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Monthly Archives: December 2011
Did you know that lighting costs account for about 25% of the average American’s energy bill? That cost, when multiplied over a year, becomes an astronomical figure.
CFL and LED light bulbs have helped change that. Using energy saving technology, you can reduce your energy bill by 1/3rd to 1/25th of your original lighting costs.
Though LED lights used to be incredibly expensive, breakthroughs over the last few years have brought their cost down dramatically. Today, they’re a better value than both CFL and everyday light bulbs.
Here are some of the many benefits of energy-efficient LEDs.
==> Generates Twenty Times Less Heat
Heat energy is dissipated from an average light bulb. That heat energy uses up electricity to generate itself, energy that you’re paying for.
In addition, many Americans then have to spend even more electricity to cool their homes in part because of the heat generated from light bulbs.
LEDs on the other hand generate almost no heat – twenty times less than a standard light bulb.
==> Much Longer Lasting
A regular light bulb works by heating up a filament in an oxygen-free environment. Unfortunately, the light bulb dies when the filament burns out.
An LED light on the other hand has no filament. As a result, they last much longer.
A good LED light can last as much as ten times longer than the average light bulb.
==> Reduced Lifetime Costs
The standard light bulb costs five to ten times more in energy than its upfront costs.
An LED light on the other hand costs more upfront, but conserves a lot more energy in the long run.
In terms of total dollars invested over its lifetime, LED lights are better value than standard light bulbs and CFL light bulbs.
==> Better for the Environment
Standard light bulbs are terrible for the environment because mercury is used in the manufacturing process.
The chemical waste problem is compounded by the sheer volume of light bulbs that need to be produced.
Because standard light bulbs burn out so often and need to be replaced, the waste the standard household produces is astronomical.
LED lights are much better for the environment, because no mercury is used in the production process. You also need to replace them much less often, which means less waste.
These are some of the many benefits of energy-efficient LEDs. Replacing the light bulbs in your home is as easy as noting the wattage and going down to your local hardware store to buy LED lights.
There are quite a few choices you can choose from. You can get diffused bulbs, which take the concentrated light and turn it into a more spread out kind of light. You can get high power diffused, which are similar to 100 watt standard bulbs. You can also get them in track lighting, spotlight and floodlight forms.
Want to make your home greener without having to spend too much time and energy on it? There are a few simple things you can do that’ll make your home more green literally overnight with very little effort.
Here are a few simple improvements you can make for a greener home.
==> Invest in Auto-Off Lights
Getting a light switch system that automatically turns off is a great way to save energy and help the environment.
This is an especially good idea if you have a hard time remembering to turn off the light or have children who aren’t in the habit of turning the lights off.
==> Purchase Energy Saving Light Bulbs
Energy saving light bulbs use much less energy than the typical light bulb. They generate less heat and produce just as much light as your typical light bulb.
Yes, they are slightly more expensive than a run-of-the-mill light bulb. However, if you care about going green, this is a really simple way to do so.
==> Water Conserving Shower Heads
Water conserving shower heads are very affordable, easy to install and can help you save a lot of money on your water bills.
Essentially what they do is inject air inside the streams of water. It still feels like you’re getting a full blast of water on your body when you shower, but you’re actually using a lot less water.
==> Improve Your House’s Insulation
Improving your home’s insulation can save you a lot of energy in the long run. It might take a bit of upfront investment, but it’ll easily pay for itself.
Insulation will help you keep the heat in during winter and the heat out in summer. It’ll help you reduce both your air conditioning and heating bills.
Different kinds of homes and different climates work best with different kinds of insulation. Talk to a local expert to figure out your exact cost to benefit ratio.
==> Use Green Products Wherever Possible
There are many places you can opt to go green in your house. You can buy green dishwashing soap instead of commercial detergents. You can buy organic soap in your local Whole Foods instead of mass produced soap.
You can buy biodegradable plastics instead of plastics that clog up landfills. You can buy products made from recyclable products or which are themselves recyclable instead of products that contribute to our unsustainable waste growth.
These are just some of the many ways you can go green. Just about every room in your house can benefit from going green. Often times going green means not only helping the environment, but also saving money. It takes a little bit of effort in the beginning to set up your home properly, but the rewards more than justify the effort.
Reducing household waste is everyone’s responsibility. By reducing waste, you’ll reduce your environmental impact, influence the people around you to do the same and improve the planet as a whole.
Here are a few ways you can quickly cut down your household waste.
==> Compost Instead of Throwing Out Foods
Did you know that compostable foods account for as much as 25% of our solid waste?
Instead of throwing away those carrot peels and orange peels, learn to compost them. It’s not difficult. All you need to do is save up your compostable foods in a separate bin, then throw them into the dirt to compost.
It’ll enrich your soil while simultaneously reducing your waste.
