Guide to Energy Alternatives--Article Index

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  • Power from sun, wind and water
  • Capturing cool breezes
  • Solar heat for house and pool
  • Installing a wood-fired furnace



++ 1. The Energy-efficient Home

++ 2. Harnessing the Heat of the Sun

++ 3. A Diversity of Energy Sources

++ Glossary

Warming a window. Insulated fabric, opened to reveal its four distinct layers, can reduce the heat loss through a window by as much as 80 percent. Easily cut with scissors, the special cloth can be faced with a decorative cover fabric to make attractive shades, which can be raised handily with nylon cords, sew-on cord rings and, if necessary, a small pulley.

Keeping a home warm in winter, cool in summer and supplied with hot water around the clock in all seasons costs a lot of money. In recent years, the prices of electricity, natural gas and fuel oil for home heating and cooling have skyrocketed. Energy consumers to day are worrying not only about inroads on the family budget but also about the continued availability of gas and oil—at any price.

In response to these problems, scientists and technologists have redoubled their efforts to find new sources of energy and to make present sources more economical. News reports continually trumpet breakthroughs and near-breakthroughs. While many people are confident that science and industry can assure cheap, dependable energy sources for the future, more and more homeowners are seeking individual solutions to the so-called energy crisis and, in many in stances, are increasing the values of their homes at the same time.

For some homeowners, the solutions involve new uses for old and neglected resources. Individuals are fashioning backyard generators that harness wind or water, and they are adding economical wood- burning furnaces to their home heating systems. Not only do these adaptations substitute cheaper—or free—energy sources for more costly ones, they provide a flexibility that could save the day should standard fuels suddenly become unavailable.

Other homeowners are taking fuller advantage of the greatest of all energy sources—sunlight. Although the earth receives only one two-billionth of the sun’s energy, just a quarter hour of sunshine equals all of the energy consumed by humans from all other sources in an entire year. This bounty, trapped in rooftop collectors or glazed, wall-mounted panels, can be readily applied to space and water heating, and it may someday be a major source of electricity.

For most people, however, a wise, personal energy policy starts with putting what they already have to the best use. Any house can be made more comfortable in summer by taking advantage of cool breezes, and the addition of an inexpensive device made of wood and plastic, called a solar chimney, can circulate air throughout a house even on still days. In winter, shades and shutters that provide effective thermal barriers at windows, air locks that keep cold breezes out of doors and thick walls that contain massive amounts of insulation can cut heating costs dramatically.

In fact the spectrum of choices facing today’s energy consumer is sometimes bewildering. Winnowing out the right answer to your energy needs will require patience and perseverance. And first, be fore examining any of the options, you must undertake a gimlet-eyed appraisal of your present energy supply and the efficiency with which you use it.

Related article on Mother Earth News.

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