Solar arrays a common sight

Beating the power bills

by Mike Isle

Those monthly power bills never stop coming, except perhaps for one month’s discount annually, if you have a good energy company at the helm — but how much better to be at the helm yourself?

One of the best ways to cut your monthly bills is by investing in renewable energy to power your home. There are plenty of power-saving options, and in New Zealand sunny atmosphere, let’s start with solar energy — power from the sun through solar panels — the most common and obvious method.

Solar panels typically go on your roof, and you could generate 10 or more watts for each square foot. A typical house consumes at least a kilowatt of power, so a few square feet of solar panels should be enough to power most or all of your needs.

One drawback of solar power is that it only works when the sun is up. If you want to power your home when the sun is down, you’ll need to pay for grid electricity or invest in a second type of renewable energy.

You can also use the power of the sun to heat your home.

Solar water heaters use the sun to heat a reserve of water, which can then be pumped through your radiators or out your taps or showerheads. This system is much cheaper than using gas or electricity to heat your water and is easier to install than solar panels. If you’re not willing to completely commit to powering your entire home with renewable energy, solar water heating can be a good alternative.

Wind turbines are most commonly found in wind farms, but if you have enough land, a small wind turbine may be the answer.

They can be unsightly and generate a lot of noise. Wind turbines can take up space, and this might be a better rural application to avoid upsetting neighbours with a little noise on windy days.

Moreover, wind power is more stable than solar, and a good-sized wind turbine can easily generate most or all of your electricity needs. Another power option to look for if you are in a rural area, with water handy, is hydro.

If your property has a source of flowing water, you may divert some or all of the stream or river to flow through a turbine and presto — power!