Burning fossil fuels as source of energy is considered inexpensive in this economically driven world. Because of this, the use of sustainable energy is almost not welcomed.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated on a report that “approximately 63 percent of our [United States] electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.” Meanwhile in the global perspective, 38% of the world’s electricity is from coal.
Industrial players such as power companies, mining companies, and manufacturers perceive traditional energy as convenient, cheap and widely available. Seemingly, the main basis of these players are purely political and economic. Where is environment and health in the foundation of global electric consumption?
Sustainable energy use, on the other hand, offers a more futuristic, yet realistic approach to energy consumption. It does not view economy as the only facet affecting the use of energy. It works in harmony with environment and health as well, providing a positive holistic impact to all dimensions imaginable.
Sustainable energy is the real deal.
What does sustainable energy use mean?
Sustainable energy is what it is—renewable, stable, and plenty. Even with continuous usage, renewable energy sources will not deplete. The electricity produced with this energy can power homes at present, and will continuously be available in the future.
Simply put, sustainable energy is the development of renewable sources that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (United Nations, 1987).”
A good example of sustainable energy source is the sun. Solar energy source is free and infinite. Efficient use of this energy to convert into electricity can supply our needs for a lifetime.
Meanwhile, there are debates whether nuclear energy is also sustainable. Although for the purposes of this guide, we will only focus on those energy sources that are renewable.
What are the best energy sources to depend in the 2020s and beyond?
As far as energy sources are concerned, careful deliberation on the source’s environmental, economic, and political impact should be discussed on. To help us see through this perspective, Laurel Vernazza of The Plan Collection explained:
“In taking a long-term view, promoting investment and development of energy sources that depend on the elements we find readily in nature makes the best sense from environmental, economic, and even political points of view. Renewable resources such as solar power and wind power are abundant in many geographic areas. Further investment, particularly as it relates to energy storage, will make these renewable technologies more economically viable and practical. Ultimately, wide-scale adoption of solar and wind power will ensure energy independence.”
That said, the following energy sources are the three best options this year and beyond:
- Solar energy
As mentioned in this article, solar energy is available in many geographic areas. Lands situated near the equator are abundant in solar energy as they are directly hit by the sun. With technologies that can convert radiation from sun’s ray to electricity, solar energy can a primary source of power in our community and homes.
Aside from being renewable, solar energy is also clean. It does not produce any greenhouse gases, so it’s safe not only for your family but to the world. It does not produce solid or fluid by-products that harm the Earth, so utilizing them will not cause guilt.
Lastly, solar energy is inexpensive. Since the sun’s energy is free, you do not have to pay constantly for availing it. In fact, when you install solar panels at home, electric bills may fall from your usual bill. Solar panels are also easy to maintain and has diverse applications. All you need to pay for in solar energy is the installation of the solar panel system in your home or building.
- Wind energy
Wind is also a good source of sustainable energy. In fact, wind energy is considered a form of solar energy as winds are caused by an uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun. When there is sun, there is wind. This makes it limitless.
To convert wind to electricity, wind turbines are used. Utilization of this does not rely on combustion, so no air pollution is produced. It does not generate water wastes as well, so it is marine-life friendly.
On top of that, wind energy is financially soothing. “Since the wind is free, operational costs are nearly zero once a turbine is erected,” says National Geographic. “Mass production and technology advances are making turbines cheaper, and many governments offer tax incentives to spur wind-energy development.”
- Hydropower or Hydroelectric energy
This is the most utilized sustainable energy, which takes up more than 54% of world’s renewable power generation capacity. As its name suggests, water is the primary source of energy in hydropower. Water is released in dams, creating kinetic energy which is later transformed into mechanical by turbines. The mechanical energy, then, will produce electrical energy.
Hydropower does not pose a threat to the environment. It uses water as fuel, so land, air and water pollution is not an issue. In fact, it can contribute to the storage of drinking water from collecting rainwater.
Hydroelectric energy contributes largely to stabilizing the electric system and its pricing. It can hold large capacity of electric demands, thus, avoiding fluctuating current from overload. And since it is not dependent on raw materials such as natural gas and coal, price may remain steady.
What can you do to achieve a more energy-efficient home?
Energy needs may vary depending on every households. Our homes are situated in areas with different landscapes, weather conditions, family needs, and resource availability. Despite these differences, we all are one at something—to be more energy efficient at our day-to-day activities.
The following are the best practices for a sustainable energy use.
Planning is the most crucial step when deciding to be more energy efficient. Of course, change does not come instantly. It should be well-thought; it should be taken prior. Know where you waste electricity the most, and patch things appropriate to each problem.