==> Bring Your Own Bags and Cups
Whenever you go shopping, bring your own bag(s) to avoid having to use a plastic bag. If you get your whole family in the habit of doing this, you’ll save over a hundred plastic bags per year.
When you go out for coffee, make it a habit to bring your own cup. Often times coffee shops will even give you a discount or a larger portion if you bring your own cup.
If you swing by Starbucks every morning, that’s 30 cups a month, 365 cups a year that you’re saving the environment.
==> Buy Recyclable and Recycle
Check to see if the products you’re buying are made out of recyclable materials before you buy them. If there’s a choice between buying recyclable and non-recyclable, go with the recyclable materials every time.
Set up your own recycling bin and make sure your neighborhood recycles. If they don’t, see what you can do about getting a recycling program set up.
==> Buy Whole Foods
Instead of buying pre-packaged foods, opt to buy whole foods instead.
For example, instead of buying canned tomatoes, buy whole tomatoes. You instantly save yourself a can.
Avoid canned fish, pre-packaged mushrooms, fruit packages, etc. and opt for their whole food counterparts instead.
==> Donate or Sell Old Stuff
Instead of throwing out things that have been collecting dust, make it a habit of donating them or selling them off.
Something that you might have no interest in anymore may be worth something to someone else at a garage sale or on eBay.
If you have things that aren’t really suitable for sale, donate them to Goodwill or your local charity instead.
==> Buy in Large Quantities
A lot of things in the household will take less packaging if you buy in larger quantities.
For example, instead of buying many containers of small detergent boxes, buy one big box.
Whenever you see a choice between buying bigger or smaller, try to pick the bigger (provided that you will eventually use it all). You’ll also usually be paying less per ounce.
These are a few of the many ways you can reduce your household waste and help the environment. Remember: the environment is everyone’s responsibility. By reducing your waste, you’re doing your part to help the planet.
Passive solar windows are a one-time investment that can help you save energy over a long period of time. During summer, it can help keep the heat out and the cool in. During winter, it can help keep the heat in and maximize the heating rays of the sun.
Different climates means that people need to position and install their windows differently to take advantage of solar windows’ various properties.
==> Passive Solar Windows for Hot and Sunny Climates
In hot and sunny climates, glazed windows should be installed towards the south of the house.
This allows the windows to collect heat when the sun is low in the sky during the day. That means the heat won’t overheat by allowing the sun’s rays into the house during peak hours.
You can also use a number of shielding devices such as awnings or overhangs to prevent overheating during summer.
Other windows in the house can still be installed, but they should have a shade or glaze installed so they let less light into the house. Having north facing windows in a hot and sunny climate can lead to overheating.
==> Passive Solar Windows for Cool Climates
There are two main strategies for heating up a home with passive solar windows in cold climates: trombe walls and using a greenhouse methodology.
A trombe wall is a big wall, usually painted black, which allows you to absorb heat into the house without heat leaking out.
The main concern with using a big window is that while the sun’s rays can come into the home and heat up the air, the glass conducts heat so well that it can all escape back through the glass.
The trombe wall solves this issue by trapping the heated air between the glass and the trombe wall, then circulating it into the house before the heat has a chance to escape through the glass.
The greenhouse approach uses similar technology to a greenhouse to keep heated air in the house. You use a large number of windows to let the sun’s rays into your house, then you use a controlled timer to circulate the air within your house in a way that optimizes the heat and reduces the amount of heat that escapes through the same glass windows that let the heat in.
==> Are Passive Solar Windows for You?
Passive solar windows can work for both hot and cold climates, whether there’s a lot of sun or just a little bit of sun.
To determine whether or not your home qualifies for passive solar windows, talk to an environmental contractor in your area. Make sure you get several different opinions to get a definitive sense of whether or not it’s worth the investment.
Making green energy affordable and scalable is going to be one of the most important topics of the next century. Fossil fuels will run out – it’s only a matter of time – and we need to be prepared for that eventuality when it happens.
How do we make green energy affordable? Let’s take a look at the primary challenges, possible solutions and what you personally can do to help.
==> The Primary Challenges
The primary challenge of green energy is its cost. At the moment, energy invested into green sources yields a return that’s anywhere between three to ten times more expensive than fossil fuels.
That’s why there’s so much more money to be made in fossil fuels than green energy. The return on capital is much higher.
The intermittent nature of green energy is also a big challenge. For example, wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, making wind and solar power difficult to handle consistently.
In order for wind and solar power to be competitive, there needs to be significant breakthroughs in battery technology, both in price and in storage capabilities.
==> Working Towards a Solution
How does one overcome these challenges?
Green energy venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has looked at the issue as a matter of experimentation.
In order to make green energy scalable, a new technology that’s as profitable (or close to as profitable) as fossil fuels and coal needs to be discovered.
