Energy efficient light bulbs are an easy and inexpensive way to start saving on utility bills and to help clean up the environment. By using light bulbs that consume less electricity, you’ll lower your electric bills and decrease the amount of energy you have to pay for from the utility company. If your house uses solar power, you’ll decrease the electricity you use, and increase the amount of solar electricity that can be stored in your storage batteries. If you’re fortunate enough to be selling energy back to your utility company, you’ll be able to increase the amount of electricity that’s available to sell back.
Any way you look at it, if you decrease energy consumption by using energy efficient light bulbs, you benefit. According to the U.S. government’s ‘Energy Saver’ website, electric lighting comprises about 10% of the electricity that your household uses. That may not sound like a lot. But you can reduce that amount by up to 75 percent by making smart changes in the light bulbs you use.
Typical incandescent bulbs expend 90 percent of the electricity they use in the form of heat, and only 10 percent is given off as light. But low-wattage CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps) use only about 25 percent of the electricity that regular bulbs use to give off the same amount of light. So by switching to more efficient CFLs, you can start saving that 75 percent of your lighting utility costs right away.
But here’s a warning about the low wattage CFL bulbs. They are made using mercury, which means they need to be disposed of responsibly. If they’re thrown in the trash and dumped in a land fill, the mercury can enter the water table and pollute our drinking water. Even if you live in an area which treats water and removes mercury, remember fish and other wildlife — birds, foxes, squirrels, and perhaps even your own pet dog — drink ground water from that water table. It enters the streams, rivers and lakes in our environment, so it’s important to keep it clean and free of hazardous pollutants.
Mercury exposure can have severe effects on the nervous system, especially on developing fetuses. According to the United States EPA, it can “cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills”, as well as cause muscle weakens and tremors, speech and hearing impairments, headaches – and at its most extreme it can cause respiratory failure and death. So it’s important to be responsible when using and disposing of CFLs. Visit Earth911.com for a list of places to drop them off.
L.E.D lights offer one great freedom… You don’t have to worry about it for at least 20+ years!
Discovering how to use more sustainable (or renewable) energy is just as important as learning how to save energy. Why? Because both actions will help us become less dependant on non-renewable energy sources that pollute the planet or destroy parts of it in the process of extracting them.
Nuclear energy and clean coal are controversial sources. Their advocates claim they can be used safely and responsibly to keep energy costs down and keep the environment clean. But other people feel that history has already provided evidence of how coal pollutes the environment and how nuclear accidents poison populations for generations to come. So for this article, these two energy sources will not be included in the sustainable energy category.
But what other kinds of sustainable energy are there that we might be able to use? Solar, wind and geothermal are all passive forms of energy, and have been in use for thousands of years, so we have plenty of proof that they work.
The sun merely has to rise and shine to demonstrate that it can heat. And placing solar collectors (solar panels) in the sun’s direct path allows people to store and use the energy later in the form of electricity. On a large scale, solar panel farms can supply electricity to municipal power companies, university campuses, business parks. Individual homeowners can install a single solar panel to offset a small amount of energy use from the grid, or they can install an entire system that frees them from the electrical grid. In some areas, utility companies will buy back excess electricity.
Windmills have been used to pump water and mill grain since the 7th century. Today, utility companies around the world are using wind turbines in wind farms to produce electricity. On a smaller scale, homeowners can build individual windmills to supply power to their own property and even sell back excess energy to utility companies in many places.
Geothermal energy comes directly from the earth’s core. People have bathed in hot springs since prehistoric times; the ancient Romans used if in their residential heating systems, and several countries (including Iceland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Kenya, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica) use it today as 10 percent of more of their national energy production.
Biomass energy is made largely from organic material that is left over from other processes. For example, the garbage that accumulates in landfills emits gasses as it decomposes, and the gas can be used as a fuel source. Ethanol that’s added to gasoline in many states is made from corn and sugarcane leftovers. Biodiesel is made from leftover vegetable oil.
Energy efficiency is a good idea, both for the good of the planet and for saving money. Which concept motivates you more? It doesn’t really matter, because everyone benefits — you, your family, your neighbors, your city, your planet.
Who doesn’t want clean air, clean water and clean, healthy food? Saving energy is probably the most effective way we can clean up the planet. If we can stop polluting the air with gas fumes and carbon emissions from oil and coal heating, we’ll breath, drink and eat more healthfully. But using public transportation or buying a car that gets better gas mileage is not the only way we can save more energy.
What else can we do? We can make energy efficient choices in our daily lives. We can make our daily routines and living spaces more energy efficient. Some of the things we can do will cost money, others will cost time, and others will just be a matter of being willing and persistent about changing habits.
Let’s look at a habit you can change right away. If the room you’re in is lit using incandescent lights (regular light bulbs), turn them off when you’re the last one to leave the room. Incandescent lights don’t use energy efficiently – 90 percent of the energy they use is given off as heat, and only 10 percent is given off as light. So if you’re also paying for energy to cool your home, turning off those light bulbs will help you save on cooling costs, too.
