Alternative energy for the home: a review of non-standard energy sources

Amir Gumarov
Checked by a specialist: Amir Gumarov
Author: Elena Pykhteeva
Last update: November 2019

“Green energy” attracts simply with space perspectives. Inexhaustible energy can be obtained from the environment for free to service autonomous communications. Moreover, its resource is daily restored without human intervention.

However, in order to correctly use these gifts of nature, you need to know how they work and where they are used. Do you agree?

You will learn all about how alternative energy is used for the home from our article. Having familiarized yourself with the information presented by us, you can choose the most suitable option for generating heat or electricity.

We have described in detail the plants that process the energy of the sun / wind / water / earth. Briefly and extremely simply outlined the principle of their work. The proposed information will help to compare methods and sources of energy production.

Types of Alternative Energy Sources

Acquiring industrial models of modern devices for extracting heat or electric energy from the environment is not so difficult.

The most popular options for such equipment include:

  • solar panels;
  • solar collectors;
  • wind generators;
  • heat pumps;
  • biogas generators.

Science does not stand still, there are more and more new models of devices for generating alternative energy. It is important not only to choose the appropriate option, but also to install it correctly. Very often it is not possible to manage with just one single unit. You can combine the use of various resources.

For example, a solar battery produces more electricity in the summer, and a wind generator in the winter. The combination of these two devices allows you to provide enough autonomous electricity throughout the year. Similarly, other devices can also be combined.

# 1: Using Solar Panels

These elements are becoming more popular and more diverse. They are sold both in the form of ready-made sets, and in the form of individual photocells. Amateurs, who prefer to do everything with their own hands, willingly work with the latter - this is a relatively simple task.

To make a solar battery with individual parameters, you need to purchase the right amount of finished photocells and solder them into a common circuit.

Transparent photocell
Transparent elements covering the working surface of solar panels are installed on the glass of high-rise buildings, but they can also be successfully used in private housing construction

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline photocells are distinguished. The former are more productive and durable, but effective only if a stable energy flow is obtained. Polycrystals have lower efficiency and a shorter life, but they can work quite efficiently even in high cloud conditions.

Photocells are placed under a layer of durable transparent material so that they can absorb energy while remaining in the right position. A case with a transparent outer surface looks like a metal frame. It is used to fasten the panels.

Sometimes, instead of a metal case, a wooden structure is used. This is a less durable, but quite acceptable option.

Solar panels on the roof
Panels with solar cells are installed on the sunniest side of the building, usually on the roof. It is also important to choose the right inverter and batteries

The design with solar panels is rather cumbersome, so most often it is placed directly on the roof of the house. The case is mounted on a stand so that the panel with photocells can be rotated, this will allow you to monitor the movement of the sun and capture more UV rays depending on the time of year.

When heavy precipitation occurs, the panel is turned upright to prevent damage and reduce possible contamination. Installation of panels is only the first stage of the implementation of such a system.

For its full-fledged operation, you will need to connect the solar cells through the charger to the solar inverter system.

To accumulate the resulting electrical system, you will need batteries for solar panels, eg, SUNLIGHT PzS. Such elements can be installed underground, at a fairly significant depth - up to three meters.

Right selection solar inverter and the battery controller - an important point in ensuring maximum efficiency of the entire system. The better all the components are selected, the better the special calculations are performed, the less will be the loss of electrical energy.

An interesting type of solar panel is flexible film option, their working layer is deposited on a polymer film. They are installed on the glass windows of high-rise buildings, of course, on the sunniest side.

The efficiency of such elements is slightly lower than that of the traditional version - only 7%. But the convenience of using them and saving space make up for this drawback.

Betaray device
Betaray's solar capture device looks stylish and modern. It can be installed in the courtyard of a private house or on the roof of a high-rise building

A device called Betaray. This is a fairly large glass ball, which, like a lens, collects the sun's rays and directs them to the panel with photocells. The unit is able to rotate in automatic mode to get the most sunlight.

As a result, you can do with fewer photocells and make the flow of sunlight more stable. Betaray is capable of absorbing moonlight and starlight at night. This is not enough, but enough to provide full street lighting. In general, this device has an impressive efficiency for solar panels - 35%.

Useful tips on the selection, installation and operation of solar panels are presented here:

# 2: Application of solar collectors

This is a more modern and productive variation of the summer shower.Even in the most modest cottage there is a barrel of water, which is heated during the day to a very decent level.

If you install on the roof a system of narrow pipes through which water circulates, you can get a significant amount of heat, fully providing the house with hot water and even decent heating.

Solar collector circuit
The solar collector is a system of narrow pipes through which the coolant circulates. Natural convection processes circulate water heated by the sun without the use of a pump (+)

The operation of this alternative energy source is based on the ability of water and air to circulate when heated. The heat exchanger tank is installed at a higher level than the collector pipes. Heated water rises and enters the upper part of the heat exchanger coil.

