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This page is dedicated to putting together the various energy efficiency options into a larger picture of overall efficient use of energy, and how efficiency gains in one technology might have unexpected and positive consequences in other related technologies.
The Smart Grid Dictionary defines energy efficiency as technologies, applications, and services that reduce the consumption of energy without impacting operations or behaviors.
For example: How will highly efficient lighting sources like light emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact flourescent lights (see links below) affect a technology like home-based solar? On the surface one might find it hard to see a connection or relation between lighting and home-based solar. But, one has to understand that the cost of a home-based solar power system is very dependent on the amount of electricity that the solar powered energy system is required to deliver. A major advancement in lighting and/or appliance efficiency could reduce an average home's power needs dramatically, and make home-based solar much more practical.
Ben Franklin -- America's First Proponent of Energy Efficiency - Franklin, who memorably stated back in the 1700s, "A penny saved is a penny earned", was the first to describe the concept of treating energy efficiency as an energy resource. Today he would be talking about negawatts and energy efficiency. (TheEnergyCollective; January 16, 2012)
- U.S. Government and Energy / Efficiency / Conservation >
Cap & Trade - A License Required For Your Home - Beginning 1 year after enactment of the Cap and Trade Act, you won't be able to sell your home unless you retrofit it to comply with the energy and water efficiency standards of this Act. H.R. 2454. Passed by the House of Representatives, if also passed by the Senate, this act will be the largest tax increase any of us has ever experienced. (VegHaven; Nov. 19, 2009)
- Featured: Jobs > Energy Efficiency / Denby >
Denby Energy making energy auditing easy (interview) - After seeing how easy it is to do energy audits that can help businesses save a lot of money on energy, attorney, Michael Denby set up an online training program to instruct others how to embark on this as a $70k - $130k/year career. (PESN; Jan. 1, 2009)
- A Quest for an Energy-Efficient House - Preventing energy waste has become a household preoccupation in the era of nearly $4-a-gallon gas and rising prices for everything from airline tickets to milk. Whether motivated by environmental impulses or a desire to reduce utility bills, many Americans are researching ways to create a more energy-efficient home. (Wall Street Journal; Sept. 18, 2008)
- BPI Certification - CleanEdison Offers various training courses to prepare students for Building Performance Institute certifications, which are important qualifications for any contractors interested in entering the energy auditing business. The most popular course is the BPI Building Analyst and Envelope Professional Combo course that provides all the skills and knowledge needed to become an energy auditor in one week.
Combining Efficient Lighting with Advanced Power Generation
If advanced power generation and LEDs are combined, then we're talking about potentially producing the same amount of light for an average home, but only using 1/12 the energy that is currently used (1/6 from LEDs times two from advanced energy generation)! Even with currently available compact flourescent lights we could produce the same amount of light with only 1/8 the energy (1/4 from flourescents times two from advanced energy generation)! These are startling facts. Think about it next time you read about a controversy over sighting a dirty coal plant in your area.
In either case, we're talking about highly efficient ways of delivering energy to consumers. How many new dirty power plants would we have to built if our whole economy switched over to LEDs and compact flourescent lights and advanced energy generation? Would we even be talking about building new nuclear plants? How much money would be saved by large energy users like corporations and government? How will those money savings boost are standard of living? These questions deserve answers.
How Efficient Lighting Might Affect Home-Based Renewables
Overview - How Efficient Lighting Affects Home Renewables?
How will user-end efficient lighting sources like LEDs or compact flourescent lighting affect things like home-based renewable energy generation from souces like solar?
Probably the most easily overlooked benefit of efficient lighting sources such as LEDs or compact flourescents is the fact that if an average American home swtiched to these highly efficient energy sources, then generating one's electricity as-needed at their home via renewables like solar would be much more practical. This is because a lot less electricity would be necessary to deliver what the average home would need for their electricity needs. This in turn could easily make solar a 100% electricity option for homeowners and also bring down the cost of solar installations, as they wouldn't need to be so powerful to deliver the necessary electricity.
