I just bought a new house and I plan to use solar and or wind energy to take less of a dry pounding from the utility company. I know that you have to spend money to save money. I plan to start out slow and make or buy some attic vent fans, garage vent fans and a passive water heater system.
As time goes on I will setup larger panels and maybe a wind generator. It would be nice to get off the electric grid altogether at some point. Yes I know it will cost a grip, thats why this is a very long term project. I have friends and neighbors that are into alt energy, one of which is getting paid by the utility company $200+ a month. They have been building a huge solar system for the last 15 years.
Just looking for any advise, tips, tricks or knowledge.
Best system I've heard of was a small hydro-generator. Using the water for sprinklers or showers would turn the turbine, charge an RV's battery system, and run a few lower powered systems in your house, such as charging your phones, laptops, energy efficient light bulbs, etc.
The system sounded really interesting, and he had it successfully implemented in his parent's house, with minimal water pressure loss, and a significant power bill reduction.
It's really only limited by how many circuits you wire your generator into, and how big the generator is.
As pointed out above, insulation is tops.
Appliances are next - such as using Energy Star rated refrigerators, dryers, TVs, and induction cooktops.
Re: photovoltaic cells - I have a sneaking suspicion we're at the cusp of some major breakthrough that will suddenly make solar panels worth their cost of entry. Before then, I'd stick to solar water heating. Or maybe central computer "smart" controlled motorized blinds or awnings, etc.
The last time I checked a system to get me off the grid was $140,000. Solar energy is not ready for prime time yet (neither is wind). I would challenge your neighbors to show me their $200/month check. That being said, I will buy a grid tie inverter and wind my workshop meter backwards on the days I am not working in it as a project in the future. I'm probably going to budget around $2,000 to accomplish that (or around 100 months of electric usage for the shop).