Exploring Energy Alternatives

Over the past few weeks, as we have moved in and settled into our new house in Port Alberni, I’ve been exploring ways to conserve energy. I intend to be in the house for the Long Haul… and since we will, over the next few weeks and months, be painting, roofing and doing yard work we might as well try to get into a more efficient mindset from day one.

One of the first things I considered was a rain barrel. Port Alberni is one of the rainiest cities in Canada at about 1600mm, or over 5ft of rain a year. It is 2nd only to Prince Rupert, who receives 2400mm… and yet, Alberni (not Rupert) is also a regular holder of the Provincial Hotspot in BC during the Summer months… so using some of that fall-spring rain to keep the garden happy would be nice.

Tonight I was on a more concerted effort… probably because I’ve been reading a lot of the Oil Drum lately, and the price of gas is hovering around $1/L on the Island here (though thankfully it’s still at 95.4c here in Port).

In my travels I came across the Energy Alternatives.ca site. This is an excellent resource… whether you’re Canadian or not.

I found great information and links on Solar, Wind, and other alternative sources of energy. I also discovered “GFX” or “Graywater” Heat exchangers that you can install in your own home.

I think I’ll be purchasing one of these systems… they’re not very expensive (about $300 for a 30″ peice)… so the cost should be recouped pretty quickly.

I’m also still considering replacing our Oil furnace with a Heat Pump. The Oil is out no matter what… right now I’m leaning more towards Gas because the heat pump is so expensive to install ($10000 vs. $4000) and we likely wouldn’t really use it’s cooling abiliies so much anyway because we like the airflow through our house… but the current and ongoing situation with oil/gas prices is really making me leary about relying on Natural Gas for my winter heating. At least an electric heat pump would, at some point, be able to draw power from renewable sources. And electricity rates should stay fairly low in BC compared to other jurisdictions… and compared to oil/gas. (Most of BCs power is generated through Hydro dams… though less so as demand increases)

Decisions decisions… the joys of owning a house.



One reply on “Exploring Energy Alternatives”

  1. Just a friendly tip, Chris:

    The cost of natural gas may fluctuate a bit, but it will be cheaper, at least in the next decade or so, to use in a heat pump than electricity. The main problem with electricity is loss of efficiency during transmission. When you use natural gas in your home, you get a much higher rate of efficiency than with electricity, and with minimal emmissions.

    Chances are, your local power plant burns natural gas anyway. If it doesn’t, it’s probably something even less efficient, like coal or oil. There’s an outside chance it’s a hydro facility, but I’m pretty sure it’s not nuclear. And I know it’s not solar — not in cloudy BC.

    Stick with the natural gas, if you’ve got it. Something better might come along in a few years (fuel cells?), but for now, it’s probably your cheapest, most efficient option.

    Just my two cents.

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