Here's How it Would Work
Let's assume an average 3-4 bedroom American 1,800 square foot house now requires 1,500 Kilowatts (KW)/per month of electricity to run comfortably (see Source below). Let's say we could bring the level of electricity necessary to run comfortably down to 700 KW/month for a 3-4 bedroom house. This would be done by replacing all of the current incandescent lights with far more efficient LEDs or fluorescent lights.
Then, suddenly solar would be a lot more practical to run an entire house's electrical needs. Instead of needing a prohibitively expensive 5 KW solar array and battery bank ($40,000) necessary to deliver 1,500 KW/month reliably. All you would need is a modest 1 KW solar array and battery bank capable of delivering either 700 KW/month reliably. 1 KW solar array systems typically sell for around $10,000.
- Source: How much electricity does an average 2-story 3-bedroom house use? Estimates of average monthly electricity usage vary widely from 600 KW/month to well over 2,000 KW/month. Assuming the average American isn't very concerned with using energy sparingly and tends to have a lot of electric gadgets, this 1,500 KW/month figure seems realistic.
See the example below for a more detailed explanation of how efficient lighting makes home-based solar practical.
Of course, you'd might want a good battery bank in case of a blackout or to cover nighttime solar usage. But, battery technology is sufficient already and improving all the time (see link below).
The potential is unlimited as solar cells become more powerful and cheaper using advanced production methods like nanotechnolgy (see link below), and battery technologies improve and become less expensive, and as lighting and other appliances become more efficient. It's all coming together to make home-based solar a much more realistic option in the near future.
Breaking Down the Cost Savings
Let's fact it, people utimately want to know how much money they will save from a new technology? These savings and payback times will be dependent on a number of variables, including state rebate programs, lighting and appliance efficiency and the cost of the home-based solar power system chosen by the homeowner. In my state (NJ), the state offers a 70% rebate on new solar installations, so I'll use that in my example of cost savings.
Let's say the average American house uses 1,500 KiloWatts (KW) of electricity per month (based on a reasonable estimate). By installing super-efficient state-of-the-art lighting and appliances to reduce your electricity needs to 700 KW/month,t would mean a modest $10,000 investment in a 1 KW solar could deliver all your energy needs. No more use of dirty grid power. A 1,500 KW/month system would require about 5 KW of installed solar, which is around $40,000.
In some states that 1 KW solar investment could be as low as $3,000 after rebates. Now, if for a one-time $3,000 investment, you could stop paying an electric bill essentially forever, that is a strong incentive to go solar. Super-efficient lighting makes this possible, otherwise you'd be looking at a hefty $40,000 investment, even a pricy $12,000 investment after rebates. Well beyond the means of most homeowners. But, if the costs could be brought down to $3,000 for a 700 KW/month 1 KW solar installation, via efficient lighting/appliacnes, then suddenly solar is within reach of millions and actually makes a lot of economic sense.
I use about $1,200/year in electricity. So, in just under 3 years, my $3,000 solar system would be paid for and I'd really start saving money in a very real way. If I was using 1,500 KW and required a $12,000 (post-rebate) solar system, then my packback would be about 10 years. You can see how a change in the efficient use of electricity in the home might have unexpected and positive societal consquences. Suddenly, solar goes from being an expensive pipe dream to being a technology capable of delivering all the electricity needs of a homeowner at a reasonable cost.
Also, consider this. What if you could buy a home that cost $120/month to provide electricity for or a home that has a paid for solar system that provides free electricity. Obviously the solar house is going to be more valuable when it comes time to sell.
Other Home Renewable Options:
This is of course true for any home-based alternative energy power system from home-based wind power (this in an option in windy parts of the county, such as along the ocean) or micro-hydro (people with nearby streams can often tap the power of the stream to produce a small amount of electricity) or even a home-based fuel cell (as the fuel cell required would be much smaller and cheaper if electricity consumption was cut by 50% to 75%). Something as simple as a major advancement in lighting technology efficiency can have a very large ripple effect on the delivery end of a home-based alternative energy power systems.
