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Renewable Energy
for Your Home and Property
Renewable Energy: The Infinite Power of Texas

One of the most important benefits of renewable energy is that it generates electricity with little or no pollution. We can also reduce pollution by simply reducing our own energy requirements by conserving energy and making our homes more efficient. Examples of energy conservation measures are turning the lights off when we leave the room and installing programmable thermostats so we don't unnecessarily heat or cool our homes while we're not there.

As home and property owners, there are several ways we can integrate renewable energy into our everyday lives:

Generate Your Own Energy
A direct way of using renewable energy is to install renewable energy generating equipment like solar panels or small wind turbines. These systems can be cost-effective, particularly in rural areas where the only alternative is extending long electric distribution lines to serve the house or another small load. Many Texas ranchers use solar panels to pump water in a cost-effective manner. Others choose to augment their existing utility power with solar panels; in this arrangement, they reduce their electric bill by generating a portion of their own power needs.

Making Your Own Clean Electricity
This is a U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) web site. Generating electricity using your own small renewable energy system fits the circumstances and values of some home and small-business owners. Although it takes time and money to research, buy, and maintain a system, many people enjoy the independence they gain and the knowledge that their actions are helping the environment. renewable energy system can be used to supply some or all of your electricity needs. Some people, especially those in remote areas, use the electricity from their systems in place of electricity supplied to them by power providers (i.e. electric utilities). These are called stand-alone (off-grid) systems.

Renewable Energy Vendors & Services
SECO does not link directly to vendors, but you can visit the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association web site and select the Search Our Members tab. There you can search by the type of renewable energy that interests you. You can also find vendor contact information on the Texas Solar Energy Society web site and select the Find Vendors link for their database of vendors who provide products or services related to renewable energy. Of course, when talking with a vendor, always be sure to ask for references.

Buy Green Power
If you live in an area where you have a choice of electricity providers, choose a provider that emphasizes their commitment to renewable energy. All electricity companies competing in Texas are required to disclose information about how the power they are selling you is generated via a content label (which looks something like the nutrition labels found on many foods). You can use these content labels to compare power offerings from competing electricity providers.

If you live in an area where you don't have a choice of your electricity supplier (for example, if you are served by a municipal utility or rural electric cooperative that hasn't opted into competition) you may still be able to purchase a green power option from your existing supplier. Many utilities, including those in Austin and San Antonio, are offering more than one choice to their customers. Ask your electric company if they offer, or plan to offer, a green power option.

Can I Buy Green Power in Texas?
This U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) web site lists organizations that offer green power in Texas. The information includes utility green pricing programs, retail green power products offered in competitive electricity markets, and renewable energy certificate (REC) products sold separately from electricity. Included are Green Mountain Energy Company, CPS Energy (San Antonio), Austin Energy Green Choice, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy, Reliant Energy, First Choice Power, and Gexa Energy.

How Clean is the Electricity You Use?
In the United States, electricity is generated in many different ways, with a wide variation in environmental impact.  Traditional methods of electricity production contribute to air quality problems and the risk of global climate change. With the advent of electric customer choice, many electricity customers can now choose the source of their electricity. At this U. S. Environmental Protection Agency web site, you can use the Power Profiler to generate a report about your own electricity use.

Find a Home Energy Rater in Texas
If you want to improve the efficiency of your home, especially if you have high energy bills or your home is uncomfortable, consider contacting a professional to conduct a home energy audit. Your first step should be to contact your electricity provider to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits to their customers. If not, you can hire a home energy professional, such as a certified Home Energy Rater, to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency. Many home energy raters work with small businesses as well.

What to Look for in a Professional Home Energy Auditor
This U. S. Department of Energy web site gives tips on what to look for in a home energy auditor. Professional energy audits generally go into great detail. The energy auditor should do a room-by-room examination of the residence, as well as a thorough examination of past utility bills. Before contracting with an energy auditing company, it is suggested that you take the following steps:

  1. Get several references, and contact them all. Ask if they were satisfied with the work.
  2. Call the Better Business Bureau and ask about any complaints against the company.
  3. Make sure the energy auditor uses a calibrated blower door.
  4. Make sure they do thermographic inspections or contract another company to conduct one.

Find a Home Energy Rater in Texas
This ENERGY STAR database lists home energy raters who have qualified at least one ENERGY STAR new home in the last 12 months. Many home energy raters work with small businesses as well.

Texas HERO
The Texas Home Energy Raters Organization (HERO) is a not-for-profit professional organization that promotes the benefits of energy conservation initiatives and monetary incentives to homeowners, homebuilders and businesses. Texas HERO consists of independent energy management professionals located throughout Texas. Many home energy raters work with small businesses as well.

RESNET Home Energy Ratings
Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) sets the standards for raters, rater trainers and energy auditing software that are used in the housing industry. A rating is required to qualify the home for an energy-efficient mortgage and for a home to be labeled as ENERGY STAR®. RESNET can help you find a rater near you. RESNET is a national network of mortgage companies, real estate brokerages, builders, appraisers, utilities and housing and energy professionals whose mission is to improve the energy efficiency of the nation's housing and to qualify more families for home ownership by expanding the national availability of mortgage financing options and home energy ratings.

Design for Renewable Energy
When building a new home or remodeling an existing one, pay attention to details such as passive solar design (taking advantage of the sun's ability to heat the house in winter simply by proper house orientation and window sizing), roof overhangs (which can be designed to keep the sunlight out in summer and let it shine in during the winter), daylighting (allowing the sun to provide much of the home's lighting needs during the day), and other factors. Here are some materials that can get  you started.

Make the Most of the Sun and Wind
Often, we can use readily available renewable energy to accomplish tasks that we've grown accustomed to completing with electric or gas power. For example, we can reduce our reliance on electricity and other fuels by trying our hand at solar cooking, drying our clothes outside, even using the sun's energy to make tea! Here are some ideas to get you started.

Solar water heaters are another great technology that is vastly underused in Texas. While these devices don't generate electricity, they do reduce the need for electricity or gas for your water heater. Solar water heaters can provide 50-80% of the hot water needs for typical homes and businesses in Texas. Here are some materials to get you started:

Additional resources:

  • Fact Sheet - Energy Conservation in the Home

  • Residential & Business Energy Savings Links
    This is a State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) web page with links to energy-saving organizations, services and online resources. . Look here for information on:
    • professional home and business energy raters
    • electric service providers
    • green power providers
    • low-income assistance
    • lots of energy-saving tips for homes and businesses

  • Ask an Expert!
    DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Information Center answers questions on EERE's products, services, and technology programs, refers callers to the most appropriate EERE resources, and refers qualified callers to the appropriate expert networks. You may contact the information center by calling 1-877-337-3463 or by completing an online form. A customer service specialist or energy expert will respond to your inquiry.

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This page has been selected as one of the best on the Internet by science educators under the SciLinks program sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association
This page has been selected as one of the best on the Internet by science educators under the SciLinks program sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association