A Personal Energy Guide

Help Save The Planet
We should all be aware that the non-renewable energy reserves of our world are being depleted at an alarming rate. Fossil fuels are what they are, and we don't have several million years to wait before more are available. Every year, the demand for oil rises, but even if more oil deposits are discovered somewhere in the world, it is estimated that at current consumption rates, all oil reserves will be completely used up in less than 45 years! The time frame will be less than that if more countries, due to advancing technology, actually increase their use of oil.

Being energy efficient means engaging in activities which will reduce energy usage by replacing certain types of equipment with technically more advanced equipment without substantially affecting the services provided by that equipment. High-efficiency appliances, more efficient lighting programs, high-efficiency heating/cooling systems, or modifying building design and construction are all ways to be energy-efficient in today's world.

Living Our Daily Lives In An Energy-Conservative Way
There are many things we can do which take little time or effort and cost us little or nothing monetarily, yet will greatly impact the environment. And, as an added bonus, many things we can do will actually save money!

To be able to save energy and money, first you have to identify exactly where the greatest use and expenditures are. Perhaps you've never before considered which common home appliances use the most energy, or just assumed that everything uses about the same amount. You may, therefore, be surprised to learn that some things we depend on and use many times a day are actually pretty energy-efficient, while others are veritable energy hogs!

For example, a regular range/oven costs $124.10 a year to operate, a range with a self-cleaning oven costs $183.60 a year to operate, while a toaster oven costs only $31.02 a year to operate. So, whenever possible, use a toaster oven to cook your meals rather than the "big" oven, and you'll naturally save on electricity. Don't purchase a "self-cleaning" model range, because cleaning products cost far less than the energy to self-clean. A microwave oven only costs $44.63 a year to operate, so cooking via microwave is also a pretty good energy-saver.

In the personal entertainment area, the most expensive electronics to operate are televisions and computers (which comes as no surprise to anyone, I'm sure). A color plasma TV costs $69.70 a year to operate, and a PC costs $48.96 a year. Using a DVD with the TV adds another $3.06 a year, but if you add a gaming unit, you're going to pay $6.12 a year for it (that's over and above the base cost of operating the TV). Naturally, we aren't suggesting that you stop watching TV, but do be mindful of using the TV as "background noise" and turn it off if you aren't actually watching a program.

Below are some typical appliances and the costs per year of operation:

Item KW  $ Year
Blender 12 $1.02
Coffee maker 60  $5.10
Crock-Pot 17 $1.45
Conventional Refreigerator 482 $41.00
Hair Dryer 48 $4.08
Energy Star Refrigerator 412 $35.00
Radio 96 $8.16
Vacuum Cleaner 48 $4.08
Conventional AC 2212 $188.00
Windo Fan 348 $29.58
Energy Star AC 2000 $170.00
Dehumidifier 372 $31.62
Hand Iron 60 $5.10
Cell Phone 12 $1.02
Shaver .6 $0.05
Toothbrush 12 $4.08
Waffle Iron 24 $2.04
Clock 24 $2.04
Electric Blanket 144 $12.24
Water Heater 4200 $357.00

Another energy check is to always be certain that you are purchasing and using large appliances which are certified as being energy-efficient to begin with. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency together with the U.S. Department of Energy have formulated a joint program that rewards the construction and use of "Energy Star" branded homes and businesses. Energy Star products include appliances, electronics, lighting, and office equipment, and using these things earns tax credits as well as helps protect the environment and save energy. As students, you can encourage the purchase and use of Energy Star branded appliances in University classroom buildings and residence halls.

One VERY easy thing we can do to save energy is to be conscious of lighting. A compact fluorescent light bulb uses one fourth the amount of energy, gives off the same amount of light, and lasts 10 times longer than an incandescent light bulb! You can actually save about $23 by using one compact fluorescent bulb in place of 10 standard incandescents. And, if you turn off the lights when you leave a room, you'll save even more!

Everyone knows about setting the thermostat for a slightly lower temperature in winter and a slightly higher temperature in summer; you will save about 3% per degree on heating and cooling this way. If you set your thermostat to heat only to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and cool only to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, you will greatly decrease your energy consumption. Remember, too, that opening window drapes and blinds on sunny days during cold weather will help bring in more heat, while closing those drapes and blinds in hot weather helps keep the interiors of rooms cooler.

Buildings That Start And Stay "Green" Are Vital To The Future
A new energy-efficient building is designed that way from the very beginning, while renovations to existing structures may be planned and carried out with conscious intent to improve the energy efficiency of the building. The EPA is in support of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and their new commitment to reduce the use of fossil fuels in construction and renovation of buildings. Proper insulation, adequate weather stripping, energy-efficient heating and cooling, using "green" materials in construction and renovation, all play a big part in achieving the goal of working toward saving energy.

Drive An Energy Efficient Vehicle
In recent years, the construction and use of hybrid vehicles has received a lot of attention as being one excellent way we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, save money, and work toward a cleaner environment. A hybrid vehicle uses both electric power and fossil fuel combustion to move. In slow-moving traffic, the electric motor keeps the car moving and the combustion engine turns off, while at steady high speeds, the gasoline engine takes over.

If you can't afford the higher cost of a hybrid, do investigate the estimated gas mileage which will be available for any car you are considering purchasing. Anything getting over 30 MPG (miles per gallon) is a money and energy saver.

The way you drive also affects fuel consumption. What's termed "aggressive driving" (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes fuel and lowers your gas mileage. Not only is careful driving more fuel-efficient, it's safer for you and everyone else on the road. Gas MPG decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 mph as well. Each 5 mph over 60 mph reduces the MPG by up to 2 percent. So not only will you save yourself from a speeding ticket, driving at the speed limit will save fuel, and your tank of gas will take you further.

Be A Visionary
There are sources of energy aside from fossil fuels: solar power, hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal energy, mechanical energy from the ocean, and wind turbines are all viable sources of alternative power which science is either actively making use of or researching to find the most practical ways to use. Wind, waves, and solar power are constantly being replenished and we are in no danger of running out of wind, waves, or the heat from the sun. Not only are these energy sources available to us now to a greater or lesser degree, but their use is actually encouraged by the tax credits extended to people who invest in using them. Solar cells that convert solar energy to to electric power, wind turbines to generate electricity from the natural turbulence of the wind - incorporating either of these alternative power sources into one's home or business life can then be recorded in one's federal tax return for a refund against the initial cost of installation.

Global warming and the greenhouse effect are here. It is no longer "if" these effects produce climate changes in the world, but "how soon" and "how much." One person alone can do nothing to reverse either condition, but all people making the effort can certainly help lessen the impact of them. Reverse them? Science and technology don't have an answer for that...yet. But slow them down...yes, we can, working together.

You may even find your future career in "Green Technology." Workers in this field have the potential to bring change and innovation on a level and scale equal to the explosion of "information technology" which we've all seen first-hand over the last 20 years! Imagine being a part of such a future.

Here are some links to websites where you may find further information concerning green living, alternative energy sources, and more tips for "greening" your daily life.