Move Over, Solar Panels! Home Wind Turbines Are the Latest Green Energy Source for Homeowners

Wind power is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, and in some parts of the country, you can drive by huge fields of turbines with their fanlike blades. Home wind turbines, like solar panels, capture energy and help lower your electricity bill. But can this clean fuel source actually power your entire house? And if so, at what cost?

How do home wind turbines work?

If you’ve ever seen a wind farm, you already have a general idea of what the turbines look like when they’re operating. But how exactly do they work?

“They convert the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical power, which in turn is used to run a generator that makes electricity for the home,” says Dan DiClerico, a home expert at HomeAdvisor. The turbine’s long, narrow blades are aerodynamically designed to capture the maximum energy from the wind.

“As the blades rotate, they turn a shaft that is connected to a generator, which produces electricity that is delivered directly to the home,” he explains.

Are home wind turbines practical?

Residential wind turbines are a good option if you live in an area with consistent wind flow—but not gale-force winds, which would cause the National Weather Service to issue a wind advisory.

“Wind turbines operate within a range of wind speeds, below which they do not produce power and above which they will cut out to protect themselves from damage,” says Michael Ginsberg, author of “Harness It: Renewable Energy Technologies and Project Development Models Transforming the Grid.”

So, what’s a good wind speed range? Typically, 8 to 55 mph.

“The rated power output of the wind turbine is based on the rated speed, usually 25 mph to 35 mph,” Ginsberg says.

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What Is a Tankless Water Heater? The Key to Endless Hot Showers, but With a Catch

What is a tankless water heater? Also called “demand-type” or “instantaneous water heaters,” these devices deliver warm water only when you want it. Conventional water heaters, on the other hand, perpetually heat water whether you need it or not.

Traditional hot water tanks use electricity or gas to heat and store hot water until that magic moment you decide to take a shower or wash your dishes. As faucets dispense hot water, cold water refills the tank, and the heating process begins again.

If you use hot water faster than your tank can warm the water, you’ll find yourself feeling the side effects, in the form of a cold shower.

Tankless devices, on the other hand, heat water on the way to your faucet; as the name implies, there is no the storage tank. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water flows into your tankless unit, which uses a much more intense electric current (or blast of gas) to quickly heat water on the way out your tap. Theoretically, the supply of hot water is unlimited.

Tankless water heaters, which can be as small as a suitcase, can produce hot water at the rate of 2 to 5 gallons per minute. If only one person is taking a shower, which requires a flow rate of about 1 to 2 GPM, then you’ll have a lovely, long-lasting hot spray.

Granted, a traditional hot water tank could also deliver the necessary 1 to 2 GPM for a long hot shower… but suppose you are taking a shower while someone is washing dishes (3 to 7 GPM), or your washer is cleaning a load of clothes (1.5 to 3 GPM). Add up all those GPM figures, and a regular heater falls short of your total hot water demand.

The solution is to either stagger hot water usage, install more than one hot water tank, or install a tankless water heater.

How much do tankless water heaters cost—and how much will they save you?

The U.S. Department of Energy says that if you use 41 gallons or less of hot water each day, tankless water heaters can be 24% to 34% more energy-efficient than conventional hot water storage tanks. If you use 86 gallons a day, the efficiency drops to 8% to 14%. The energy ratings institution Energy Star estimates a typical family can save $100 or more a year with a tankless water heater.

But here’s the rub: Tankless water heaters cost up to three times more than conventional heaters to buy and install. A whole-house tankless water heater costs $800 to $3,000, and installation—including upgrading electrical and gas pipe systems— can add $1,000 to $3,000 to those costs. As a result, it might take decades to recoup the cost of your energy-saving appliance.

On top of that, tankless water heaters can be expensive to maintain.

“I’m not a big fan,” says Tom Bigley, a Pittsburgh plumber for 36 years and director of plumbing services for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry. “They are maintenance-intense and expensive to repair. With parts and a basic service call, you’re at $300 to $400. Is the money you’re saving on energy bills worth that?”

Bottom line: As is the case with most energy-saving appliances, you should carefully weigh the costs of a tankless water heater against the long-term savings to determine whether one’s right for you. If your current setup gives you enough hot water, you’re probably fine as is; but if you’re cringing every morning at the prospect of a cold shower, a tankless water heater could be worth its weight in gold.

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Household appliance life expectancy

As much as we don’t like to think about it, household appliances need to be upgraded at some point. Most warranties offer an easy solution to this problem, but it isn’t always so simple. Regular maintenance while planning for replacements can help extend the life of your appliances and prevent financial and emotional shock when they break down.

Air conditioner: Good-quality central air conditioners can last up to 20 years, with many replacement parts readily available.

  • Filter cleaning or replacement improves efficiency and protects the health of the evaporator coil. The coil should be cleaned once a year.
  • Problems may also arise from incorrect installation resulting in leaky ducts and low airflow. Consult an HVAC professional to ensure your AC is functioning properly.

Dishwasher: Dishwashers usually last no more than 10 years.

  • Pay attention to lime buildup — use a lime descaler once a year to extend the life of your appliance.
  • Clean your dishwasher’s filter every six months to greatly improve its cleaning ability.

Refrigerator: Refrigerators need to be replaced about every 15 years.

  • Clean dusty condenser coils twice a year to improve performance and extend the life of your refrigerator.
  • Clean door gaskets to ensure a tight seal and prevent stress to the refrigerator’s motor — gasket repairs can be costly.

Washer/Dryer: At an average of one load per day, all newer model washing machines and dryers can last up to 14 years.

  • Avoid overloading your washer to reduce the strain placed on its moving parts and extend its life.
  • Clean the lint screen on your dryer after every load to improve circulation and eliminate fire hazards — use the long nozzle on vacuum to clean lint missed by the screen.
  • Clean the dryer vent ducting once a year so it flows cleanly.