As long as green energy is only profitable when subsidized by governments, it won’t take off to the scale of fossil fuels. The reason fossil fuels is such a huge industry is because so much money can be poured into it profitably. In order for green energy to get the same amount of investment, it needs to offer the same level of profitability.
Khosla views getting green energy to that level as a matter of stepping up to the plate and doing as many ambitious experiments as possible.
The assumption is that nine out of ten experiments will fail and only one will succeed. But the one that succeeds can have a big impact on the planet.
==> What Can You Personally Do?
Chances are, you’re not a banker or scientist who’s actively working in the green energy industry. How can you personally help progress our future?
There are a couple things you can do.
The first is to get involved in local politics to get more green energy subsidies. Yes, it’s true that energy subsidies are not a scalable way to grow green energy.
However, the more money the green energy earns as a whole, the more money they’ll have to experiment with. Subsidies might not be scalable, but they’ll help companies get themselves to scalability.
Another thing you can do is to vote with your wallet. Buy energy-saving light bulbs, invest in home solar panels and buy a hybrid car rather than a gas guzzler.
Getting our planet to a green future doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll take major breakthroughs, but it’ll also take a collective effort on all of our parts.
Energy-efficient roofs are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, keep your home cool and save energy all at once. If your roof is getting to the point where it needs to be maintained anyway, getting energy-efficient roofing could turn out to be a lucrative investment.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re getting energy-efficient roofs.
==> Rebates and Tax Cuts
At the moment, PG&E is offering a $200 rebate for every 1,000 square foot of energy-efficient roof installations. Various states also offer tax breaks.
You may also qualify for the Energy Efficient Tax Breaks with energy-efficient roofing.
The tax incentives vary from state to state. If you’re on a different utility provider, talk to them about potential rebates. These can go a long way towards offsetting the cost of the roofing.
==> The Different Types of Energy-Efficient Roofs
There are a few different common types of energy-efficient roofs.
First you have metal roofing. These metal roofs are reflective and will divert the sun’s rays from your house, effectively cooling your home without taking up any energy.
They’re also extremely durable and can survive even in harsh weather conditions.
Next you have clay tiling. Clay tiles aren’t as reflective as metal, but a special coating can be added to increase their heat reflecting capabilities.
Often times clay tiles can be made in a sustainable manner to help reduce your environmental footprint even further.
Finally you have membranes. Membrane installation is much easier than the other types and can even be done without a contractor. Unfortunately, the material is much more expensive than other types.
Membranes are often used on commercial buildings rather than residential buildings.
==> The Process of Getting Energy-Efficient Roofs
The best way to get top-notch energy-efficient roofs at a good price is to talk to several contractors before making your decision.
Get at least three different bids for the job before you make your pick. Make sure you talk to the contractor about what roof type will work best for your house.
Do you get the sense that this contractor is really knowledgeable about their craft? Remember, doing a roof is a big project. Only hire someone that you really feel you can trust.
Try to negotiate a per-job rate rather than a per-hour rate. Per-hour projects almost always go over budget.
==> Energy-Efficient Roofs: Wrap Up
In summary, getting energy-efficient roofs can be a great way to help conserve energy and save money. There is a significant upfront investment, but it’ll more than pay for itself in the long run. This is especially true if your roofing needs to be replaced anyway. If you’re getting a new roof, seriously consider making the extra investment to help your planet and conserve energy.
Building and installing your own solar panel can help you save a lot of money on electricity, without extravagant upfront costs. Getting a solar panel installed professionally will usually cost you five figures. Doing it yourself, however, can cost just a few hundred.
Here’s an overview of how the buying and construction process works.
==> Buying the Solar Cells
There are a few ways you can buy solar cells. You can buy them as part of a group, in which case you’ll be able to buy from a wholesaler directly. Though this is perhaps the cheapest way to do it, it’s much more difficult to organize.
The easiest way to buy solar cells is to use eBay. EBay has several sellers providing solar cells, which means the competition keeps the price down to inexpensive levels.
==> Constructing the Solar Panel
A solar panel is basically a series of solar cells joined together. The electricity generated from the cells flows together until there’s enough electricity generated for actual use.
To construct the panel, you need a wooden container of some sort to put the cells in. You need wire cutters, strippers and soldering equipment.
All you need to do is wire the cells together to create a panel. You might also want to install a diode to make sure that energy doesn’t flow from the battery back into the panel when sunlight isn’t hitting the panel.
==> Inverters and Batteries
Energy generated from a solar panel comes in the form of direct current (DC) power. However, in order for your home electronics to be able to use the power, you need the energy to be in alternating current (AC).
Also, unless you plan on immediately using the energy generated by your solar panel in your home, you’ll probably want a battery so you can store the energy.
Inverters and batteries can cost quite a bit of money. Again, eBay can come in handy when acquiring low-cost or second-hand supplies.