Matthias Alleckna , an energy analyst at EnergyRates says, “Sustainable energy means energy coming from renewable sources. Essentially sources of energy that won’t run out — at least, in our lifetime. There are plenty of options available for those who want to be more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. Work out a plan with your energy retailer to see if you can get credits to buy your electricity from sources like solar and grid farms.”
He also says, “In the meantime, you’ll want to make improvements to your home so you can use less energy. This includes things like using blackout curtains in summer, to keep your home cool; and sheer curtains in winter for daylighting. Seal your windows and doors, to ensure that temperature-regulated air isn’t needlessly escaping.”
- Design an energy-efficient home.
Our homes should be the heart of our sustainable energy use. It shares both the burden and responsibility of our day-to-day energy consumption, so taking the issue to that level is really important.
If you are currently living in a home or building one, there are many ways to make it more energy efficient. When building a new home, there are decisions that can be made early on that will dramatically improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Laurel Vernazza of The Plan Collection provides some useful tips:
- Choose a floor plan design that is smartly laid out and doesn’t waste space.
- Build the house on the lot so that exposure to the south and sunlight is maximized.
- Install large windows to absorb as much of that sunlight as you can.
- Frame the home with 2×6 rather than 2×4 studs so there is more pace for insulation.
- Include roof overhangs outside the home as these protect the home from excessive heat and provide shade which will help cool your home in the summer.
When making improvements to an existing home, there are some relatively affordable options. These include purchasing energy efficient appliances, insulating walls and ceilings, and installing low-energy lighting. Depending on geographic location, homeowners can embrace energy and wind power technologies on their own property. In some cases, there may even be government subsidies to do so.
- Know your appliances.
Electrical appliances usually account for one third of our monthly electric bill. So if you are paying the average electric bill in the United States (2018) which is $117.65, approximately $40 from that is for your home appliances alone. This amount may be a shock for some, especially if they can only count using their fingers the number of appliances available. The problem may not be on the quantity, but on the quality of your appliances. Know how much electricity your tech eats up. Review their energy guide. If not, check whether something’s wrong from inside. It might just need maintenance.
Settings affect the energy consumption of appliances, too. Be well-versed with your tech’s manual. Keep it if necessary. This way, you can customize the setting depending on the need.
Emily Woolworth, Head of Partnerships at Electrical.com, recommends this clever energy-saving tip is to change the direction your ceiling fan spins during the summer and winter. During the summer, you want your fan to spin counterclockwise. Spinning in this direction allows the fan to move air downward, creating a breeze. During the winter, you want your fan to spin clockwise which pulls cold air to the ceiling and pushes warm air downward.
Chris Kaiser of Click A Tree shares tips on washing:
For washing machines and dish washers it definitely pays to always fill them up before running them. Even though some machines are smart enough these days to only use as much water as is needed for each given load, running the machines costs electricity nonetheless.
One small hack that helps save energy: Whenever washing hands, turn the tap cold. Usually the few seconds we need to wash our hands don’t suffice for the water to become warm anyway, but if we kept the tap at warm, the boiler would nonetheless start working and starting to heat up the water – even if you would never benefit from that.”
- Use home essentials that will help you save energy.
Whether already practicing energy-saving hacks or still on the initial process, you can further level up the amount of energy saved. Use materials available at your home to minimize the use of your appliances.
Stacy Carprio, Deals Scoop says, “One way to achieve a more energy efficient home is to make sure you have heat insulating curtains covering any large window areas in your home. People don’t realize how much heat or cold air can escape through windows when not properly insulated or covered in some way. You can save energy and your heat bill by taking care and installing some heat insulating curtains.”
- Invest on sustainable energy sources.
If you are still not using sustainable energy sources, then this is the time for a change. It is not only financially easing, it is also clean and sustainable.
Aaron Barnett, Managing Director at Banging Toolbox, shared his story about living with sustainable energy sources:
“In a cloudy country, I have had no power shortage with only 3 solar panels, running a laptop, 32-inch tv, microwave, toasty machine, 900watt surround sound, fridge, and as a builder, I can run all my power tools as I normally would, including circular saws, and even long use of huge tools like a kango hammer. The trick is to use LPG for all heating. LPG has emits virtually no black carbon and burns cleanly. LPG also can’t be spilled like other fuels, meaning it is non-toxic for the ground and waterways.
LPG gas is also very cheap if you use it for all your heating, cooking, and running your infinity for hot water you have cut out 90% of your energy use right there. This makes the mix of solar and LPG a pretty good option for individuals, as it means you only need a modest-sized solar system to run everything must use electricity. Electricity is not at all efficient for creating heat.”
