Alternative Energy Sources

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Building, Energy Efficiency, How-To, Planning

When Doug and Laurie Pooch built their central Iowa log home in 2005,
they opted for a geothermal heating and cooling system—a unit similar to
the one in their previous house. The Pooches, who are the owners of Cabin
Fever Construction and dealers with Expedition Log Homes, say they simply
wanted the same energy savings their customers look for.

“We had geothermal in our previous log home and were pleased with it,”
Doug says. “We wanted to make our home as energy efficient as possible
and lower our long-term energy costs. As we looked at the options, the
geothermal system seemed to be the most efficient option out there.
Combine that with a great window package and the well-insulated log home
that we built, it’s rated as an Energy Star® home.”

The geothermal energy system, which pulls warm air from the ground, is
one of three alternative energy sources becoming popular among log home
owners. The other options are solar and wind. Though the upfront cost of
installing these systems may be greater than standard HVAC systems, they
do pay off in terms of energy savings over time.

The Poochs’ geothermal system is a closed-loop system, with bored-in
horizontal lines (rather than trenched in) that are connected to the unit’s
operating system in the basement. The bored-in system’s biggest advantage,
Doug says, is that it doesn’t inhibit the growth of vegetation or interfere
with landscaping. He also likes the system’s simplicity and that it’s virtually
maintenance free. Energy costs on the Poochs’ home, which is about
5,000 square feet finished, average about $150 per month. (This includes a
special energy rate from the utility company for the type of system they
have, along with the best practices used to build the home.)

“In the five years we’ve had the home, we’ve had severe winters and hot
summers, and we’re pleased with the product,” says Doug, who estimates that
he saves $150 average throughout the year. “The system is trouble-free.”
Solar energy, or photovoltaics (PV), convert light from the sun into electrical
power. The system utilizes PV cells that produce one or two watts of
power. The cells are connected to form modules, and those modules are
then linked to create arrays that may be used individually or attached to
other arrays. The array can be sized to power just a portion of the home, or
the entire house.

Wind power is generated by a turbine (made of spinning rotors) that converts
the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy. The power generated
is captured and stored in a battery bank that can run lights and appliances
or heat interior spaces and water. Installing a turbine large enough to
power your entire home would require at least one acre of land.
Additionally, some areas may not have sufficient wind (in terms of volume
or velocity) to power your home.

Though alternative energy systems aren’t difficult to install, they require
specialized expertise. Discuss your needs and expectations with your log
home producer before you start designing your home and find an experienced
professional who can make appropriate recommendations and who
knows how to install the unit(s) properly. And keep in mind that alternative
energy sources, just like any other energy source, are only effective if your
house is built properly.

“Start with an energy-efficient home to begin with,” Doug says. “Add an
alternative source to it, and you’ll see savings.”