Your Choices for Alternative Energy

renewables-investment-trendsWhile using alternative sources of energy is a right way for you to save money on your heating and cooling bills, it also allows you to contribute in vital ways to both the environment and the economy.  Alternative energy sources are renewable, environmentally sustainable sources that do not create any by-products that are released into the atmosphere like coal and fossil fuels do.

Burning coal to produce electricity releases particulates and substances such as mercury, arsenic, sulfur and carbon monoxide into the air, all of which can cause health problems in humans.

Other by-products from burning coal are acid rain, sludge run-off and heated water that is released back into the rivers and lakes nearby the coal-fired plants.  While efforts are being made to create “clean coal,” businesses have been reluctant to use the technology due to the high costs associated with changing their plants.

If you are considering taking the plunge and switching to a renewable energy source to save money on your electric and heating bills or to help the environment, you have a lot of decisions to make. The first decision you need to make is which energy source to use in your home or business.  Do you want to switch to solar energy, wind power, biomass energy or geothermal energy?

Emissions from homes using heating oil, vehicles, and electricity produced from fossil fuels also pollute the air and contribute to the number of greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer.  Carbon dioxide is one of the gases that is released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels to create energy and in the use of motor vehicles.  Neither coal nor fossil fuels are sources of renewable energy.

Replacing those energy sources with solar, biomass or wind-powered generators will allow homes and businesses to have an adequate source of energy always at hand.  While converting to these systems can sometimes be expensive, the costs are quickly coming down, and they pay for themselves in just a few short years because they supply energy that is virtually free.  In some cases, the excess energy they create can be bought from the business or the homeowner.

While there are more than these three alternative energy options, these are the easiest to implement on an individual basis.  Other sources of alternative energy, for instance, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, and natural gas require a primary power source for the heat so it can be fed to your home or business.  Solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy can all have power sources in your home or business to supply your needs.

Solar Energy

Solar power is probably the most widely used source of these options.  While it can be expensive to convert your home or business over to solar energy, or to an alternative energy source for that matter, it is probably the most natural source to turn over to.  You can use the sun’s energy to power your home or business and heat water.  It can be used to passively heat or light up your rooms as well just by opening up your shades.

Wind Power

You need your wind turbine to power your home or office, but wind energy has been used for centuries to pump water or for commercial purposes, like grinding grain into flour.  While many countries have wind farms to produce energy on a full-scale basis, you can have your wind turbine at home or at your business to provide electricity for your purposes.

The cost of alternative energy systems has dropped sharply in recent years

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy has rapidly become a vital part of the global renewable energy mix and account for an ever-growing share of electric capacity added worldwide. Biomass is the material derived from plants that use sunlight to grow which include plant and animal material such as wood from forests, material left over from agricultural and forestry processes, and organic industrial, human and animal wastes. Biomass comes from a variety of sources which include wood from natural forests and woodlands, agricultural residues, agro-industrial wastes, animal wastes, industrial wastewater, municipal sewage and municipal solid wastes.

Geothermal Energy

A heat pump helps cool or heat your home or office using the earth’s heat to provide the power needed to heat the liquid that is run through the system to either heat your home in the winter or cool it off in the summer.  While many people use it, it doesn’t provide electricity, so you still need an energy source for that.

Newly-Launched Inventions That Can Help Homeowners Save Energy

Domestic energy efficiency has advanced a long way over the last few decades. Despite our overall energy consumption increasing by just over a third since 1980, on average our homes consume around 10% less overall. How can this be the case when we have so many more electrical appliances? Back in 1980, not many homes had more than a single TV, and computers and mobile phones were essentially non-existent. Yet somehow they used more electricity!

The answer to this question comes down to one simple principle. Energy efficiency. Government regulations and technical advances led by the private sector have resulted in appliances that are simply more sustainable. Throw in a better public understanding of the importance of reducing carbon emissions, and also the use of money expert comparison sites to track the expense of powering a home, and it the picture becomes a little clearer.

Expect to see this trend, become ever more prevalent in the near future, as sustainability has become a huge industry sector that continues to rapidly expand.

Here’s a selection of the most recent technologies that are already helping homeowners save money that we can expect to become common place over the coming years.