- Use plugs that can be turned on and off.
Chris Kaiser also said, “One gadget that helps a lot to save energy are plug sockets that you can turn on and off. We have our TV, computers, screens and internet routers connected to these. When knocking off for the day, or calling it a night in the evening, we simply switch these switches off. It prevents TVs etc., to remain on standby, which consumes a lot of energy over the years.”
How can you use energy sustainably in businesses?
Business and private sector plays an important role in sustainable energy use. Their approach on this affect how their constituents, the market and their consumers take on the modern approaches to energy generation. Among other institutions, the business and private sector’s influences is large-scale. What can small and large businesses alike do to address the need for sustainable energy?
- Consider sustainable energy.
The best move is to make changes in your company’s power utilization. From traditional energy, why not shift to renewable ones and use solar panels? This type of change is applicable not only to large business, but also to budding ones.
Invest in sustainable energy sources, like solar, and wind, combine them and focus on using energy as it’s made, rather than having the need for too much storage. Use solar panels, energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostats and energy efficient light bulbs, for starters.
- Enforce sustainable practices in company policies.
Unity between bosses and staff is essential in carrying causes in businesses. If you have an authority inside a business, one of the best approaches is to get your staff involve. Why not have an Earth hour every day or every week? If not, provide energy reminders in using machines, switching gadgets, or using appliances at the office or at pantry.
Eliza Erskine of Green Buoy Consulting says, “Communicate to all staff the importance of saving energy. Include lights or appliances in open and close checklists to make sure they’re regularly turned off. And call your energy and electricity providers to get a free energy audit.”
- Partner with entrepreneurs with social causes on sustainable energy use.
If you work with someone who vies for sustainable energy use, the more you’ll realize your goals in sustainability. It can improve your decisions relevant to sustainable energy use, or intensify your advocacies. Both will grow business-wise and morally.
Common energy mistakes in most homes and business
We make great and small decisions every day: for our self, for the family, and for our business. Some decisions are not the wisest, but we learn from it. For instance, in energy use.
- Incandescent bulbs instead of LED bulbs
Between 20 and 30 percent of electric energy use in the United States is for lighting. But when we use LED bulbs, we can reduce electric consumption by up to 50%. At times though, homes and businesses aren’t as vigilant on choosing efficient lighting. Now, we should be.
- Failing to unplug or switch off lights or appliances.
Computers, lights, air condition…what else do we leave on? This is a typical setting in homes and businesses—an empty room with the lights or air conditioner on. However, this should be changed, as it is energy wasting.
- Using old and dysfunctional appliances.
As much as we want to keep old stuff, timeworn electrical appliances consumes more electricity than the modern ones. Surely, replacing them will cost extra, but so as paying for your monthly electrical bill.
- Keeping your phone’s charger plugged in even if they’re already full.
Here’s a myth: Chargers stop consuming electricity when they reach 100%. Although some chargers have an integrated circuitry (IC), a technology that prevents phones from overcharging, chargers still utilize electricity from its source. Make sure you unplug them to conserve energy.
- Avoiding the benefit of natural light.
Some homes and buildings do not have enough window installation that allows lighting. The tendency is to solely depend on electric ones even at daytime. To save energy, install additional windows on places where sunlight can penetrate. If not, have a glass material in your wall or roofing. This way, you can enjoy the natural light.
- Building house or infrastructures beyond what is needed.
Unfortunately, the most common mistake we see in a home in terms of energy use is made from day one. Homeowners either buy or build more home than they need. The larger footprint costs more to heat and cool — leading to wasted energy use, not to mention higher energy bills. As to the structure itself, insufficient or improperly installed insulation is far too common in the home or building. Drafts from poor window installation or insulation allow heating and cooling to easily escape. By choosing windows for your home that are not energy efficient — this is a bigger deal than people realize — the money saved on cheap windows will be spent on heating and cooling within that first year.
- Relying on outsourcing your energy.
Not maximizing on 12v or 24V systems, which are much more power-efficient than 110V or 240V power. The high voltage is required for moving power over long distances, but for self-generating power in a home or in your business, lower voltages are much more energy efficient.
You lose power by converting it to a higher voltage, pretty much all appliances then run on low voltage and again lose power by converting it back down.
Using energy sustainably is one of the best ways to go zero waste. Not only do you shun fossil fuel and other pollution-related energy sources, you also ensure that you help protect our natural resources. And as a bonus, you save a lot on your electric bill when you embrace using solar and other sustainable energies.
Live with care for the environment, even in the way you use electricity in homes or buildings. Every little shift to sustainability counts.