Cooling down in contact with tap water, the heat carrier of the solar collector drops down and again moves into the pipes that the sun heats.

The natural circulation of heating and cooling water eliminates the need for special pumps or other electrical equipment.

You can make the simplest version of such a system from the available materials: pipes of different diameters, metal sheet for the role of the base. The stand, to which the base is attached, can be made from a corner or other metal elements.

Making a solar collector
In this version of a homemade solar collector, pipes are welded to a metal base, a thick board is used as a frame

Usually the part of the system that is outside is painted black to increase its ability to absorb heat. The base with the pipes is fixed so that it is possible to change the angle of its inclination.

It remains to arrange the tank heat exchanger, place a coil in it and connect the system elements to each other and to the water supply and / or heating system.

A detailed technology for manufacturing a solar collector for heating is described in this article.

Industrial model of a solar collector
Industrial models of solar collectors are much more productive than “homemade products” and can work all year round, but the cost of such a system can be quite high

Of course, modern industrial solar collectors are more complex and work more efficiently. In some devices, freon is used as a coolant, which allows to obtain thermal energy even during cold weather.

Industrial units can be equipped with vacuum tubes, a unit with photocells, temperature sensors, an automatic control system, etc. The cost of such a collector can be very impressive.

# 3: exploitation of wind power

Wind generators - devices known for a long time and quite popular among fans of clean energy. This is a rather cumbersome device, especially if the blades of a windmill rotate in a horizontal plane. Therefore, versions with vertically arranged blades are more popular.

Wind generators on the field
Wind generators are bulky items that should be installed in an open area that is well blown by the winds. One such device can completely cover the needs of a private house in electricity

The windmill is placed on a high and sturdy rack. The movement of the blades is transmitted to the generator, the received energy is accumulated in the battery. Then electricity is transferred to the internal electrical system of the house or used in other ways.

A homemade windmill is able to cover the electricity needs of a small summer cottage:

Industrial models of modern wind generators usually equipped with a convenient electronic control panel.

Home-made devices are constructed according to fairly simple schemes and drawings. On the Internet you can find many options of a very different type and type. You need to choose a convenient place to place such a structure, where a strong wind blows, and the unit will not bother anyone. The higher the blades are installed, the better.

Uprise Mobile Wind Turbine
The Uprise mobile wind turbine is relatively compact, and when assembled it can be transported along public roads

Not so long ago company Upprise presented an original development - a wind turbine mounted on a mobile platform. If desired, the device can be assembled, giving it a compact size, and then transported using a conventional SUV and installed in another place.

The power of the Uprise mobile wind turbine is 50 kW. According to experts in the field of alternative energy, this is quite enough to provide electricity to not the largest private house, and even to share surplus electricity with neighbors.

An even more original version of the conversion of wind energy into kilowatts - an aircraft Makani Power.

Model of wind generator without mast mounting
Makani Power is an aircraft equipment that allows you to raise a set of small wind turbines to a considerable height and get the maximum amount of electricity

This is a highly scientific variation of a kite on which small wind turbines are mounted. The idea is to deliver the generator to the upper atmosphere, where the air velocity is much higher than that of the earth. Energy flows down the cable, which also acts as a rope holding the “kite”.

An interesting review of wind generator repair SF-600-5 (China) allows you to get an idea of ​​the possible problems with the economy class equipment:

Interesting ideas for making a windmill yourself are described in the article - How to make a wind generator with your own hands: device, principle of operation + best home-made

# 4: Heat pump-based heating

These devices have long taken pride of place in the family of devices for producing clean energy. The heat pump works in much the same way as a refrigerator or air conditioning, but only vice versa.

They use devices of this type, mainly for heating a home, as well as for heating water. Although there are models that in the summer successfully cope with the duties of an air conditioner.

The principle of operation of the heat pump
The principle of operation of the heat pump is based on the absorption of thermal energy with low potential into concentrated high potential heat. Ground-to-water devices are difficult to install but effective

As a source of heat, such systems use the energy of air, the heat of the soil and water. Energy is everywhere, but it has low potential in these resources. The external circuit of the heat pump collects these scattered crumbs of thermal energy and moves them into the system.

To transform energy into a high potential state, a refrigerant, usually freon, is used. It absorbs the received energy, heats up and enters the compressor. Here the refrigerant is compressed and through the evaporator enters the heat exchanger of the internal heating circuit.

The coolant absorbs concentrated thermal energy, and freon passes through the evaporator and again goes into a liquid state. Now it receives low potential energy, heats up, etc.

Depending on the source of thermal energy, as well as on the type of heat carrier, the type of heat pump is chosen: “ground-water”, Water-to-water, Air-to-water, Air-to-air etc. With the help of such a device, it is possible to realize not only traditional water heating, but also air heating.

