Clean Energy

Turning my home to zero energy

Sometimes I think I am a ridiculous person. I dream of a perfect world. A dream of zero energy life style. I simply want to see everyone tap the energy “thereby” where and what required, I may not attain it sooner but I believe to reach the state of “tends to zero” soon.

If you would like to realize my dream better, let’s come imagine, how I am going to do that. I am not going to build a new house rather I am upgrading an existing conventional energy system house to Net Zero Energy House (NZEH). The upgraded product is going to be a “Relative Zero Energy Home” not absolute or to the strict definition of the term NZEH. A “Relative Zero Energy Home” can be attained in three stages of investments
                    I.            No Investment: Awareness & development of constructive green habits/practices can help us attain zero energy a lot.
                 II.            Low Investments:  Use of small but “makes big difference” technologies.
               III.            High investments:  Switching to “high tech” green technologies
No Investment
v  It has been mandatory at my home to take shopping bag to carry groceries. Still plastic bags follow somehow to our home, which are collected in a beautiful cardboard box placed in our kitchen and we return them to the groceries and vegetable vendors monthly. It has benefited humanity in two ways First, Saving planet by reducing use of plastic bags, second, it builds good relationship with the vendors which ultimately pays back with some special discounts.
v  I choose to go for some energy and water conservation measures like switching off lights when not in room, use of water carefully.
v  I sell old recyclable waste like old newspapers, pet bottles, ketchup bottles, iron scraps and make some money. This practice gives me small money but big satisfaction.
v  It makes me happy to give my “old but right” clothes to flood victims and other needy people.
Low Investment
1.    Investing on compost bin and decomposing waste like kitchen wastes, flowers from mandir, twigs and dry leaves from terrace garden will help me maintain my roof top garden organic.(I plan to produce some organic vegetables ,let see how much my garden can supply) so, I brought a scrap chemical drum and made it a tumbler compost bin.
2.  Roof top gardening needs “small investment but bigger will”. I am presently collecting Styrofoam box (commonly known as white box of fish in Nepal) to plant some kind of organic vegetable on my terrace. Pet bottles can also be used to produce vegetables like Saag, Dhaniya, Onion .
3.      I am going to replace all my lighting fixtures with LEDs. LEDs are twice as expensive to CFL bulbs in Nepalese market but three times more efficient and five times longer life, which I expect will save my money in longer term.
4.      My home’s corridor and stair case are dark during day time too since they do not have sunlight during day time , so I have to keep some lights always ON. To economize the use of light in “time of need” only, I am going to use occupancy sensors to the lights. They are simple but amazing sensors which will ensure lighting ON only when humans are present in the area.
5.      Reduction of loads. Replacing my “big headed” CRT desktop monitor with LED/ LCD monitor will help me save almost 480 Whr of energy a day. On the other ways, eliminating DC to AC converter (which is mostly used in Nepalese urban households during power cuts) and using DC to DC converter for electronic gadgets like mobile charging and running internet router  will significantly save energy.
High Investment
First of all, I assessed on identifying major energy guzzlers at my home. The energy guzzlers found at my home were common appliances used in Nepalese households which are listed as below:
1.      Electric Rice Cooker
2.      LPG water heater for bathing
3.      Refrigerator
4.      LPG cook stove
5.      Washing Machine
6.       Electric Iron
7.      Lights
8.      TV & other Multi media
9.      Computers/ Laptops
10.   ½ HP Water Pump
So whats’ my solution,

  • Invest on Solar Photovoltaic system for lighting and powering other electrical appliances. I have estimated a 1.5 KW system to power all my electrical need.
  •   Replacing use of LPG water heater with solar water heater which will abundantly supply hot water for bathing and other hot water utilities.
  •   Ambitiously, I am experimenting to power an Induction cooker with solar PV and eliminate LPG cook stove forever.  For one reason, price of LPG has soared in Nepalese market and the other reason importantly cases of LPG fire accidents have rapidly occurred because of low quality cylinders and regulators in Nepalese market. For this I am investing for 200 Wp solar PV system initially. I will look over its performance and make changes as required to full fill my energy demand for cooking.
  • Use of solar water pump for pumping water from ground tank to top tank will eliminate present ½ HP pump.

 

Complexities on turning present house to NZEH
There are few complexities on attaining Net Zero Energy in existing house especially in urban house which has no (or very less) space for any structural changes. Like, my house would be more efficient if I could collect grey water and put that to flush the toilet. I would certainly choose to harvest rain water and use that for washing and gardening. Generally, NZEH have been built in cold areas of Canada, USA and Europe with good thermal insulation but here in our case in Nepal (for mid hills) we need not have to worry for thermal insulation which will significantly reduce the cost of housing. Moreover, we have to seriously worry for the efficiency of electronic and mechanical products if we choose to buy them from our local market, for example use of local inverters will ruin all of our effort of attaining zero energy.
Lastly, Zero Energy Home is a glory and glimpse of the future.
(Disclaimer: I do not claim that all my ideas are right for NZEH, I am experimenting on technologies to attain absolute Zero Energy so I would like notify that points mentioned above are my plans of experimentation and they can change with the results. )

Prakash Acharya is an entrepreneur from Nepal, passionately working to substitute fossil fuels with clean energy technologies. He co-founds Mukti Energy, a solar energy company providing a one-stop solution in the sector. He is also a big believer in change so he advocates and works for creating impact in society. His topics of interest spans from sustainability, zero energy, poverty reduction, sociology to smart city. He graduated from Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus on Industrial engineering. He is also a former assistant lecturer in IOE, Thapathali . Prakash is a fellow for Social Entrepreneurship Outreach Program 2014, Social Entrepreneurship Forum Sweden.

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