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In the United States, coal is by far the number one source of electricity.  Coal fired power plants are the greatest contributor to greenhouse gasses and to global climate change. Their efficiency is only 30% ... conversion of energy into electricity.  By the time it gets to the consumer, another 9% is lost in transmission. Clearly, an energy efficient economy will not rely upon coal, but rather renewable resources such as wind and solar.

In general, every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used in your home generates 2.3 pounds of CO2. The easiest thing you can do to fight global warming is replace you light bulbs with Compact Florescent or CFL bulbs.. If every American family replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb, CO2 emissions would drop by more than 90 billion pounds—the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road!!!

There are three ways a homeowner can avoid greenhouse gasses. First, you can do what we have done and install solar panels; second, you can purchase green tags electricity (available in most states) that guarantees that your electricity comes from a renewable source such as wind, and third you can use less of it.

Our home will be 100% electric.  We contemplated running natural gas to the house for cooking, but the hook-up fee was excessive since we would use so little.  Ken Smith with Hired Hands has been a participant in all aspects of planning the construction, starting in March of 2005. 

After reading Natural Capitalism, I decided to adopt one of the books more boring recommendations to save energy ... wire the house with fatter wiring.  The National Electric Code has a minimum size or gauge wire to prevent fire.  This minimum has become the standard, so in our home we specified that all electrical wiring be one gauge larger than the minimum.  The book reports that the increased cost of wiring in an average commercial building yields a 193% return on the initial investment in energy savings every year. I don't quite expect this, but one only wires a quality built house once.

From the chart on energy use in the home, only 54% goes for heating, cooling and hot water.  The rest goes for appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and dryers.  Here tremendous improvements have been made to improve the efficiency of items like refrigerators.  The biggest contribution to reduced energy use in America would be to junk all of those beer refrigerators in the basement or garage.  They use as much as 3 times the electricity as a modern fridge.  The payback would be quite fast.

In addition, the total cost of electricity for our Asko dishwasher will be around $12 per year ... and it will be quieter than most models on the market. The cooking appliance are also more miserly that older technologies, and we have order the most energy efficient models around. 

The government's EnergyStar program tests and provides useful comparison between models.  The EnergyStar rating should be the first comparison made when selecting major appliances like refrigerators.  Ours will use only $40 worth of electricity a year.

I can assure you that we will not be compromising function in our appliance selection, but we will be selecting appliances that will move us closer to zero net energy use.

Another expample: our old tube TV mercifully died late last year.  The new model from SONY, a 40" flat screen, uses only 240 wH ... around 30% less than plasma TV models.  Four hours of TV a night, saves around 140 kWh of electricity over the course of a year.   A kilowatt here and a kilowatt there and it adds up to real efficiency and just might save our planet.

Finally, if your like me and need a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, take a look a the energy used by your coffee maker.  The old system heated water and has an element to keep it hot.  There are thermos coffee makers that only heat the water and hold the heat. 

Every watt of electricity saved gets us closer to zero net energy.

Compact Florescent & LED Lighting

The most important economic decision homeowners can make is to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs.  CFLs use 1/4 of the electricity of incandescent for the same illumination, and they last 10 times longer.  The up front cost is higher, but over the life of the CFL, you will save around 40-70%, depending upon cost, overall in electricity and replacement bulbs.  I also don't want to change the bulbs very often in our ceiling can lights that are 12-14 feet off the floor.

There are some things that people need to know about fluorescents such as the color spectrum.  Click Here for a discussion of color temperature/Kelvin ratings/color quality for CFLs.  The Kelvin scale is used to guide the owner on the type of light a CFL produces ... to find a quality that is pleasing to the eye.

In the future we may be able to move away from CFL and replace them with LED lights that will last 10 times again longer than CFLs and use only a quarter of the electricity (4% of the power used by incandescent bulbs.)  We've tried a few LEDs and can attest to the fact that they are comparable to a 25 watt bulb, but the light quality is not particularly good ... all seemed a bit biased to the blue spectrum and made people look rather ghostly.  They will be relegated to our outdoor areas such as 4 in the entry way.  These 4 bulbs will provide as much light as one 100 watt incandescent but only use 4 watts per hour. 

A couple of good outlines for using less energy can be found here as ...

Top 12 Tips for staying warm and saving cash, and
Tips for saving energy and the environment during the Christmas Holiday Season.


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You can email Christine Garst at
cbgarst@aol.com
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