Water heater: Depending on the type of water heater in your home (standard storage, tankless, heat pump or solar) it can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years.

  • Water heaters are subject to rust and mineral buildup. Flushing sediment from the tank and checking the anode rods once a year will help improve efficiency and longevity. Replacing the anode rods when needed can save you hundreds of dollars.
  • Experts recommend repairing rather than replacing your water heater up until 10 years of use. When problems become more complicated after that, it’s time to consider upgrading.

What Is Hardscaping? The Landscaping Element Every Gorgeous Garden Needs

Looking to make your outdoor area more livable? Consider adding a hardscape feature to complement your plants and flowers. A decked-out backyard can give a big boost to your property’s value, and hardscaping can be a central part of this. So what is hardscaping and how much should you budget to make it into a reality for your home? Read on.

What is hardscaping?

Your home’s outdoor spaces consist of hardscapes and softscapes.

“While softscapes are your plants and living elements, hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping—like a paver patio, stone wall, or a gazebo,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, which makes residential and commercial products.

Hardscaping can increase the functionality of your outdoor space and can be designed to match your preferred style: traditional, modern, rustic, you name it.

“Using materials such as wood, stone, metal, and concrete, hardscapes can also add physical boundaries and dimension to your yard,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

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The Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

If the time has come to get a new roof for your home, you might like to consider the option of metal roofing. This important improvement project is something most long-time homeowners will eventually have to undertake, and choosing the proper roofing material should not be taken lightly. A functioning roof will protect your home from harsh outdoor elements like rain and snow and ensure its structural integrity.

Asphalt shingles are common, but the one type of covering that is catching the eye of an increasing number of homeowners is metal roofing. “Metal roofing is gaining in popularity,” reports Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries in Piqua, OH. It had a 14% market share in 2016, up from 11% the year before, according to FW Dodge. Only asphalt shingles outpace metal in the remodeling market.

In terms of style and utility, metal roofing gives any other material a run for its money, but does it suit your home (and budget)? Take a look at the best and worst things about metal roofing before you commit to it.

Pro: Metal roofing lasts 50 years—or longer

Metal roofs are by far one of the most durable, typically lasting 50 years or more, says Andrew Hecox, owner of Air Capital Roofing and Remodeling in Wichita, KS.

“Rubber and asphalt shingles are fine for 15 to 20 years, but they’ll deteriorate over time, due to weather, wind, heat, insects, and rodents,” says Cedric Stewart, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, DC. And metal won’t corrode, crack, or catch sparks and ignite into flames from a lightning strike.

“Metal roofing also doesn’t need periodic costly maintenance, like other materials,” says Lonnie Hagen of Accent Roofing and Construction in Dallas.

Con: It’s noisy

The pitter-patter of raindrops may be soothing for some homeowners, but on a metal roof, the noise factor can be a serious drawback. The good news is that there are ways to mitigate the sound—but you’ll have to pony up. Materials can be installed to reduce the drumming effect for an additional fee.

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Solar panel costs

Installing a solar panel system costs an average of $23,079. Depending on the kind you prefer, you could pay as little as $2,000 or as much as $40,000. However, most homeowners pay between $16,258 and $30,306.With energy prices on the rise, this may be the perfect time to go solar. Especially considering that improvements in this field of technology have made it more cost-effective and easier to set up. Homeowners have several options available to them which weren’t on the market in decades past and which fit a variety of budgets. Here are a few things to consider that will affect how much you pay.

Solar Panels Cost Per Watt

There are three types common in the residential market. Each one has its own pros and cons, from price to efficiency. It is important to understand their differences when deciding which will work best for your home and energy needs.

Monocrystalline – $1.00-$1.50 per watt

This technology will get you the most energy efficiency while taking up the least amount of space. Their solar cells are made up of a high-purity silicon which is very efficient at converting the sun’s light into electricity. A sheet of silicon is cut to form solar cells, which are arranged to create panels. These have the longest life expectancy and often come with a 20 to 25-year warranty.

Polycrystalline – $0.90-$1.00 per watt

These have a lower efficiency than Monocrystalline, but they fit better into smaller budgets without taking up a lot more space. In the manufacturing process, multiple crystals of silicon are melted and poured into molds to form the solar cells. This makes the silicon less pure and less efficient, but it cuts down on waste and production cost. The resulting modules are blue in tint.

Thin-Film/ Photovoltaic – $0.70-$1.00 per watt

These are extremely flexible and versatile, made by layering photovoltaic material on metal or glass. They cost less, but they will require a lot more space in order to power residential homes. They also have a shorter lifespan, lasting an average of 14 to 17 years. Therefore, they come with shorter warranties. One benefit of thin-film technology that has the others beat is its high tolerance to heat.The efficiency of thin-film technology will depend on the photovoltaic material used. Amorphous silicon, for example, will only operate at 7%-9%CdTe and CIS/CIGS operate at about 10%-14%.

Estimated Solar Energy System Prices Per Watt

The per-watt price of installing solar ranges from $2.50 to $4.00. You’ll see the greatest difference between the Southern and New England regions. This does not necessarily mean that it is less cost-effective in New England as opposed to other regions. Different states, even different counties, will have varying returns on investment dependent on other factors. These factors include: state and local incentives, average electricity bills, and the amount of sunshine expected per day.Below you will find the average rates of having your system professionally installed, according to region and wattage. These figures do not include any tax credits or incentives. Consider that the average size is 5kw. Hawaii, included in the Western region, has the highest rate per watt at $3.40 to $4.00. Georgia, in the Southern region, has the lowest at $2.75 to $3.50.

Read the rest of the article for complete cost breakdown . . .

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