==> Passing Inspections
The final step to installing your solar panel is passing inspections.
While it’s possible to create a solar panel and run it without passing inspections, you’re leaving a lot on the table.
First of all, you can’t qualify for the many tax incentives that come with owning a solar panel if you don’t pass an inspection.
You also can’t wire your solar panel to the grid without passing inspection. If you get permission to attach your panel to the grid, you can “sell” energy to the grid and actually have your electric meter flow backwards while your panels produce energy that you aren’t using.
That’s a basic overview of the entire buying and construction process. Building your own solar panels takes a lot of dedication, but the process can be immensely fun and save you a lot of money at the end of the day.
If the human race is to survive, we’re eventually going to have to switch over to completely renewable energy. At the moment, most of our energy comes from natural gases, coal and oil based energy sources. These energy sources are both dirty and unsustainable.
What other alternatives do we have? These are the five main different types of green energy.
Hydropower is currently the largest producer of green energy, accounting for over 70% of our renewable energy production.
The way it works is that special installations are placed underwater, where strong currents of water will push through a mechanical instrument known as a penstock.
This “push” is then converted into electricity and fed into the energy grid.
==> Solar PV
Solar energy is another common type of green energy. There are two main types of solar power: solar power for homes and solar power plants.
Though solar PV has gotten a lot of press in recent years, there are a lot of problems still.
First of all, though the production of energy is more green than oil, the process of creating the materials solar PV is made of is quite toxic.
Also, to make your money back from the savings of a solar panel may take as long as ten to twenty years.
==> Wind Power
Wind energy is a stellar renewable source of power. The key to wind power is to place these energy generators in high altitude, high wind velocity locations.
The return on wind power is quite substantial. The only downside is that aesthetically they block the view from just about any angle because of their size.
That said, wind power is more cost-efficient than solar and easier to construct than hydropower.
Geothermal energy isn’t applicable everywhere, but when it is the amount of energy generated can be very substantial.
Geothermal works by tapping into the earth’s intrinsic heat. It turns that heat energy into power and uses that as electricity.
In order to use geothermal, a high-heat underground spot must be identified.
Biomass is primarily the conversion of manufacturing by-products into electricity.
These by-products can include wood chips and fragments, leftover sugar, animal manure and anything else that’s burnable.
Biomass can also include materials produced specifically for the production of energy (e.g. corn ethanol).
The biomass is burned and the heat energy is turned into electricity. Biomass is a great way of disposing of products that might otherwise become waste; but is unlikely to become a primary producer of our world’s energy needs.
These are our primary sources of renewable energy. Of course, there are many other fringe sources of energy that are being researched all the time.
However, in order for a renewable energy to truly make sense, it needs to be both scalable and financially sustainable for investors. For the time being, the five listed above are the main sources of renewable energy.
Selecting and installing an energy efficient door can help you reduce your electric bill, as well as keep your rooms at a more comfortable temperature without having to turn on the AC or the heater.
Some door improvements cost a lot of money. For example, if you decided to completely replace your door, that’s going to be a heavy investment. Other improvements, such as weatherstripping, are easy and inexpensive.
Here’s what you need to know about installing energy-efficient doors.
==> What Kind of Door Should You Choose?
There are primarily three types of doors you can choose from: wood, steel and fiberglass.
However, if you want to conserve the maximum amount of energy possible, the best kind of door you can choose is a steel door that’s wrapped in wood.
This kind of door will give you the great look that a wooden door does, while giving you maximum insulating power.
==> Weatherstripping: Even More Important Than the Door
Even more important than the door are the areas around the door.
Most heat in the door area doesn’t escape from passing through the door. Instead, it escapes through the gaps under the door or the seams on the side of the door.
As a rule of thumb, if you can slide a piece of paper anywhere from inside the house to the outside of the house with the door closed, you have a serious air and energy leak.
Weatherstripping is the process of sealing up these gaps to make sure no heat or coolness escapes to the outside. You do this by sealing the bottom of the door and the seams along the door.
Weatherstripping costs much, much less than buying a new door and can have a much bigger effect. You can even do it yourself by going down to Home Depot and buying the weatherstripping supplies you need.
==> Understanding R Value
One final thing to understand about door energy conservation is “R Value.”
Your R Value is how heat resistant the glass on your door is. If you have a door panel, glass doors or even just decorative glass on your door, a lot of heat can escape through that glass.
The higher the R Value, the less heat escapes. When you’re buying your door, make sure you take your R value into account.
If everything else in your house is designed to conserve heat but your door has a low R value, you might want to consider getting the glass replaced.
Choosing, installing and leak-proofing your door can take several weeks. Remember that all the effort you put into it will pay off in energy saving in the future. You’ll also be helping reduce your environmental footprint by using less energy.