Creating a Resilient Home: Page 3 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.

Rainwater harvesting. Even in areas with fairly low annual rainfall (less than 20 inches), rainwater can provide a great backup water supply. For every inch of rainfall on 1,000 horizontal square feet of roof, about 600 gallons of water can be collected. To depend on rainwater for 100% of your water needs, at least 20 inches of annual precipitation is usually needed, though that depends on the size of the roof and the seasonality of rainfall. Rainwater is usually collected from the roof (metal roofing is best), filtered, and stored in a tank (cistern). To use rainwater for drinking or cooking, further filtration and purification is advised.

Water storage. An even simpler backup water option is storing adequate water for emergency use. For potable uses (drinking, cooking, brushing teeth), a minimum of 2 gallons per person per day is recommended. So, having a week’s worth of water on hand for a family of three would require 42 gallons. Water should be stored in sealed containers out of direct sunlight in a freeze-proof location.

Composting toilets. Flush toilets account for a large percentage of our home water use. That can be eliminated with a composting toilet, which requires no water. Be sure to get one that does not require electric input, or with electrical components powered by a PV module. The simplest sanitary “emergency” toilet is a sawdust toilet—which can be a 5-gallon bucket, a lid, and some carbonaceous cover material, like mouldered leaves, sawdust, or peat moss, and an outdoor compost bin. The beauty of the bucket is that it is simple, easy, and inexpensive. (See the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.)

Resilient Transportation

Issues of resilience extend to the broader community and include access to key services. These vulnerabilities need to be addressed at the land-use planning level, and they include such strategies as increasing housing density and creating more walkable and bikeable communities. Often, zoning bylaws need to be changed to permit mixed-use development that makes walkable communities more feasible.

As we seek to make our own home and farm more resilient, we will be trading in our 12-year-old hybrid Honda for a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle that we can charge using surplus electricity generated by the PV system on our barn. Two to 3 kW of the PV modules on our roof will power all of our around-town driving, including commuting into work when it’s too cold to bike the 14-mile round-trip. Because we don’t (yet) have a battery bank for our solar system, we hope to configure the plug-in hybrid or EV so that we can use it to provide emergency power during outages.

Electric bikes, scooters, and motorcycles also offer a more resilient form of transportation if they can be recharged by an on-site solar-electric system (that also has batteries). Some people may choose to fuel their diesel engines with waste vegetable oil or make their own biodiesel, although both require a feedstock and the latter requires additional chemicals to process the vegetable oil into usable fuel.

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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