Home Energy Checklist
To Do Today
- Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands
- Start using energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers.
- Survey your incandescent lights for opportunities to replace them with compact fluorescents (CFLs). These lamps can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. The best targets are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day. New CFLs come in many sizes and styles to fit in most standard fixtures.
- Check the age and condition of your major appliances, especially the refrigerator. You may want to replace it with a more energy-efficient model before it dies.
- Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.
- If you have one of those silent guzzlers, a waterbed, make your bed today. The covers will insulate it, and save up to one-third of the energy it uses.
- Visit the hardware store. Buy low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and compact fluorescent light bulbs, as needed. These can be purchased from any hardware or home improvement store. CFLs are now sold at some drug stores and grocery stores.
- If your water heater is old enough that its insulation is fiberglass instead of foam, it clearly will benefit from a water heater blanket from the local hardware or home supplies store. (To tell the difference, check at the pilot light access (gas). For electric water heaters, the best access is probably at the thermostat, but be sure to turn off the power before checking.)
- Rope caulk very leaky windows.
- Assess your heating and cooling systems. Determine if replacements are justified, or whether you should retrofit them to make them work more efficiently to provide the same comfort (or better) for less energy.
- Collect your utility bills. Separate electricity and fuel bills. Target the biggest bill for energy conservation remedies.
- Crawl into your attic or crawlspace and inspect for insulation. Is there any? How much?
- Insulate hot water pipes and ducts wherever they run through unheated areas.
- Seal up the largest air leaks in your house—the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are. All the little, invisible cracks and holes may add up to as much as an open window or door, without you ever knowing it!
- Set your thermostat back (forward) when you can accept cooler (warmer) conditions. This generally includes night time and whenever you leave your home for several hours. Many people find it easier to use an ENERGY STAR programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the thermostat based on your time-of-day instructions.
- Schedule an energy audit for more expert advice on your home as a whole, or learn how to conduct your own by visiting the Home Energy Saver Web site. A directory of available energy audit services by state is available at RESNET.
- Insulate. If your walls aren't insulated have an insulation contractor blow cellulose into the walls. Bring your attic insulation level up to snuff.
- Replace aging, inefficient appliances. Even if the appliance has a few useful years left, replacing it with a top-efficiency model is generally a good investment.
- Upgrade leaky windows. It may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weatherstripping and storm windows.
- Have your heating and cooling systems tuned up in the fall and spring, respectively. Duct sealing can also improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of your system (warm-air furnace and central air conditioners). Know that you are making a difference!
Save Money and Energy
- This article, Eleven Easy Things You Can Do to Save Energy and Money at Home, appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of NESEA's magazine, the Northeast Sun. It was written by Warren Leon, NESEA‚s executive director.
One of the nice things about saving energy is that it not only reduces pollution, but it can also save you money. At the same time that your electricity and heating bills are going down, you can think about all the extra coal, oil, and natural gas that would have been burned if you hadn‚t taken steps to save energy. Here are eleven easy ones that are guaranteed to save you money:
- 1. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
If you wash your clothes in cold water, you will find that they still end up clean. Most modern liquid laundry soaps are designed to work well in cold water as well as hot. Hot water is generally only necessary for heavily stained clothes. By washing your clothes in cold water, you will eliminate the majority of the environmental impacts, since 90% of the energy involved in washing clothes by machine goes to heating the water, not to running the machine.
- 2. Use the Microwave
A microwave only uses one-third the energy of a conventional oven. It therefore allows you to cut down on your consumption of electricity or natural gas. Because it throws off less heat into your kitchen, you will also keep your kitchen cooler and save on summer air-conditioning costs (if you have an air conditioner). Alex Wilson and the other authors of the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings have estimated the costs and energy use of using different methods for cooking the same casserole. What would take an hour in a 350-degree electric oven takes only one-quarter of that, or fifteen minutes, in a microwave. The difference in energy used and expense is even greater; 2.0 kilowatt-hours and 16 cents versus 0.36 kilowatt-hours and 3 cents. Although crockpots, toaster ovens, frying pans, gas ovens, and electric convection ovens are all also better than a large electric oven, a microwave is two to nearly four times better than any of these alternatives.
