Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Individual Proposal

Proposal for Alternative Energy Sources
For a Single Family Residential Home

October 20, 2009

Submitted by:
Kristin Cox
Civil Engineering
Clemson University

Prepared for:
Brandon Rogers, Emily Kitterman, & Lauren Rush
English 314 Group Members

Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2
Executive Summary 3
Introduction 3
Requirements 4
Alternative Energy Sources 4
Option 1: Solar Energy 4
Option 2: Wind Energy 5
Option 3: Hydro Power 5
Recommendation 6
References 6

Executive Summary

This proposal has been developed to recommend the best energy system selection for the Smith’s detached single family home. Solar, Wind, and Hydro Energy solutions were researched and analyzed based on four key requirements: the initial cost of the new system must be affordable, the system has to decrease the monthly utility costs, it has to have a positive effect on the environment, as well as meet the neighborhood’s Housing Association’s rules and regulations. In the end it was determined that the solar energy option would provide the most economical benefits while being environmentally friendly.


The purpose of this proposal is to research and analyze the benefits of three alternative energy sources: solar, wind, and hydro power. Ultimately the resulting information will lead to a recommendation for the most economically efficient and environmentally friendly energy system for a detached, single-family home.

In today’s society, 16% of the United States’ energy consumption is generated from residential buildings. The Energy Information Administration, which gives the official energy statistics from the US Government, conducts a residential energy consumption survey every few years. Based on the revised statistics from January 2009, it was determine that the average detached single family home containing three bedrooms consumes approximately 100.9 BTU per year which results in about $1,924 in yearly expenses. Most of the electricity used in the United States is produced by the burning of fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that we are quickly running through. The price of fossil fuels has continually risen due to the high demand and conflict with other countries. The instability of our economy, especially concerning fossil fuels, has caused anxiety about our future power source.

Also, the use of fossil fuels also has many negative effects on the condition of our environment. Fossil fuel-fired power plants alone create 67% of the nation sulfur dioxide emission, 40% of the man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and 23% of the nitrogen oxide emissions. These gases result in the deterioration of the ozone layer which leads to climate change, as well as immediate problems of smog and haze. As the availability of fossil fuels decrease, research has changed its focus towards developing alternative energy sources that use renewable resources.

The Smith family has become aware of both the increasing costs and negative impacts their existing heating and cooling system has on the environment. Our team has been hired to help determine the benefits of installing an alternative energy system in their three bedroom residential home. After analyzing each choice, a recommendation will be made for the best option.


In the past, alternative energy systems were not a feasible product for residential home. However, in recent years they have become readily accessible to those who wish to live a more environmentally friendly and economically efficient lifestyle. In order for the Smith family to proceed with the installation of any new energy system, there are four key requirements which must be fulfilled.

1. The cost and installation of the new energy system must be affordable. To be considered an affordable option, the total initial cost must fit into the family’s budget of $10,000.
2. The use of the new system should create a significant decrease in the utility costs of the home. The current utility cost for the family is approximately $160 per month. A benefit-cost analysis will be developed for each option in order to determine which would be the most economically appealing.
3. The replacement system must have a positive impact on the environment. The family wants to live a more “green” lifestyle; therefore the affects to the environment will be compared to their current system.
4. The neighborhood’s Housing Association requires that the system must be aesthetically pleasing. This means no bulky equipment and the system must been hidden from view in the street. Also, the system must be quiet and cause no distractions for neighbors.

Each requirement is equally important; therefore each option available will be analyzed based on these constraints. The final recommendation will select the energy system that best fulfills each requirement.

Alternative Energy Sources

Option 1: Solar Energy
The first alternative energy source research is using solar energy to replace the existing system. Solar panels installed on the roof allow for sunlight to be absorbed by solar cells which directly convert the energy to DC power. An inverter then changes the DC to AC power, which can be used by most common household appliances. The solar panels would provide during the day, while the current electric provider would supply power at night and on cloudy days. If the solar panels produce more energy than required for the home, the utility company will allow for net metering. This allows for the excess power to return to the grid and credit the family’s account.

The approximate cost of the equipment and installation of the solar panels is $6,500. The solar panels are estimated to produce 4.1 BTU per month, therefore reducing the monthly electric bill by $80. A major advantage in using solar panel is that there are no other electrical expenses required to power the system after it is installed. Also, solar panels normally require little to no maintenance over a 50 year lifespan. The installation of the solar panels will also add overall value to the home. If the homeowners choose to sell, they can advertise an environmentally friendly system that creates a fixed, lower monthly bill.

