For the ambitious among us, there are plenty of opportunities to save money and learn new skills with do it yourself renewable energy projects. But I’m not talking about making a solar back pack. I’m talking about creating enough energy to run your house or car or cabin - sometimes fabricating your own components - by learning how to create and install energy systems yourself. Here are 6 DIY renewable energy projects that are grand in scope and - potentially - in pay off.
: There’s a ton of sites that have information on DIY solar projects from panels to heaters. BuildItSolar
has hundreds of solar projects (and wind and biodiesel and geothermal). Take for example the $1000 Solar Hot Water Heater
for cold climates (actually, $850). There are 20 pages of instructions for either a copper/aluminum
version or a PEX/aluminum
version. This system provides about 75% of the hot water needed for a family of 3 and can save hundreds a year. There are also instructions on installing your own solar photovoltaic panels
, including directions for doing your own solar site survey
and a guide to selecting panels. Costs for the systems range from as little as $1350 to more than $60,000 depending on the size and complexity of the system. There’s another site that says you can install solar panels for less than $200
, but also lots of warnings on the internet that it’s a scam. But if you want to go cheap, lots of folks suggest buying damaged solar cells on eBay
and refurbishing them. SiliconSolar
also has broken cells for cheap and Instructables.com
has step by step directions for using them. Or if you’re a visual learner, check out the various video instructions
. Feeling less handy than necessary for something this ambitious? You can buy a solar air heater kit
to heat a room for a couple hundred bucks or make your own out of aluminum cans
You might consider building your own wind turbine
for as little as $140
. You will definitely need some fabricating skills and a bit of electronic know-how, to make it work. If you want to get really fancy, you can spend several thousand dollars and install a PV and wind system with a battery back up that is grid connected
. This will run you more like $30,000 in parts, but then there are tax rebates and other incentives if you pass state inspection codes.
DIY electric car
: How about an electric car conversion for just $672
? Well, you have to get as lucky as those guys did to do it for that little. But even without that kind of luck, you can still consult the DIY EV wiki
for loads of information on converting your car to electric. Or you can go here
for all the steps to going electric. Not feeling quite that ambitious? Try a DIY electric bike kit
or do as this guy did and make it
If you wantto get fancy with your biodiesel, you can get a home processing plant
or the Microfueler
and have your own pump at home, otherwise you can go low tech
with it, just make sure you take the suggested safety precautions. You can go the home distillery
route, or how about making some ethanol from cheap wine
? As one web site asked, why make your own fuel? Because you can!
: How about a geothermal cooling system
for the cost of a few fans, curtains and a dehumidifier? If you have a basement, this might work for you for next to nothing. It’s not going to keep your house icy cold, but it might lower the temperature a good 10 – 15 degrees. Otherwise, TerraSource
has a DIY Geothermal kit. It is supposed to be ‘plug & play’ so easy to install. While you can save some money on the installation, the components still aren’t cheap.
: Large scale hydropower projects may not be very sustainable, but small, local hydro
is all the rage. It can be even better when it’s micro hydro and you do it yourself
. You can generate enough electricity for a small cabin for under $400. From water wheels to turbines, it’s all there. Again, you will need some fabrication and electrical skills. And it goes without saying that you will need to have access to a natural water source. Make sure, though, that you minimize disturbance to that water source and that you understand the upstream and downstream effects of your project. Just because a dam
is hand made doesn’t mean it doesn’t have repercussions for flora and fauna.