Archive for the ‘Energy efficiency’ Category

There are several variables determining the best-fit green car option for you.  Fuel costs, performance, and vehicle cost are primary drivers in choosing a car.  Vehicle technologies have developed rapidly over the past decade and accessibility to technology has increased.

The most commonly available advanced vehicle technology on the roads today includes alternative fuel vehicles, electric vehicles, and hybrid vehicles.  We have also seen an increase in production of more fuel efficient models, which certainly should not be discounted.

Pros and cons exist with each option, but investing in a vehicle that burns less fossil fuel is a positive step to:

  • help reduce air pollution
  • lessening U.S. dependence on foreign oil
  • save money spent on fuel

Choosing to drive a green car represents an individual choice that yields communal benefits.

An alternative fuel vehicle is considered a dedicated, flexible fuel, or dual-fuel vehicle.  An alternative fuel green car is designed to operate on at least one alternative fuel.  Hybrid vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine that runs on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor the uses energy stored in a battery.  The battery is charged through regenerative breaking and by the engine and is not plugged in.  Electric vehicles use a battery to store the electric energy that powers the motor.  The battery is charged through plugging the vehicle into an electric power source.  Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology also exists (the battery is charged through an electrical power source rather than regenerative breaking).

Before Buying a Green Car

  • Consider your driving habits  – how much city versus highway driving, do you plan on doing?
  • What is the availability and proximity of alternative fuel stations or charging stations where you live?
  • What can you afford?  Putting yourself in debt to get a green car is not sustainable living. (Don’t forget to factor in Federal an State incentives.)

Find more on tax incetivs at  FuelEconomy.gov -  tax incentive information center,

Production of energy management systems that monitor your residential or business energy use is ramping up to become more accessible and more user friendly – this trend is only expected to continue as utilities conduct pilot programs and early adopters continue to lead the way in demonstrating the benefits of energy management gadgets.

Think of older thermostat models.  Their basic functionality was to adjust the temperature – up or down.  You could easily leave the house or fall asleep with the heat blazing or air conditioning blasting needlessly, for hours on end.  Newer thermostat technology allows for programming, tracking of energy usage, remote functionality, and adjustments based on weather or even adapting to your schedule.

Now think of an energy monitor that displays your real-time energy usage.  If you had a gadget that provided a snap-shot of how much energy your house was using and how that related to your peak usage and utility rates, you would be much more aware of energy usage and more likely to turn off unused lights or appliances or adjust the thermostat accordingly.  The main idea behind using an energy management system in your home is the awareness and readily accessible real-time data it provides and the impact that has on your behavior.

The key advantage to the smart energy monitoring technology is the immediacy of the results.  Energy management technology eliminates the lag time of your energy usage to receiving the monthly utility bill in your inbox or mailbox.  Programmable thermostats are fairly common.  Energy monitors are available today but are not yet considered mainstream.  This is a technology worth researching and staying on the lookout for, as it provides an invaluable tool for reducing your energy consumption and saving on your utility bills.

Residential energy efficiency measures are often simple and easy to implement, resulting in a quick way to reduce your energy usage as well as monthly utility bills.  Whether you rent or own, several options for decreasing residential energy consumption exist and are worth investigating.

Reducing electricity use is a primary method for shaving dollars off your utility bills as well as decreasing your energy usage.  Residential lighting is an accessible place to start.  Three common energy-efficient lighting options include, (1) incandescent (or halogen) bulbs, (2) compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and (3) light emitting diode (LED).  Halogens provide roughly 25 percent energy savings over traditional incandescent bulbs, with CFLs and LED providing roughly 75 percent energy savings.  Although the savings may not seem like much on an individual level, the cumulative impact matters.

Purchasing energy efficient appliances and electronics is another method for decreasing energy use.  On average, appliances and electronics are responsible for 20 percent of the utility bill in a typical U.S. home.  If you are considering upgrading a major appliance (such as the washer/dryer or refrigerator), take the time to investigate purchasing an energy-efficiency model.  Although the upfront cost may be more, the impact on your utility bill and energy usage will offset your investment.  Also, several rebate programs exist, incentivizing the purchase of energy efficient appliances, which can further help to offset upfront costs.

Upgrading a major (or even small appliance) is not always in the budget.  However, simply being aware of your electricity uses and adjusting behavior can decrease your usage.  It is easy to leave lights on or unused electronics plugged-in, but this habit contributes to unnecessary energy usage and higher electricity bills.  Using a power strip allows you to easily turn-off the strip when you know electronics or appliances will not be in use for a period of time.  Many computers available today have their own power management features, automatically putting the monitor and CPU in “sleep mode”, helping to reduce energy usage.  You can adjust these power management settings to fit your user needs.  It is best if you can completely power down your computer, but this will not always practical.  But if you are headed on vacation or know you will be away for a while, consider unplugging your television and powering off computers.

Increasing insulation and filling any gaps in your home’s protective envelope can reduce heating and cooling costs.  One quick, easy, and inexpensive way to reduce summertime cooling bills that isn’t widely known is to install perforated radiant barrier in your attic – this aluminum based product will reflect the heat of the sun back out of your house before it has a chance to heat up your attic and upper floors.  In your living spaces you’ll want to do a draft test around all of your windows, doors, and outlets to determine if you have air leaks that could be filled – this will keep warm air in during the cold months, and prevent the hot air from outdoors invading your home in the summer.  It always helps to max out the R value of your fiberglass or cellulose insulation too, but that can be a bigger investment than tackling the attic and gaps.

As a home-owner or landlord, getting an energy assessment or audit can help you determine the efficiency of your property’s heating and cooling systems.  The assessment can tell you the trouble areas (if any) that when corrected can result in significant economic and energy savings over time.  Several sources and websites exist that detail steps for a “do-it-yourself” energy assessment.  Your local utility may actually perform them, or can recommend energy audit companies.

 

Increasingly, there are options for you to support the production of electricity from renewable sources from your electric utility by directly purchasing green power or participating in a green pricing program.

Green power refers to electricity supplied (in whole or in part) from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal.  Options to support green power are expanding as electricity markets open to competition and regulated utilities offer green pricing programs.  In an open market, customers are provided electricity supply options, which could include purchasing electricity from a renewable source.  In electricity markets that remain regulated, utilities are increasingly developing and implementing green pricing programs.  Green pricing programs offer the customer an option to pay a premium on their electric bill to support any above market cost for acquiring electricity from renewable sources.

Purchasing green power or participating in a green pricing program can help offset air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.  Your purchase and/or participation of green energy products also helps create and expand renewable energy markets.

Pricing and availability vary widely by market as well as renewable source (e.g. wind, solar, biomass).  If interested in green energy products, your initial step is to determine the status of your market (open competition or regulated) and continue from there.  Green energy products provide a way to leverage individual support in the effort to cost-effectively produce green energy.

Affordability for solar energy on Main Street is becoming more of a reality. The notion of receiving free electricity, rather than paying rising utility costs, is easy to grasp; however, the initial costs are often a hurdle for most families. Find out the basics of solar energy to begin evaluating how you can make “free” an energy reality for you. Read the rest of this entry »