Here’s an idea that will take a few hours, but can result in a lot of energy savings: conduct a do-it-yourself energy audit. Here’s a link to a U.S. government website that will help: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11170.
The process is simple. First, you look for air leaks – cracks and gaps that can let out the indoor air that you use energy to heat or cool. Finding and fixing many of these leaks can help you save up to 30 percent on your utility bills. Next, check your insulation – especially if your house has an attic. Proper insulation can reduce both heating and cooling costs. Also, check your heating and cooling system, and make sure it’s maintained in good working condition. Last, inventory your lighting; replace high-wattage incandescent bulbs with low-wattage compact fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that are left on for long periods of time.
And if remodeling is in the budget, make a list of the energy-efficient items you can include in the process. Insulated windows and doors will save energy and cut utility bills. You may be able to use energy-saving light fixtures, or install ceiling fans to improve both warm and cool air circulation. And don’t forget that there are solar energy alternatives for heating, hot water, electricity and pool systems.
A relatively new way to save energy with lighting is to use LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. They use only about 35 percent of the electricity that incandescent light bulbs use, and they can last up to 25 times longer. So instead of changing out those high-use bulbs several times a year, you’ll only be changing them every several years. That can save a lot of human energy, too – especially when changing bulbs in those hard to reach fixtures like recessed lights in vaulted ceilings or the fixture that hangs from the ceiling of the 2-story entry way.
Although LEDs have been used for decades as indicator lights in electronics (that glowing yellow light that tells you the unit is ‘on’), the LED bulbs that replace 40-60 Watt incandescents have only become available to consumers during the 21st century. Now you can find them to use in traditional fixtures like table and floor lamps, as well as in recessed and track lighting fixtures. The still cost a bit more than incandescent bulbs, but when your factor in how long they last, the savings benefit over the long run is clear.
There are lots of other factors in their favor, too. Unlike CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), LEDs can be dimmed, can be turned on and off frequently with no decrease in life span, turn on quickly, don’t shatter when dropped (they’re solid state), and dim over time when they’re reaching the end of their life rather than simply failing to turn on.
Their negative features include the tendency to overheat and fail in high temperature settings, and sensitivity to changes in voltage and current (they need energy sources which provide power within specific ranges). Also, the LEDs which produce cool-white light cause excessive light pollution – have you ever been distracted by an oncoming car that uses those overly bright bluish headlights while driving at night? At their most extreme, some LEDs that emit blue and cool-white light can cause blindness, so there’s still a need for caution when choosing to use them.
But LED technology is developing rapidly, so their safety will improve and their cost is expected to continue to come down. They are being increasingly used for commercial purposes (car and airplane lighting, street lights, traffic lights), as well as in traditional home lighting settings. Their positive features – low energy use, lack of heat output, long life span, durability –outweigh incandescent and fluorescent lighting so much that LEDs are fast becoming the lighting standard for the 21st century.
Energy efficient L.E.D lights page you can find a range of LED lights with specifications. My favourite led light is the 15 watt bulb that produces the equivalent of a 100 watt incandescent light globe. Keeps your rooms very bright, but for just a fraction of the electrical costs. These lights are truly amazing to say the least.
If you have a choice when building a new home, you can orient windows so they are energy efficient for your climate, site and the position of the house on the site. By taking these factors into consideration, you can use passive solar design to take advantage of the sun’s heat during cold months, and minimize its effect during hot months.
In regions where temperatures become extremely hot, you can position most of the windows to face north, or to benefit from shade trees. Installing awnings that shade the windows – especially during the hottest parts of the day – also helps reduce solar heat gain. And installing windows that are manufactured to reduce heat transfer will also keep interiors cooler.
Windows with glass that has Low-E (low-emissivity) coatings, spectral selective coating, and tinted windows are all good options, too. Low-E windows cut down on infrared radiation. Some of these also offer spectral selective coatings that allow visible light through, but reflect (or block out) specific wavelengths that produce heat. Tinted windows can also reduce heat transfer. Blue or green tints allow the most light in, while gray and bronze tints allow less light, so you may need to use additional interior lighting in the room.
In cold climates where freezing temperatures are the extremes, the majority of windows should face south. This orientation will allow light and heat to come in during the winter when the sun’s rays are low in the sky. During the summer, when the sun passes directly overhead, the south-facing windows should be shaded with awnings or overhangs if the temperatures get hot.
Windows facing east and west don’t provide much heat gain when the sun is low in the winter sky, so there is no particular passive solar advantage to them. Plan them for admitting light and access to any views they may look out on, and make sure they are made with dual or triple pane glass for insulation from the heat and cold. West-facing windows can quickly overheat a house in the summer, even in climates with cold winters, so installing windows designed for low heat transfer may be a good idea.
In cold climates, planting deciduous shade trees is another way to manage passive solar energy. They provide lots of shade during the summer months that will help keep the house cool. Yet after the leaves fall off and the trees are bare in the winter, they will still allow sunlight to enter the windows and provide light and warmth.
