As concerns about the health of the planet rise, more people are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the Earth through reducing their energy consumption. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and the best place to start is in your home.
Home appliances require energy sources
Running the appliances in your home requires the use of energy – and the use of certain types of energy, like gas and coal, can have a big impact on the environment. This is because fuel sources like gas and coal emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they are burned. And carbon dioxide is the main concern when it comes to managing man-made climate change and keeping the atmosphere clean.
Solar power has become popular over the last decade, and with good reason. The upfront costs for installation may be higher, however, using solar energy is a decent long-term strategy to save money and reduce your CO2 impact on the atmosphere.
There is one caveat many people are unaware of when it comes to solar power. Although solar panels do not emit CO2, their production process creates a good amount of CO2.
When solar isn’t an option
For those who don’t have access to solar power, there are three main sources of energy to choose from: electric, natural gas, and propane.
Electric energy is easier to maintain than gas, but can be more expensive. And like gas, electric energy generation emits CO2 into the atmosphere. It seems that no matter what source of energy you choose, you cannot escape producing CO2.
Natural gas is more affordable and because it’s delivered through an underground pipeline, it’s more dependable in adverse weather and storms. Also, natural gas has the lowest output of CO2 when burned.
Propane is not generally supplied by a power company, and requires homeowners to purchase or rent a tank that is stationed somewhere on the property. Although the homeowner is responsible for refilling the tank, the cost can be significantly less than natural gas. And propane comes in second next to natural gas for having the lowest CO2 emissions.
Although natural gas and propane are more affordable solutions to power your appliances, there is a significant drawback: the amount of energy it takes to keep a pilot light going.
Pilot lights waste energy
One of the largest sources of wasted energy in the home comes from pilot lights. A pilot light is a tiny gas burner with a flame that burns continuously in order to light other, larger burners when necessary. Pilot lights can be part of many standard gas-powered appliances such as stoves, washers, dryers, water heaters, and even refrigerators.
If your home is powered by natural gas or propane, you may have multiple pilot lights. And, if you have multiple pilot lights, you’re probably paying a good amount of money (and wasting energy) just to keep them going when not in use.
The real cost of pilot lights
If you’re able to access your gas meter, you may want to do the math to see how much your pilot lights are costing you. As many people are discovering, it can cost $170/year or more just to run two pilot lights. And if you’ve got a home full of gas-powered appliances, you may be paying a pretty penny just to keep those pilot lights going.
There is another, more permanent cost to having multiple pilot lights in your home—the environment. For every pilot light that remains lit, you’re producing CO2 as it burns, which adversely affects the environment 24 hours a day. Having a few pilot lights in your home may not seem significant, but if you think about how many other people on the planet are burning multiple pilot lights, it adds up quickly.
Pilot lights aren’t always necessary
While a home powered by natural gas is more eco-friendly than a home powered by coal and oil, it’s possible to take your energy saving efforts a step further by eliminating some of your pilot lights. Turning off your heater’s pilot light in the summer, disabling the two back burners on your stove, and installing a tankless, or on-demand water heater are three simple ways you can accomplish this. An on-demand water heater uses far less energy than a standard water heater because the pilot light and additional burners are only lit when you engage the hot water.
In addition to using less energy, an on-demand water heater is much easier to maintain since its parts are mostly replaceable. In contrast, when a traditional water heater malfunctions, the entire unit usually needs to be replaced.
Living off the grid can save the planet (eventually)
If you live off the grid, you probably use propane to power some of your appliances. By being self-sufficient, you’re telling the power companies that there is a demand for more responsible energy sources, and if enough people stop using their sources of energy, they will be more likely to offer more renewable energy sources in the future.
Saving energy saves the planet
The bigger picture is that saving the planet starts with saving energy at home. Our individual choices may not seem like they make an impact, but collectively they do.
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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