Methods of Saving Electricity
Save electricity; save the planet; save money. It's possible to do all three simultaneously, but different circumstances may limit how successful you can be. Daily decisions can add up to real electricity gains, particularly in the area of modest household practices that reflect environmental awareness. Bigger efforts show mixed results as the technology to provide all-green energy evolves.
Capture the Sun
Photovoltaic systems capture sunlight and turn it into energy for a number of technologies, including powering wristwatches, road signs and satellites. Solar panels on the roof are a sign of ecological sensitivity -- and a hefty investment. A residential solar energy system is expensive to install although it saves electricity by generating its own power. More sophisticated systems save any unused energy generated for later use. Yale University reports that, as of 2011, however, a small, relatively inexpensive solar power module will allow homeowners to plug their solar panels directly into their home's energy grid (see References 5). If the cost of solar power decreases with the invention of cheaper technologies, there are still hurdles for homeowners. The U.S. Department of Energy points out that the greatest photovoltaic efficiencies are in areas where there is an excess of solar energy, such as the southwestern United States (see References 6).
Lower Light Bills
Energy-conscious households have no excuse when it comes to illumination. Light bulbs that produce more for less are widely available, and saving electricity is as simple as changing the bulb in the lamp. Light-emitting diodes, compact fluorescent lamps and halogen bulbs use only 20 to 80 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs (see References 2). Their longer life -- up to ten times that of incandescents -- offsets their higher cost. Daylighting, the practice of siting buildings to take advantage of natural light, can also cut the light bill, as can turning off the lights when no one is using a room.
Energy Star Appliances
Lower utility bills can offset the slightly higher upfront cost of energy-efficient Energy Star appliances (see References 4). As of 2011, Energy Star ratings are available for refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers and washing machines. Choosing the Energy Star label can result in considerable savings over the life of an appliance.
Up on the Roof
Paint the roof white or plant it green. Extremely sunny regions benefit from light-colored or "cool dark"-colored roofs that reflect bright sunlight. A "cool" roof may reflect up to 80 percent of the sun's heat, keeping the building below it cooler, decreasing consumption of energy-intense air conditioning. (See References 3, page 6) Others are enthusiastically championing the benefits of green roofs to insulate homes and to lower energy costs. A green roof includes a waterproof layer, growing medium and plants, which protect the building beneath it from extremes of heat and cold. Green roofs have many other environmentally friendly features, including stormwater management. (See References 1, page ii)
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based freelance writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Miami Herald," on CBS, CNN, ABC and in professional journals, trade publications and blogs. Crawford is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, currently studying green nutrition.
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