- 3. Install a New Showerhead
Let's imagine you live in a household where there are five people who each take a seven-minute daily shower. If you have an old-fashioned shower head that uses five gallons of water a minute, your household will use about 64,000 gallons of water a year for showers. The federal government requires that new showerheads use no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. By converting to one of these, you will save 32,000 gallons of water a year and will need to heat much less water in your home‚s water heater. You will save money on both your water and energy bills. And, you can even find showerheads that use less than the 2.5-gallon standard. If you are handy, you will find it easy to remove that old showerhead with just a wrench.
- 4. Weatherstrip and Caulk
Few people get excited by the prospect of spending a Saturday afternoon weatherstripping and caulking, but several hours spent this way can yield considerable energy savings. Many weatherstripping and caulking materials, such as caulking cord, are cheap and easy to use. Most houses and apartments have small gaps around doors and windows that can be quickly sealed. If you want even greater energy savings, you should increase insulation levels in your home, but this will likely take more effort than to count as an „easy‰ way to save energy and money.
- 5. Install a Compact Fluorescent
Most lighting in homes consists of ordinary incandescent light bulbs, which convert electricity to light by heating a filament. The technology has not changed much since Thomas Edison. They are horrendously inefficient; only about 10 percent of the electricity used produces visible light, while the rest goes into heat. Since the 1980s, compact fluorescent lighting has provided an alternative that is three to four times more efficient. Replacing just one 75-watt incandescent bulb with an 18-watt compact fluorescent will save about 570 kilowatt-hours of electricity over the fluorescent‚s 10,000-hour lifetime. That means, if the mix of fuels used to produce the electricity is typical, just one compact fluorescent will eliminate the burning of 300 pounds of coal. And, because fluorescents last longer, you won‚t have to keep changing the bulb. Over the life of the compact fluorescent, you‚ll probably save between $3 and $15 per year. If you tried compact fluorescents ten years ago and weren‚t satisfied, give them another shot, since they now have more appealing light quality and come in more shapes and light strengths.
- 6. Get Rid of that Halogen Torchiere
Many people purchased halogen torchieres because they are inexpensive to buy. But because they use lots of electricity, they are expensive to operate. A single halogen torchiere used eight hours a day can cost $70 in electricity each year. And halogen torchieres are a fire hazard. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, The heat produced by these lamps is extreme˜reaching 1,000o F, hot enough to fry an egg on top of the fixture. Curtains and scraps of paper can be easily ignited by the heat these lamps produce. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has cited these cheap lamps as the cause of 189 fires and 11 deaths since 1992. So, choose a different sort of lighting. A compact fluorescent torchiere will serve the same purpose but will be safer and much kinder to the environment, as well as to your pocketbook.
- 7. Adjust the Thermostat
The ridicule heaped on President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s for trying to encourage energy conservation by wearing a sweater in the Oval Office has made it difficult to discuss energy-saving measures that risk reducing Americans‚ comfort. But it makes good economic and environmental sense to try to keep your home slightly colder in winter and slightly warmer in summer. Many people will barely notice a small adjustment in their home‚s temperature settings. Start by lowering the thermostat one degree in the winter and raising it one degree in the summer. If this doesn‚t bother you, increase the adjustments by another degree or two. It will cost nothing to make these changes, and you can save money on your heating and cooling bills.
- 8. Shade Your Air Conditioner
Of course, you will save the most electricity if you don‚t use an air conditioner at all, but if you are going to use one, you can make sure it is operating efficiently. An air conditioner won‚t have to work as hard if the outside part is in a relatively cool place. Try to place the air conditioner in a shady location. It‚s best if it can be on the north side of the building, away from the summer sun. However, note that there needs to be good air flow around the air conditioner, so don't put it in the middle of some bushes.
