What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moving Towards Solar Powered Electricity (2)


Solar energy involves a combination of passive and active solar power.  We want to decrease or eliminate our dependence on the grid.  In this case the grid is electricity supplied via Hydro One.  As you may have read we currently have our house for sale with a conditional offer on another house BUT there is a possibility we may remove our house from the market and stay here.   Now this presents a couple of problems when talking of going solar.  Obviously we are not going to be installing solar panels on a house that we might sell.  At the same time one of the factors influencing the offer on the other house was it's green potential.  As it is, all of the passive solar lighting ideas on the following list will work for both houses although the new house has a slightly better solar advantage.  Most in the passive list are designed to reduce electricity usage.  This is a key concern because reducing electrical usage during the mid-peak and high-peak hours under TOS rates is a key concern.  I'm currently doing the research on active solar that will actually generate electricity.  Since both houses are similar in size the information will only have to be adjusted slightly. 

Passive solar ideas:
  • light reflecting colours - Lighter paint and floor colours reflect light making the space brighter and appear larger.  We've used this property in all of our houses going as light as possible for walls, ceilings and flooring.
  • mirrors - Mirrors are an age old, eco-friendly way to amplify naturaal and artificial light but they have gone beyond just hanging on the wall.  A couple of houses ago I came across an interesting idea for using mirrors on top of coffee and end tables to brighten a room.  I had mirrors specially cut and absolutely loved the results.  That idea would not fit well for this house but what would work well is lining the family room foot wide window bank with mirror effectively bringing in more light and making the room appear a lot larger. It would also work well in the deep patio door recess.  The beauty of mirrors is even when custom cut they are quite inexpensive and it is an easy DIY project.  Any window with a bit of a depth can be lined with mirror.  In addition to these simple mirror applications there is a great way to provide a view for basement windows that I saw on HGTV using mirrors in a specially designed window well retrofit.  It too is an easy DIY project that will work well at either house.  We have a pass through at this house that really is rather useless so I'm thinking of hanging a framed mirror that will reflect natural light into the family room and laundry room while getting rid of the dated shutters.  This would recycle one of the end table mirrors costing only a frame, chain and hooks.
  • solar tubes - I have been wanting solar tubes ever since I saw them.  These skylight tubes provide amplified natural lighting to the inside of the home eliminating the need for electrical lights.  The new house is actually better designed to take advantage of using solar tubes but this house can be retrofitted to use at least one if not two solar tubes.
  • install storm doors - This house does not have storm doors so there is no way to let in additional light during the nice weather.  If we stay here that is on our priority list of to do projects.  Storm doors will add additional insulative value for the winter months but allow extra natural light in during the warmer months, only needing to be closed if the AC is on.  
  • solar cooker - I have plans to build a solar cooker which is a realitively easy DIY project along with a hot box, an even easier project.  A solar cooker cooks raw foods while a hot box continues cooking partially cooked foods.  Both of these projects are more of an experiment to see how well they work.  At best in our climate they would work during the late spring to early fall months.  During the winter neither would be feasible for regular cooking. 
Watch for tommorrow's post on our active solar energy plans.  So watch for part 3.

Garden Gnome