Many craftsmen have successfully mastered the independent manufacture of such a unit, interesting options are described in the following articles:

  1. How to make a heat pump with your own hands from an old refrigerator: drawings, instructions and assembly tips
  2. DIY geothermal heat pump for home heating: device, design, self-assembly

It is not an easy task to extract heat from the earth, since a spacious land plot and extensive land work will be required. The pipes of the external circuit are laid in trenches and covered with earth. It is clear that the use of this site will be limited in the future.

External heat pump unit
The outdoor unit of the air-water heat pump just needs to be installed on a suitable site, but such a device may not be very effective at low outdoor temperatures

But in this way it is possible to ensure a stable temperature of the coolant in the external circuit, and this is an important condition for the successful operation of the heat pump. It is very convenient if there is a pond near the house, the external circuit can be immersed in water without any problems. As an alternative to a pond, a water well is used.

To collect heat from the air, not pipes with a liquid coolant are used, but powerful fans that pump air into the heat exchanger.The outdoor temperature is far from being as constant as with water or ground, but it’s much easier to choose a place for the unit and install it.

Unfortunately, such devices are ineffective in the northern regions, since heating is not possible even at -20 degrees outside temperature. The problem is solved by combining two different heating systems.

# 4: Biogas in communications

Waste is another interesting resource for generating thermal energy. When processing waste using anaerobic bacteria, substances such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and some impurities are released.

This gas mixture is called biogas, it can also be considered as a modern alternative energy source.

Raw materials for biogenerator
For processing in a biogenerator, a mixture of plant and animal waste with water is usually used. Humidity should be 88-96% depending on the time of year

Of course, this combustible substance is not obtained from the contents of the sewer. To do this, use organic waste of animal or vegetable origin. They are placed in a special container, very durable and always tight. Bacterial cultures are loaded there.

A screw is installed inside the device to mix the biological mass. This will increase the reaction rate and make the generator more efficient.

The mass intended for processing is diluted with water, which should be heated to about 40 ° C. In summer, more water should be added, but in winter, biomass humidity can be about 90%.

In order to maintain the temperature that is comfortable for the life of microorganisms, the capacity of the biogenerator is covered with insulating materials. All starting materials are loaded through the neck, which is then tightly closed. Biogas accumulates in the upper part of the device and is discharged from it through a special pipe.

Biogenerator circuit
For convenience, space saving and safety, biogas plants are placed underground, gas distribution is carried out through a water seal, it is necessary to ensure biomass heating (+)

Recycled waste is discharged through a separate pipe, they are a valuable fertilizer, the application of which can be found on the site. An important point in the independent creation of a biogenerator is safety. Since gas is constantly accumulating in the tank, pressure is constantly increasing there.

The process of self-creating a biogenerator from a metal barrel is described in this video:

If this process is not controlled, the device may simply explode. It is considered safer to place the biogenerator underground, rather than on the surface. It is necessary to ensure a constant selection of the produced gas from the tank in order to normalize the pressure.

The gas mixture must also be handled with care.This combustible substance has a pungent and unpleasant odor; inhalation of it can be hazardous to human health.

In addition to the sources of free energy described above, there are also interesting engineering solutions that have a lot of practical prospects:

Purpose and use of the thermogenerator

Devices of this type have been known since the middle of the last century. They allow you to convert thermal energy into electrical energy. The modern version of the industrial heat generator is designed for installation on gas boilers or long-burning wood-burning stoves with a capacity of at least 200 watts.

One of the most famous and popular options for a thermogenerator in everyday life works in tandem with a kerosene lamp:

Such a device allows you to receive about 150 kW / h of electricity per month in the winter, when the heating devices operate continuously.

You can consider it as an additional option in combination with solar panels or as a way to compensate for frequent blackouts.

There are also walking models of heat generators that can process the thermal energy of an ordinary campfire. They can be used during construction where there is no electricity as an alternative to a generator operating on liquefied fuel.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

The video will introduce the most popular options for installations powered by alternative energy sources:

The only significant drawback of alternative methods of generating energy is the high cost of equipment and installation. High-tech developments are effective, convenient and expensive. Nevertheless, the investment will pay off over time. And for lovers of tinkering, there are always options for self-production.

Tell us what you think about the use of alternative energy for the home? Share your opinions, participate in discussions and ask questions. You can leave comments in the form below.

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Visitors Comments
  1. More recently, it seemed that conventional resources are inexpensive, and they will last for a long time. But the constant rise in prices spurred the development of alternative energy sources, and now with solar panels on the site or on the roof of the house you will not surprise anyone. Now this process cannot be stopped, and besides the usual savings, alternative energy helps to improve the ecological situation on the planet.

  2. Valentine

    I have been using the gifts of nature for a long time. The presence of a solar panel in the garage today will not surprise anyone. In finished form, I bought them more than once, but I myself never tried to make them. A good idea, especially based on information, it is not so difficult to implement. I have long planned to attach it to the roof of the house. Experiment what comes out of it. Still, I am for maintaining a normal environment.