- 9. Pull the Plug
Even when they are not in use, many appliances like televisions and VCRs continue to use small amounts of electricity for things like their clocks and remote controls. If you have a rarely used appliance, such as a TV or clock radio in a guest room, pull its plug and then plug it in on those rare occasions when it is going to be used.
- 10. Turn Off the Computer
Many people have gotten into the habit of leaving their computer and other home office equipment on all the time. This wastes energy and money. Contrary to popular belief, turning on and off the computer doesn‚t shorten its life. As Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory points out, „The belief that frequent shutdowns [of PCs] are harmful persists from the days when hard disks did not automatically park their heads when shut off; frequent on-off cycling could damage such hard disks. Lawrence Berkeley reassures us that modern hard disks are not significantly affected by frequent shut-downs. Shutting down computers at night and on weekends saves significant energy without affecting the performance. So, if you are going to be away from the computer for several hours, turn it off. In addition, make sure that any power-management features are activated, such as having the screen go dark after 15 minutes of no use.
- 11. Choose Efficient Appliances
If you need to buy a dishwasher, television, or other appliance, look for a highly efficient one. As a minimum, you should choose one with the federal government‚s Energy Star label, which means it is significantly more energy efficient than minimum government standards. By more closely comparing energy use labels or looking on the Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov), you can find the best of the efficient appliances. Even if it initially costs a little more, you will very often quickly recover the extra money through savings on your energy bills. For example, there is a 40% difference in electricity use between the most and least efficient 18-19 cubic foot refrigerator currently being sold.
Even if you were not planning on replacing your existing appliances, it may make sense to go out and buy a new efficient one. This is especially true in the case of refrigerators and freezers. They account for about a quarter of an average household‚s electricity use. New models are much more efficient than older ones, especially if your old refrigerator no longer has tight seals or otherwise performs worse than when you bought it. The average refrigerator today uses only a third as much electricity as a 25-year old one of the same size and with the same features. You may be able to save fifty dollars or more annually on your electric bills by buying a highly efficient replacement model. And you will save a lot of coal, oil, and natural gas from being burned to produce electricity.
If it turns out to make sense to buy a new refrigerator, keep in mind that it is usually a bad idea to keep the old one around for extra food storage. If you really need more storage space, it is more efficient to have one big refrigerator than two smaller ones. On the other hand, you shouldn't purchase a larger refrigerator than you really need, since the bigger it is, the more electricity it will use. Like houses, refrigerators have been getting bigger even while families have been getting smaller.
- From Co-Op America Quarterly Summer 2008
- Level One - Simple Things You Can Do Today (33%)
- Level Two - A Little More Time, A Lot More Savings (56%)
- Level Three - Bigger Changes, Better Paybacks (66%)
Research and Development
- Existing efficiency measures could cut US energy use by a third - The study from environmental think tank the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), entitled Assessing the Electric Productivity Gap and the US Efficiency Opportunity, argues that wholescale efficiency improvements in the electric power industry could be in place by 2020, slashing US greenhouse gas emissions in the process. (Business Green; Feb 12, 2009)
- Tools > Construction >
Foamy Invention Could Save Energy and Lives - The ultra-high-strength composite metal foam created by Afsaneh Rabiei may be used in airplanes, boats, and structures that need impact protection, while maintaining strength and being low weight, hence increasing efficiency. (Live Science; Oct. 17, 2008) (Thanks Adrian Akau)
- 40 Student Projects Displayed to Public At MIT Energy Night - The MIT Energy Night lit up Cambridge as students, faculty, and enthusiasts alike flocked down Massachusetts Avenue toward the MIT Museum. Forty MIT energy projects populated each and every corner of the museum, displaying topics from sustainability to efficiency. (The Tech; Oct. 14, 2008)
- 50% Efficient Solar Cell Designs and Architectures - PDF
- From 40.7 to 42.8 % Solar Cell Efficiency - Using a novel technol16, 2008)ogy that adds multiple innovations to a very high-performance crystalline silicon solar cell platform, a consortium led by the University of Delaware (UD) has achieved a record-breaking combined solar cell efficiency of 42.8 percent. The current record of 40.7 percent was attained in December 2006 by Boeing's Spectrolab, Inc. (Renewable Energy Worldwide; July 30, 2007)
- Sterling Energy Quotient - Proposal to establish a standard for determining the overall device gains, taking into consideration unit costs, energy tapping costs, renewability of energy source.
