There are dozens of simple little things you can start doing in your day-to-day life that, when done consistently over time, can mean a huge difference to the future of our environment … and there’s no better place to start than in your very own home. With just a few adjustments and additions, you can make your home much more energy-efficient. And while installing and implementing these changes may cost you a little extra up front, in the long run you’ll be saving hundreds on your energy bill.
You can begin your energy-efficient upgrades in the garage. There are lots of awesome energy-efficient cars on the market right now, like the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf and the Honda Fit. Hybrid vehicles can reduce smog-forming pollutants by up to 90 percent and cut emissions of carbon dioxide in half, meaning every time you hit the road, you’re doing a huge favor for the environment. You will have to install a charging station, which will will cost you about $500, but it will be worth it in the long run. Driving an electric car won’t just cut down on carbon dioxide; it can also save you an average of $5,000 in gas money over five years of ownership.
Moving into your home, there are tons of changes you can start making, but the one thing that should be on your mind the entire time is “Energy Star.” Energy Star is an internationally used rating system that lets you know that the product or appliance you’ve got uses 20% to 30% less energy than required by federal standards. If you’re buying any new appliance, chances are you can get one with an Energy Star rating. In the kitchen, for instance, an Energy Star fridge runs 9% to 10% more efficiently than a standard model and can save you up to $300 over its lifetime. An Energy Star dishwasher will save 10,000 gallons of water over its lifespan, cutting $32 a year from your water bill.
Most electronics for work and entertainment can also be found with Energy Star ratings. Energy Star-rated Blu-ray players and televisions run 25% more efficiently than normal ones and can save you $200 over the lifespan of the product. An Energy Star-rated laptop also runs 25% more efficiently than normal ones and will save you $35 annually if you have the unfortunate tendency of keeping your laptop running all the time (which we really recommend against!). Heating and cooling your house can also be granted Energy Star upgrades with rated air conditioners and furnaces. An energy-efficient furnace uses one-third the electricity of a regular furnace and can save you 22%. Energy Star-certified air conditioners use 8% less energy than conventional models and can save you thousands over the lifespan of the product.
Another term that can save you money and energy all over the house is “low flow.” Low-flow faucets and showerheads can be installed in any sink or shower to cut down on the amount of water you use every day. They work by decreasing the amount of water that comes out of the faucet but increasing the amount of pressure applied to that water, so people don’t notice the overall loss in water volume. A standard showerhead uses about 3.33 gallons of water per minute, which means a typical 10-minute shower will use about 33 gallons of water. A low-flow showerhead only uses 2 gallons of water per minute, which means you’re saving about 13 gallons of water every shower. Depending on how many showers you take, that could save up to 6,500 gallons of water a year and trim 43% off your hot water bill. The same applies to sink faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms. Low-flow sink heads use 32% less water than normal ones and can save you up to $92 a year on your water bill. Low-flow toilets use 1 gallon of water per flush as opposed to a normal toilet’s 5 gallons per flush, which can also save you up to 40% on your water bill.
Finding new ways to regulate your home’s temperature can also lead to new ways to lower your energy bill. A programmable thermostat will adjust the temperature in your house for you and can save you 10% annually on your heating bill. Some of the best ones on the market include the Nest, the Ecobee 3 and the Honeywell Lyric. In addition, a tankless water heater uses 30% less energy than a normal one and can save you up to $100 a year on your water bill. But there are also some old-fashioned, low-tech additions that will increase your home’s energy efficiency. Weather-stripping your windows will keep heat from getting out and lower your heating bills 10% to 15% a year. A ceiling fan only uses 2% of the energy an air conditioner does and could save you hundreds on your bill annually. You can even make your bed more environmentally friendly with some energy-efficient bedding. A down comforter will keep you warmer on cold nights, meaning you don’t have to turn the heat way up. Plus it’s cozy!
These changes, while seemingly insignificant, will have you sucking up less energy and producing less waste. You may not win a Nobel Prize for it, but the environment will be thankful for your actions all the same. The little changes we make today can mean the difference between giving future generations a healthy planet and a diseased one on the brink of destruction. So next time you enter your home, take a look around; you’ll probably see a dozen different ways you can start saving the world right now.
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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