtesy, you should inform your neighbors about your plans to install a wind turbine on your property. Some neighbors may object to a turbine with concerns to the noise and aesthetics. If you provide objective data, often these common concerns or questions can be addressed. Many turbines produce low wind noise and have a sleek, aerodynamic design.
You may also want to consider the financial aspect of a small wind system, such as the annual costs of maintaining the system, the initial cost of the system, added insurance, fees paid to the utility and more. There may also be tax incentives and grants available to help you get started. While the initial costs may be high, a wind turbine can be a good investment for your family and the environment in years to come.
If a wind turbine is right for you, Menards has several options to suit your needs. All of the wind turbines that Menards offers are designed to charge 12 or 24-volt battery banks safely and efficiently. These turbines are ideal for cottages, remote locations and homes with backup power needs. If there is an extended power outage, you can still have a supply of power for your home, which can ensure the safety and comfort of your family. Many of these turbines can operate with winds as low as four mph. The turbines that Menards offers are easy to install and have a weatherproof design that will last for years.
As the price of fuel has increased in recent years, so has interest in electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are popular as an energy efficient alternative to traditional vehicles as they can run solely on electricity. Electric cars themselves are environmentally friendly, as they release almost no air pollutants and have less noise pollution. The electricity that electric vehicles consume can be generated from a wide range of sources, including renewable sources, such as tidal, solar or wind power. Electric cars are propelled by either an electric motor or several motors, powered by rechargeable battery packs. These rechargeable battery packs have eliminated the need to stop at the local gas station for fuel, because you can "fill up" on energy by charging the electric car's battery pack with a home charger.
Menards has several different options for home charging stations for your electric vehicle. Some charging stations can be hard wired, making them ideal for more permanent installations, while plug-in units are more portable as they can simply be removed. Some plug-in units also have the option of either having a rear fed plug-in, allowing the unit to be plugged directly into the wall from behind. Other plug-in units have the option of a bottom fed power cord, which allows more flexibility for the station to be plugged into an outlet near the floor. There are a few home charging stations that are built to be used both indoors and outdoors. You'll find the right home charging station to suit your needs at Menards!
Generators are a great choice for backup during a power outage. For some, a generator offers comfort and convenience, allowing people to use their electronics. For others, a generator could ensure their safety, particularly if they have certain medical conditions and rely on electricity to maintain their medical equipment or medication. Generators are also a great choice for powering remote cabins or cottages, as they offer a more affordable solution than extending power lines to their location.
If you want to purchase a generator, there are a few things that you need to consider. First, you need to determine your wattage needs by deciding what you really need to power in emergencies or just for general use. Larger appliances, such as an electric oven or a range, would need larger generators. You can often find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bottom or back of the appliance, on the nameplate of the appliance or in the owner's manual for the appliance. Once you have determined which electronics you want to power, add up the wattage for a grand total of wattage that the generator will power.
When buying a generator there are two main options to choose from: portable or standby. You will want to consider both types to determine which type would best suit your needs. A portable generator can be used in emergency situations for shorter periods of time. These types of units are usually more lightweight, less powerful, smaller and less expensive. Most models will have a built-in fuel tank and power outlets that you can use to plug in extension cords. Portable generators are started up manually by a battery-powered ignition or via recoil, similar to a lawnmower. If you are choosing a portable generator, you will want to make sure that it has enough outlets for the electronics or appliances that you need to run. You may also want to make sure that your generator comes with a handle and wheels, as some models have these accessories sold separately. Also, a generator with a larger fuel tank will run for a longer period of time.
For portable generators, make sure that you properly store the fuel in a safe, well-ventilated area, away from heat and flame. You will also want to make sure that you use fresh fuel. Many portable generators are powered by gasoline, which can degrade if it is stored for an extended period of time. If you have unused gasoline for your generator, you can always use it to fuel your vehicle before the quality decreases. To protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, always run your portable generator outside and at least 10 feet away from the house. You will want to position the generator away from areas where air enters the house, such as windows or doors. Never run a portable generator in the basement or a garage attached to the home. Even if you keep the garage door open, there is still the risk that carbon monoxide can enter the house.
Standby generators are permanently connected to your home and will automatically start to provide emergency back-up power during a power outage. Standby generator systems are fueled by a propane or natural gas line. Standby generators are hardwired to a home's electrical system and are activated by an automatic transfer switch when the power goes out. Before you have your standby generator installed, contact your city or county building department to determine if you need a permit for your generator, and acquire one if necessary. It is highly recommended that you hire a qualified electrician to properly size and install your generator. If you are planning to install your standby generator yourself, you should have a local electrical inspector check to make sure that the generator has been properly installed and complies with safety codes.
Whether you purchase a standby or portable generator, make sure you purchase a transfer switch to protect your home, neighbors and utility crews from backfeed. Backfeed can occur if an improperly connected generator begins to feed electricity back into the utility power lines. Backfeed is dangerous and can not only cause damage to your generator when electricity is restored, but can potentially injure or kill repair crews. The transfer switch prevents backfeed from occurring by closing the path of electricity from power lines to a home electrical system during a utility outage. The transfer switch will then open the path between the generator and the panel. When power is restored, the transfer switch will reverse the process. It is recommended that you hire a qualified electrician to install your transfer switch.
Once you have determined your total wattage and the type of generator you need, research the different models of generators and their features. When choosing a generator, you will want to pick a model that has a greater wattage capacity than the total wattage of the appliances that you will be powering. If you choose a generator with the minimum wattage to either run at capacity or risk becoming overloaded, it will have a much shorter life. After choosing and installing your generator, always follow safety instructions when storing or running your unit.
Menards offers many different generators and accessories, including standby and portable units. Our website provides great information on products, making it easy to research and compare different models to suit your needs. Whether you need backup for your home during a power outage or powering appliances at a vacation cabin, Menards can help you find the right generator for your lifestyle.