Energy efficiency is not just about how much fuel our cars use, or how much electricity we use at home or in the office. Those things are important, but they don’t account for all of the activities that affect overall energy usage on the planet. We also need to account for how much energy is used to grow, manufacture and transport the materials and products we buy.
For example, how ‘energy efficient’ is bamboo flooring, if it’s grown in China under farming conditions that use petrochemicals in the fertilizer? And how ‘energy saving’ is it if it’s manufactured in a coal-burning plant, then it’s shipped thousands of miles across the ocean on a diesel fuel burning cargo ship?
On the surface, it sounds like bamboo flooring is a great ‘green’ product when we hear from the advertising that it’s made with an easily renewable resource. Bamboo grows to maturity in just a few years, so it can be easily produced in a sustainable manner. But depending on the production and transportation methods used to make it, it might get a failing grade for being earth friendly or energy efficient.
If we’re really concerned about ‘saving energy’, we need to become aware of the energy that used throughout the whole process of creating ‘green’ products. When we discover that the farming, manufacturing and distribution processes are wasting energy, we can put pressure on manufacturers and distributors to provide products that use energy-saving practices along the entire production chain.
As consumers, we can also start looking for products made by manufacturers that use solar electricity instead of coal or nuclear fuel. We can do some research and learn about ways the cargo ships can be more energy efficient, and start asking for that, too. We can support local farmers and manufacturers who use energy-efficient practices. We can buy their products instead of products that are shipped across oceans on vessels which burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel in the process.
There is a lot we can do as consumers. The first step is to become aware. The next step is to become knowledgeable, then we can spread the word. Sadly, there are still many intelligent and good people who are ignorant of the facts surrounding real energy efficiency . Many people really are concerned about the environment, want clean air and water and food for their kids, but are not aware that many products they buy are not ‘energy-saving’ at all. Once they know the facts, they can make energy efficient choices.
The issue of motoring and the environment is one of the most hotly debated issues on the green agenda. As we know, a majority of the cars on our roads contribute in a greater or lesser measure to the pollution in our environment. People are not going to stop driving, and the issue of transport pollution is not going to slip off the agenda, so surely something has to give. Is there a way that we can keep driving and stop contributing to the pollution of our environment?
One thing that seems certain is that it is not going to become illegal any time soon to drive a car that causes a certain amount of pollution. Even the more gas-guzzling cars are not going to be banned, even if they may be taxed more heavily in some places. A car can be declared unroadworthy if it gives off more than an agreed level of fumes, but at the moment this seems to apply to cars that have a specific fault, and is not going to take the majority of high-pollution cars off the roads any time soon.
The possibility of driving a hybrid car that uses another fuel – hydrogen being one, or electricity another – to augment the power that it gets from less environmentally sound fuels is one that a lot of people are now considering. At the moment, there is a body of opinion that feels the less polluting cars of this nature to be inferior mechanically to pure gas cars. As technology improves, the chances are that this viewpoint will decrease, and at that point we will be on the road to greener driving in our cities.
Depending on how much you are prepared to do, the range of options for greener living can be modest but beneficial or it can be far-ranging and dynamic. A lot also depends on how much you can afford to spend, as some options are expensive and others are difficult to practise if you do not have the means. One way of helping the environment without having to spend too much money is to source as many of your goods locally as you can.
A lot of companies have come to the conclusion that sourcing the materials for their products overseas is a way of cutting costs and increasing profit margins. And while this might be true for a company that is buying in huge stock, an individual consumer can find good deals close to home that will be more beneficial. Locally-grown or bred stock is more environmentally beneficial because it does not have to travel huge distances – making use of air travel and road haulage as it does so – to arrive at the factories or stores that make it available to consumers.
It may be that you have a farm shop close by. The benefit of having something like this is that the transport involved in getting food from a farm directly to a shop is minimal. This costs the farmer less and they are likely to pass the saving on to their customers. As an additional benefit this means that the food is likely to be fresher and taste better. If you do not have a farm shop nearby, you might like to consider starting your own vegetable patch in your garden.
Most people view recycling as something that involves taking used items to a recycling bank and depositing them to be taken away by a municipal body or a private company to be turned into something else. However, recycling can take place in the home and be beneficial to you without ever having to pass through any other person’s hands. It depends on what you are willing to recycle or what you have the capacity to do for yourself. And the truth is that there are almost no limits to what you can do.
For example, you can recycle containers originally used to contain food simply by washing them out and using them to contain something else. Many people will use an old preserve jar to keep pens or paintbrushes in, for just one example. Others will use a water bottle that has been drained of its original contents to refill from public water fountains, thus saving time, money and resources that might otherwise be used in packaging.
Alternatively, you may find that if you are a gardener, much of your garbage can be used to make compost. Food and certain forms of packaging can be placed in a compost bin or heap and left to biodegrade naturally until it is usable as fertilizer for your lawn or flowerbeds. By doing this, you can have a beneficial effect on the environment, especially if you use compost to fertilize a small vegetable crop which means that you are getting the most beneficial form of locally-grown produce, that which you have grown for yourself.