The placement of the solar panels will affect the overall efficiency of the system. Based on the orientation of the Smith family home, the front of the house receives the most viable sunlight. However, due to the Housing Association’s restrictions the panels would need to be placed on the back side of the home. The solar panel would still intake enough solar power to benefit the home.

Using solar energy has many environmental advantages. First of all it is a renewable resource that is readily available almost everywhere. Also solar power is a non-polluting resource, meaning it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases nor harm the surround ecosystem during the acquisition. When acquiring solar energy no harm is done to the surrounding ecosystems

Option 2: Wind Energy
The second alternative that is available for the Smith family is the use of wind energy. Whenever the wind blows, the propellers rotate and produce electricity that is viable for residential use. As with the solar power system, if the wind generator exceeds the electricity required for the home net metering occurs. Therefore the electric company is practically paying for the excess energy yielded.

Since wind energy is a much newer technology accessible for residential homes, the initial costs are higher than other options. A wind energy generator would cost approximately $8,000 to $10,000 to purchase and install. Based on average wind conditions, the monthly electric costs would decrease by $500 to $800.

Wind is a renewable resource that virtually has no negative impact on the environment. It doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases or hazardous wastes. There are several concerns that arise when a wind energy generator is installed, especially in residential areas. One major concern about wind energy generators is the noise of the equipment during operation. The newest versions developed are much quieter and below most noise violations in the residential areas. Also, wind generators must be mounted high in the air to achieve an optimum efficiency. The neighborhood Housing Association would allow for the installation of the wind energy generator; however, several neighbors are opposed to the idea.

Option 3: Hydroelectric Energy
The last option the Smith family could choose is hydroelectric energy. Using water power is one of the oldest renewable energy resources. With the advances of technologies, hydroelectric power can now be used from single family homes. In order for hydroelectric energy to even be a viable option for the family, a water source must be located near the home. About a fifth of a mile behind the home, a possible steady stream to use is located in a wooded area. The stream would then be dam, so that the energy can be retrieved.

The family would have to obtain permits and/or an easement from the property owners of the lot behind the house containing the stream. This would increase the overall initial costs by about $1500. The total cost of the equipment and installation would be approximately $13500. The average savings for a residential, single family home using a hydroelectric system is $62.

The hydroelectric has both positive and negative consequences on the environment. Water is a renewable resource, as long as the flow in the stream is steady. The hydroelectric system doesn’t emit any harmful gases or wastes into the surrounding area. On the other hand, the damming of the stream could negative effect the local ecosystem, especially downstream. Since the hydroelectric energy system would be located in a wooded lot, its aesthetic appeal would be of no concern to the family or Housing Association.


After thoroughly analyzing the three options of installing a solar, wind, or hydro energy system in the single family home, it was decided that the most valuable option for the Smith family is the solar power system. First, the initial costs were compared for the each of the alternative energy sources. The cost and installation for the solar panel system, $6500, was significantly cheaper than both the wind and hydroelectric systems which were $8000 and $13500 respectively. Therefore, the solar energy source was initially selected as the best option.

Besides being the most economically beneficial choice, the solar energy also had several other advantages. The solar panels complies with the Housing Association’s regulation the best because it could be easily hidden from view. Also, the solar energy systems fulfills the environmental wishes of the Smith family because it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases or other harmful waste products.

The wind energy system has many advantages, but there was one major factor that helped to eliminate it as a valuable option. Even though the housing association would allow for the installation of the wind energy system, it is large and not visually pleasing to everyone. Therefore, even though it is may decrease the utility costs it could also discourage buyers if the house was put up for sell.

The hydroelectric system had several disadvantages that caused for it to be eliminated from the practical choice for the Smith family. The extra costs of permits in addition to the initial costs of the systems are exceed the given budget of $10,000. Also, the stream couldn’t be predicted to be a viable producer of electricity over the lifespan on the system.

Overall, the economical and environmental benefits of the solar power system outweighed the improvements gained from the wind and hydroelectric energy sources. The final recommendation would be for the Smith family to purchase and install the solar panels. The initials cost could be recovered in a payback period of approximately 7 years based on a monthly savings of $80.


"Alternative Power Sources." Utility Free. Web. 17 Oct 2009. .

"Clean Energy." US Environmental Protection Agency. 12-Dec-2007. U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Web. 21 Oct 2009. .

"Hydropower." Renewable Energy World Network. Web. 21 Oct 2009. .

"Residential Energy Consumption Survey." Energy Information Administration. Jan 2009. Energy Information Administration, Web. 19 Oct 2009. .

"Residential Solar Panels." Solar Home. Mar 2009. Web. 21 Oct 2009. .

"Wind Energy Goes Mainstream." Southwest Windpower. 26 Jun 2009. Southwest Windpower, Web. 21 Oct 2009. .

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