Here is a look at the pros and cons of the
three most viable homemade energy options.
* Biofuel generators
At first glance, a generator might not appear to be an
option for homemade energy, but if you go through a lot
of cooking oil or grow your own oil plants, it could be
your best bet.
There are essentially two options for homemade generator
energy: straight vegetable oil, often called SVO, and bio
diesel. Both have their pros and cons.
Straight vegetable oil systems can be very economical,
clean and effective. The downside is that if you already
own a generator, you will have to modify it to run on
straight vegetable oil.
If you are only now beginning to consider purchasing a
generator, however, you can easily opt for a model made to
run on pure vegetable oil (e.g., corn, soybean, peanut).
If you are using pure oil, there is no processing
necessary. That’s great news for everyone, but especially
if you have already spent time making your own oil.
But if you want to use waste vegetable oil from cooking,
you first have to filter out any impurities.
Some people feel that if they are going to do all that
work, they might as well go all out and make biodiesel.
Biodiesel takes more work, but it has its benefits. For
example, any diesel generator will also run on biodiesel.
This means that if you have an old generator, or want to
buy an old one cheaply, then you can still run it on
Biodiesel is produced by adding methoxide to filtered and
pretreated cooking oil that’s been used, thus producing
glycerine and biodiesel.
After the glycerine sets so that it separates, the
biodiesel can be removed and washed, allowing any remnant
water in the fuel to evaporate.
The downside with biodiesel, aside from the more involved
processing, is its fairly short shelf-life. Neither
biodiesel nor straight vegetable oil generators are a
viable option as a primary energy system in most homes on
account of the cost per kilowatt hour.
They do make excellent secondary and backup systems,
* Photovoltaic cells
Solar power is often seen as the king of homemade energy.
Solar energy has good availability. The systems require
fairly little maintenance, production makes no noise and
no emissions, and you can often get grants, tax
deductions or interest-free loans for installation.
And if you make more energy than you use, you can often
plug it back into the grid, and the electric company will
pay you for it!
Unfortunately, the initial cost can be off-putting for
some. Even though there may be financial incentives, not
everyone is eligible.
And if you want a system to cover your entire energy
usage, you may have to invest in a large number of panels.
First, you may want to find ways of reducing your energy
In some locations solar panels are available to rent. That
means that the company that owns them gets all of the
grants and tax cuts, but you can still save money on
Another downside to solar power is that it only works when
the sun is up. You can get storage batteries to save your
energy for later…
But in some locations there is minimal direct sunlight
for several months of winter, rendering your solar system
useless for up to three months out of every year.
If your house is not oriented towards the south, don’t
worry. You can often mount the photovoltaic panels on
frames that can be angled in the direction of the sun.
Even the least efficient solar system tends to pay for
itself within several years. A good system may pay for
itself in as soon as three years; a less efficient system
may take ten.
Meanwhile, the market standard for photovoltaic cells is a
20 to 25 year guarantee.
At the very least, that makes a decade of mostly free
* Wind turbines
If solar power is the king of alternative home energy,
then wind power is the crown prince.
Although wind turbines are often a smaller investment than
solar panels, you are less likely to run into them on
private property. This is because there are some
If you have neighbors close by, it can be difficult to
get them to sign off on your wind turbine. Many people
find them ugly, and they make noise.
There are also concerns about birds flying into the
rotating blades and children hurting themselves by
trying to play on the turbine.
In reality, children are more likely to hurt themselves
climbing a tree, and the number of birds killed by a
turbine is nowhere near the average of a single pet cat.
There are many positive aspects of wind energy. Turbines
pay for themselves within a few years and require even
less maintenance than photovoltaic cells.
Wind power is also easier to install than solar power.
Your geographic location might not be suited for wind
power, however, or you might have to get a very tall and
invasive turbine to make it worth your while.
As with solar power, you are usually best off trying to
minimize your household’s electric use if you are hoping
to use homemade energy as your primary power source.
Now you know steps you can take to reduce your reliance
on the grid. Next time we will look closer at the
efficacy of solar energy in a crisis.
Take it easy,