- Assessing the Life Cycle of Wind Turbine Production - Denmark team determines a 6.8-month "payback" time, taking into consideration the production costs, transport and erection costs, operating and maintenance costs, disposal costs. (Renewable Energy Access; April 19, 2005)
- Energy Efficient Lighting Source - GoodMart offers lighting systems that feature stunning 100 lumen per watt energy efficiency such as Sylvania's Quicktronic High Efficiency ballast and Sylvania's 28W four foot super-saver T8 fluorescent tube.
- Energy saving checklist from Green Energy Efficient Homes - This checklist uses a points system and identifies over 100 opportunities to check for energy savings in a typical North American household.
- Make Energy Savings by Using PVC Strip Curtains - PVC Strip Curtains are an inexpensive and simple way of reducing your energy costs by allowing hands free ease of access between indoor and outdoor environments and providing a separation between warm and cold areas helping to reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills with a saving of 35-50%.
- Strip Curtains - Another great place to buy strip curtains and save energy
- Voltage Optimisation for Home - Provides voltage optimisation service for home
- GPNA Training - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has developed a tool so that Public Housing Authorities can track the effectiveness of their Capital Fund investments in energy efficiency.
- Solar Outdoor Lighting - Greenshine New Energy LLC. Specializes in developing and manufacturing customized solar powered lighting systems for a wide range of lighting applications. At Greenshine we specialize in solar street lights, garden lights, and lawn lights for outdoor applications. Our lights can be installed anywhere, especially areas where grid tied electricity is not available.
- Conservation / Energy Efficiency >
Home Energy Savings Guide for the Average Person - Please both your pockets and the earth with energy savings, and conserve without necessarily sacrificing comfort. Site provides energy saving tips and conservation ideas to lower utility bills at home.
- Alliance to Save Energy - e-FFiciency News promotes energy efficiency worldwide to achieve a healthier economy, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security.
- American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy - Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: Online Guide.
- Conservation > Methods >
Co-Op America - Energy "radical" Amory Lovins, points out that the US could save up to 75 percent of the energy we use by using efficiency techniques that are cheaper than the electricity itself in 22 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency. (Co-Op America; July 8, 2008)
- Energy Conservation - A visual directory of websites that provide energy efficiency and conservation information and services. (EnergyPlanet.info)
- How to Save Electricity
- National Resources Defense Council - NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.2 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.
- The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) - Eleven Easy Things You Can Do to Save Energy and Money at Home - The nation's leading regional membership organization focused on promoting the understanding, development, and adoption of energy conservation and non-polluting, renewable energy technologies. For more than thirty years, NESEA has facilitated and enhanced a network of professionals, practitioners, and other citizens in pursuit of responsible energy use. Programs and activities focus on the northeastern United States, from Washington, DC to Maine. NESEA is a chapter of the American Solar Energy Society.
- The State Energy Program (SEP) - Provides grants to states and directs funding to state energy offices from technology programs in DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. States use grants to address their energy priorities and program funding to adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
- Green Is In At CES, But Is It Real? - "You've heard the talk of 'Green' throughout the whole of 2008, but the way a product affects the environment will be a huge consideration in consumer buying habits, at least when it comes to gadgets. But, the CEA report also said that consumers are very skeptical about the green claims made by high-tech firms for their products. (Slashdot; Jan. 7, 2009)
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