The Energy “Food Chain” – Getting Our Homes Off Junk Food

We’ve all heard that the less processed our food is the better for our health. As well, the more local you can acquire your food from, whether it be the town farmers market or your own garden, the better, as it uses less energy to get it to your mouth.

Well, food is energy.

Most of our homes “eat” high on the energy food chain, gaining fuel for the furnace and vehicles from minerals, or in other words materials which have been processed in multiple ways, all of which are non-renewable. Some energy is derived from renewable sources such as corn, but again, the dirt that this corn from is being depleted, and so we’re back to minerals. Once spent, these materials change into something no longer good for producing energy. And as we know many of these spent fuels whether radioactive or in the form of a poison solid or gas, are no good for us.

I live off-the-grid, which means that I get all of my electricity from solar panels, and all of my heat from wood and the sun heating a fluid that runs through tubes in our floor. Because of this you could say that we get all of our energy from the sun. The sun is the biggest nuclear reactor around, however it is at a comfortable distance of 86 million miles away, where nuclear reactors were meant to be, in my opinion.

How we use fuel is often a subject of debate, such as which is better; coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc… It is less often mentioned which is the best fuel after we have ALREADY used it. The answer seems to be that so long as the after-mess is left on earth, that NONE of them are a good option. The left-overs either poison our water, our soil, or our air. Again, another good reason to leave the energy making to the sun, where the spent materials are not polluting our back yards.

Nay-sayers have been forever saying the solar energy is too expensive, just like eating organic food is too expensive. How much does it cost to safely bury a spent fuel rod? How much does chemotherapy cost? What does your childs asthma medicine cost?  There is always a cost, whether hidden or in your face.

That’s all well and good to say, but what about numbers? I can tell you that in the past 12 years of living off-grid, I have saved $12,096 in what I would have given to the electric company at $60/month including installation. How much do you spend on electricity? My solar system cost about $10,000 when it was expensive to build it, plus $1400 for new batteries a couple of years back. This means that I am already ahead. Nowadays the cost of my system would have come down to almost 1/2 that, due to new solar panel technology and less cost per watt of energy. I admit that I did a lot of the work myself, such as building the rack for the panels, and renting a digger to put the wires in the ground to the house, but even if I hadn’t, I would still be at the break-even point.Off-Grid House

As a bonus, just this last week our sister state of Minnesota agreed that adding one of the largest solar installations in history to the grid would not only be good for the planet, but actually cost LESS up front. Read more about that awesomeness here.

So don’t let the people making all the money off non-renewable energy fool you. It is less expensive AND better for the planet to go directly to the source; the sun, for your energy needs. Don’t let them tell you that we can’t get enough energy from solar alone. Just like eating healthy food, we’ve doing it since time began.

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