This day and age we are bombarded with Green Products and Energy Saving Devices, but do we really know what they mean or what our goal truly is? Why do we need to save energy? How will it help me? Will what I do really matter in the long run? These are the questions that we are all thinking about, now we just need some guidance and honest answers.
It is no secret that we cannot continue to increase the demand on our current power sources at our current pace. If our demand for power continues at the current rate, without improvements, we will be in trouble in very short order. Fossil fuels, coal natural gas and petroleum cannot keep up with our current rate of usage growth. Secondary sources of power generation, Nuclear Plants and hydro- electric plants, cannot be built fast enough to compete with demand. All is not lost though.
Renewable energy production, wind, solar and geothermal can increase very quickly and without much burden to consumers. Ten years ago we rarely saw Wind Turbine farms or Solar Farms, they were few and far between – literally. Today you see 250 megawatt wind farms throughout the Midwest (http://www.tradewindenergy.com/) , that’s enough power for about 75,000 homes. Large Solar Farms (http://www.solarpower.org/) of 5-15 megawatts are no longer uncommon to see, especially in the east and west. These are current and viable options to much of our energy needs. No longer is this a pipe dream, it is technology that is available today and as production increases the cost per watt will decrease dramatically.
Now, we are fairly helpless in providing our own renewable energy. Yes we can put a solar panel on our roofs or place a wind turbine in our back yards, but will this really help? Not as much as if we decrease our individual power consumption. This is easier than you might think, as long as we all have a goal. I propose that our goal should be to decrease our individual power consumption by 25%. Yes 25%.
This raises an obvious question – how can I decrease my power consumption by 25%? Simple, start with the following nine steps:
· Replace your home light bulbs with CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights). A single bulb will save $30 in its life, on average. They use 75% less electricity than standard bulbs. There is no down side, they save money and reduce our energy consumption. Remember your outdoor lights, CFL’s can really save money here.
· Turn off appliances when they are not being used. I am not suggesting that you stop using appliances, only to turn off the TV when you are not watching it, shut down the computer when it is not being used and of course shut off lights in rooms that are not being occupied. A desk top computer typically uses between 60 and 200 watts of power.
· Use cooler water when washing clothes. The cold/cold setting uses only 16% of the energy compared to the warm/cold setting. And the cold/cold setting uses only 8% of the energy required to run compared to the warm/warm setting.
· Heating and cooling systems are a very large source of potential savings. We have all heard it for years – turn up the temperature setting on your air conditioner. Once again, you do not have to stop using it, just get a programmable thermostat and turn it up 2 degrees over “normal”. Running a fan is much more cost effective than adjusting the setting down a degree or two. Also shutting off vents in rooms not being used can save some real money.
· Use your curtains and shades. In the summer keep them closed when the sun is shining on them. In the winter keep them open to let radiant solar energy in and then close them at night to trap the warmer air in. What could be simpler than this? You paid for blinds or curtains, use them.
· Do not soak dishes in the sink. Yes, I said do not soak dishes in the sink. A dishwasher uses around 37% less water than doing them by hand. Quickly rinse the dish and place it in the dishwasher. It would not hurt to turn down the heat on the dishwasher cycle also.
· Buy kids toys that do not use electricity. For every toy that uses electricity buy them one that does not. What could be simpler? Have them use their mind when playing and they might even get some exercise on top of it.
· Plant a shade tree on the south side of your home. You will want to keep it its expected height away from your foundation to prevent potential foundation repairs (http://www.myfoundationrepairs.com/) down the road. Shade trees are an excellent insulator and will help with those summer electricity bills.
· Consolidate trips in your car. It seems obvious but consolidating errands into a single trip will save you money. Resist the urge to run unnecessary errands. Wait until you have more than one errand to run and try to combine your trip to a single store if possible. Also, as Americans we all love the freedom that driving a car affords, but we waste money and energy by taking multiple cars to places when adding a person or two to your car would work just fine.
Now that you have read these nine easy steps to saving money you have to admit, saving money and energy is fairly simple. Common sense will take you far in your quest to save money and energy. Let the experts figure out how to add renewable energy generation and decrease our demand for foreign oil. You and your family can reduce your energy demands by taking a few simple steps, and you will save money!