1. Smart Homes

At first glance, you may wonder what the point is in buying a new domestic appliance that is advertised as ‘internet connected/ready’. After all, who is going to need a web compatible refrigerator or air conditioning unit? It is increasingly common for newly released appliances to boast this feature because in the coming years, our homes are going to be much more connected than at present. Being able to monitor and control energy expenditure remotely via smartphone is a tech that is already with us – but these are still the early days.

The next big step forward is going to be the implementation of wireless sensors throughout the home. These will connect all the appliances in the home to a centralized control panel which will automatically instruct how they interact with the energy supply.

For instance, appliances not in use, but on ‘standby’ mode will be entirely disconnected from the power supply when nobody is at home. Heating and air conditioning use will be precisely measured according to the ambient temperature. Just these two examples – and there are many more in the pipeline – are set to shave a considerable amount of household energy consumption in the very near future.

2. Next Generation Home Insulation

The US Industrial Science & Technology Network takes the approach that heating and cooling costs can best be reduced by simply developing superior insulation. While still at the development stage, these are promised to be far more efficient at preventing heat from escaping.

As may be expected, they are also going to be environmentally sound and most likely comprised of recycled foam materials. Should these be proven to work, there is a very good chance they will become the industry norm for new build and redeveloped housing in the years to come.

3. Reflective Roofing Materials

While insulation is ideal for maintaining an ambient temperature what about those who live in warmer climes? Everyone knows how expensive it is to run air conditioning 24 hours a day, but there have been considerable recent advances in reflective rooftop materials. Currently, these work by using special pigments that are coated onto the roof in order to reflect sunlight and heat.

The next generation in development will use fluorescent pigments that look likely to be up to four times more efficient. So for those who reside in areas where effective air conditioning is essential around the year, these new materials may well be an absolute godsend.

4. Magnetocaloric Refrigerators

A fridge powered by magnets? Close, but not quite. Refrigeration technology has barely changed or advanced since they were first introduced. Modern fridges still rely on vapor compression, which unfortunately requires chemical coolants that are notoriously bad for the environment.

Next generation models are going to be able to make use of water-based coolants that make use of the magnetocaloric effect. In layperson’s terms, this is the use of magnets to alter the magnetic field which can provide an extremely energy efficient cooling effect. Expect this to become commonplace in the coming years, thanks to their potential in enormously reducing energy expenditure and carbon emissions.

5. Much More Efficient Heat Pumps

Considerable progress has been made by the US Building Technologies Office in developing heat pumps that essentially move heat throughout the home. There are three models in design that promise to considerably reduce expenditure on heating while also significantly reduce carbon emissions. Standard gas boilers/furnaces are notoriously expensive and inefficient.

  • A low-cost gas-based heating pump could massively increase efficiency and result in lowering heating costs by a staggering 45%.
  • Multiple function fuel based pumps designed for domestic use can still save an estimated 30% with the added bonus of also providing more efficient water heating.
  • Natural gas based heating pumps connected with air conditioners aim to use a very low emission boiler to cater for all domestic needs regardless of the season. Of all three options, this is the most complete package and the one most likely to become widespread in the coming years.

These styles of heat pumps are also going to be used to significantly reduce the energy used by clothes drying machines. General Electric has been already near completing their first gas pump compatible dryer. This is intended to reduce the energy consumption of perhaps the least efficient appliance in the home by up to 60%.

6. Even Better LED Lighting

Energy saving lighting may have become the accepted norm in many households, and the good news is that it is set to become even better. At present these are up to 85% more efficient than old fashioned incandescent bulbs, but the next generation – scheduled for a few years time – promise to double their efficiency. An improvement up to 230 lumens (from the current 115) is forecast.

8% of all electricity consumption in the USA are due to lighting homes and businesses. Having that figure will make for a huge national saving and reduction of energy costs across the board. (Source:https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=99&t=3)

7. Advanced Window Insulation

While still in development this may not sound like a huge advance, but could well result in enormous net energy savings down the line. Using microprocessors and sensors to measure sunlight and radiant heat, these are going to automatically provide shading to assist with providing ideal natural lighting and also assist with heating. Expect these to be integrated with the general smart home system outlined above in due course.

Final Thoughts

So there we have seven of the most exciting and interesting developments that we can expect to see in the home over the coming years. While some are already in production while others are just passing the prototype phase, the future is looking positive in terms of reducing emissions and better managing energy consumption. Energy efficiency is here to stay and these developments will likely only be the tip of the iceberg compared to what we can look forward to over coming decades.