For this report I will be focusing on 3 subsystems that are both economic and earth friendly for utility free sustainable homes. The three systems are:
This integration of these subsystems can ideally provide electricity, heating, gas and clean water for an entire home, hence making it ‘utility-free’. I will briefly go over the economics and science of each system however, the main goal is to bring awareness and encourage young entrepreneurs to become installers and providers of such a system.
Why? Because this can drastically reduce carbon emissions and sewer overflow in the New York City and create job growth for many young college students.
Before even purchasing your Solar Panel array system, you must first know whether or not the rooftop or other panel placement location can receive a significant amount of sunlight during the day since there is only about 8-14 hours of sunshine per day depending on the season.
Ideally you want the panels facing south here in NYC to get the max exposure. Next you must know how many solar panels you are getting and how much power they can output. The average 3ft x 5ft solar panel outputs about 180 Watts. According to U.S Energy Information Administration, in 2014, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,932 kilowatt-hours (kWh), an average of 911 kWh per month or about 30kWh per day. The average amount of sunshine per day is about 14 hours This would mean your solar panels need to generate between 2.
5kWh to 3 kWh per hour (about 15 to 25 solar panels) to have a net zero household. A solar array system in that range can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household electricity bill is about $1,250 per year. A simple calculation can help determine whether or not investing in solar panels is a smart option. The formula is:
Payback Time = (Cost of Solar Panel Array & Materials) / (Cost of Average Energy Use per Year)
If we divide the cost of solar panel array and materials by the average yearly electricity bill, we get the payback time range of 4-8 years. The payback time may be an extra 2-4 years longer if you decide to invest in Tesla batteries or supercapacitors, if you would like to store this electrical energy for a rainy day.
Speaking of rain days, there is a very serious issue with sewer overflow in NYC. Within 30 minutes of a storm, the sewers in NYC begin to overflow and seep into the East River. If it is like this in NYC, then it is also happening in other major cities around the world. To prevent storm water overflow, we must design our roads and houses in such a way that will absorb most of that water. However, since we live in a concrete jungle, there isn’t many grasslands as we would like so we will have to collect rain water and put it to good use. Here in NYC there is a Rain Barrel Giveaway Program which aims to help reduce sewer overflow through rain water collection. Home owners and businesses can use this rainwater for outdoor chores and toilet use. A rain barrel can cost anywhere from $60 to $100. To make rain water safe to drink, there must be proper and vigorous filtration. The pipes and pumps needed for this project ranges from another $100 to $300 including installation. Water cannot be stagnant in a rain barrel for long, it must be put to use. There is a filter by eSpring that has a carbon-block filter which can effectively reduce more than 140 potential health-effect impurities – like pesticides, VOCs, mercury, and lead – yet allows beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium to pass through. The UV bulb destroys up to 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, and 99.95% of cysts in drinking water without the use of chemicals. This filter costs about $800-$1000 however, it is highly effective and well worth it. With proper filtration, it can be used for sinks, showers and even for electrolysis which will be discussed next.
Electrolysis is separation of water molecules into its basic components hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is extremely flammable, yet can be used as clean fuel. If handled professionally, one can harness this gas for cooking therefore severing all ties to any utility companies. This can be accomplished by combining the solar panel system with the water collection system together. If one decides to get a hydrogen powered car, they can use this system to fuel their vehicles. The issue with this system is finding a safe way to store the hydrogen gas since it is highly flammable and can explode if highly pressurized and ignited according to D. Samaroo, a professor from the Chemistry Department in NYCCT. The hydrogen house project in New Jersey is an example of the first consumer hydrogen house which includes the aforementioned subsystems.
The total cost of this integrated system can cost about $15,000, however, this is just an estimate. My fellow engineers can make this more efficient can cut the costs so do not be discouraged. The goal is not to simply go over theory and discuss pros and cons, the goal is to spark interest to the class and show them to consider becoming an entrepreneur and provide these services to the outside world. Home owners will have their property value increase and those who cannot practically install it themselves, can take on the entrepreneur path and create extra income for installing the aforementioned systems. To reap the max bang for your buck, I recommend all 3 subsystems be installed, for a legitimate utility free self-sustainable home. Finally, instead of submitting to government with their carbon taxes and their general overreach of their power, we, this class, the students in this course take the initiative and come up with free market solutions to helping the planet the American Way.