Using the wind & sun

Using the wind & sun

It was always our intention to build a home that was both energy efficient and somewhat independent from commercial outside energy sources.   Nancy and I had lived off of the grid for fourteen years on the old ranch, not by choice but because of its remote location and the unaffordable expense of bringing electrical power to it.  In those days the idea of using solar or wind power was not a viable option for us.  The technology had not yet been effectively developed to the point of being cost effective.  In addition to that, we lived on the shady side of the mountain and in tall trees that blocked the sun and the wind. We used propane for hot water, secondary heat, to fuel the gas refrigerator and for lighting.  We also used a back up generator for non-regular use providing 110 volt power for such things as a washing machine and running power tools.  I had rigged up a remote on/off button in the cabin so that Nancy could start and stop it as her needs demanded.  We also had an additional 12 volt system that could be charged when the generator was in operation.  The 12 volt system ran a stereo and a few night lights.   It all worked, but took a lot of ingenuity and maintenance to keep it functioning.

When we designed the house at Timber Butte we purposefully placed it so that it had a full southern exposure.  Timber Butte also gets a good deal of consistent wind – perfect for solar panels and an electric wind turbine.  (We have a windmill that aerates our pond which operates most days – I will write about it another day.)   The point being, if you want to take advantage of alternative energy sources dependent on wind and sun you have to consider your location.  Because of our experience at the old ranch living on the shady side of the mountain, this was important to us.

Another thing to understand from the beginning is that free energy is not free.  The initial investment is in fact actually quite costly.   There are three reasons that Nancy and I have decided to pursue and incorporate alternative energy sources.

  1. It is our intention that Timber Butte will be our last home.  We plan to spend the rest of our lives here and plan on living long enough to make our initial investments viable.  We figure that it will take ten to fifteen years to make these investments cost effective from strictly a financial point of view.  We figure that to make our home “net zero” (produce the same amount of energy that we consume), it will cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000.  That’s a lot of money that could be used to pay a lot of power bills at today’s prices.  Most people see their houses not so much as a permanent dwelling place, but as investments to be sold for profit as the market allows, thus it is hard to justify this kind of extra expense.  We have decided to stay put and sink roots at Timber Butte as long as the Lord allows, so for us it is a viable investment.
  2. It is our dream to live sustainable lives.  If you read my entry #21 – [Five essentials for living a sustainable life], you would know that we have strategically been planning and working towards sustainability for many years.  Sustainable living encourages us to pursue ways of becoming less dependent on outside commercial energy sources.
  3. For us, the decision we made went far beyond economics.  I had written the book “Saving God’s Green Earth” (See links) about my Biblical conviction to do things to be a good steward of God’s creation.  Sometimes we have to make sacrifices simply because it’s the right thing to do.  By us investing in wind and sun power we are making a smaller footprint on a planet that must be preserved for future generations.  As a Christian I believe I must use less so that others might be blessed.

Although we haven’t been financially able to invest in a solar or wind electrical system as of yet, we did install the infrastructure to incorporate it into our power system during the construction of the house.  We have however installed a solar powered hot water system that has been amazingly effective.  I will share our experience with it and what we have discovered about it in a future entry.