Creating a Resilient Home: Page 2 of 5

Intermediate

Inside this Article

In a heating-dominated climate, solar gain and good insulation can keep a home cozy without much energy.
In a cooling-dominated climate, earth-coupling and shading the home from the sun can make a home comfortable without much energy input.
With its Secure Power Supply feature, SMA America’s line of TL-US inverters can provide up to 1.5 kW of AC power when the grid is down but the sun is shining.
Portable solar power systems can provide emergency power for communication, lighting, and battery charging.
This AC-coupled system includes battery backup, integrated with a batteryless grid-tied photovoltaic system.
A solar water heating system can often provide adequate hot water, even without utility power.
Solar ovens like the StarFlower can bake without combustible fuel and without heating up the home.
The same energy that grows your fruits and vegetables can also dry your harvest.
Solar pumping systems can be AC-powered, DC-powered, or PV-direct (batteryless).
Having on-site rainwater collection and storage is a valuable addition to a home’s resiliency.
Electric cars are becoming more commonplace, and can be charged directly from solar-electric systems.
Electric-powered vehicles come in many sizes and shapes to meet different needs of range, climate, load capacity, and charging resource.

Water Heating. The most resilient water heating option uses solar-thermal collectors. Solar water heaters can be passive—thermosiphoning or batch-type (integral collector-storage)—or they can be pumped, using electric pumps and controls. With the latter, PV-powered pumps provide simple control: When it’s sunny, the pump operates, circulating water through the collectors.

Including a heat-exchanger in a wood heater is another option for resilient water heating, particularly for winter months when wood heating is likely to be in use. Note that modifying a clean-burning wood heater with a heat exchanger for water heating may affect performance and increase emissions. Some advanced European wood heaters include integral water heating, but these are very expensive.

Cooking. During a utility outage, how will you cook? A gas range can cover this, as long as the natural gas line isn’t turned off (often done during natural disasters to avoid fires) or you don’t run out of propane. You’ll have to light burners with a match, and most modern gas ovens won’t work without electricity, because of the glow-bar. Efficient wood cookstoves (and even cooking atop a wood space heater) are other options, though during the summer, adding that heat to the house is a problem. Outdoor grilling during the summer avoids overheating the house.

I have a small BioLite camp stove that uses wood (small twigs) and includes a small fan powered by thermo-electric technology (heat-to-electricity); this stove includes a USB port for charging a cellphone while cooking. Solar ovens are a backup option, especially for summertime power outages, but cooking is limited to daytime and full sun is usually required.

Resilient Water Supplies

In rural areas, access to potable water is often the biggest problem during power outages. Most of us have 240-volt, deep-well, submersible pumps that can’t operate during outages, so we have to drive somewhere to fill up jugs for drinking water, and we may haul water from a creek to flush toilets.

Water-pumping options. High-performance hand pumps can deliver water from the same wells served by submersible electric pumps. Bison Pumps and Simple Pumps are positive-displacement pumps, in which lift is created through valves that open when the piston is lowered (by lifting the pump handle) and seal when the piston is raised (by pushing down on the handle).

These pumps fit onto standard well casings in the same wells served by electric pumps and with a few strokes of the pump-arm, water is delivered to a bucket or to the house through a potable-water hose. In cold climates, weep holes that are drilled into the pipe below frost depth allow water to drain back into the well, preventing freezing, but keeping the pipe mostly full so that water is delivered quickly. Some of these pumps can lift water from a static-head depth of more than 300 feet.

PV-direct solar water pumping to a large cistern or other storage container is also great option to improve a home’s resilience. If positioned well, the stored water can be gravity-fed to the house or point of use.

Comments (1)

Frank Heller's picture

You seem to forget the most resilient system is one which can be maintained and repaired by the home owner; including redundancy. The more rural your residence, the more widespread the disaster--storms, floods, ice storms, etc. the harder it will be to get your dealer/installer to your place esp. if you aren't plowed out or your power is out for several days.

When all factors are weighed the propane or natural gas fueled backup generator is the one left standing. ....care for a photo of a rack of PV panels on a neighbor's house covered with ice and snow, and left that way for weeks?

Another impact is the effect of 'smart meters' which can be moderated from outside your home, altering the flow of power to it; or other grid restrictions on the flow of power into the grid under net metering

Local hydro-powered grids distributing power to restored mill buildings or small mill 'villages' are being seriously considered in Maine. Properly designed they can withstand flooding and even droughts; there are thousands of tidal mill sites which are immune to most disaster and use fairly simple technology like efficient water wheels powered by either flowing water or impounded water. They operate like they did in the 15th century with a large impound and a metered flow that is released during low tide.

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