In the recent years green energy and renewable energy sources have become a hot topic as some scientists suggest there is is evidence which shows that our actions are having a negative impact on our environment. Often times in these discussions the words 'fossil fuels' and 'renewable energy' come up a lot; so what do these terms mean and how do they apply to you as a current or future home owner? Want to learn more about green energy? Read our Green Energy Guide
What are Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are very much what the name suggests, they are energy sources that are taken from the fossils of animals and plants, which formed millions and millions of years ago. These fossils combust when put under pressure and expel high amounts of energy. Unfortunately, this energy is non-renewable, meaning once it is expended and used it cannot be regenerated for future consumption. In simple terms, this means that one day these energy supplies will run out. Despite the fact that we will one day deplete all sources of fossil fuel, there is also evidence which suggests that the process used to convert these fossils to energy produces harmful byproducts that are slowly destroying our environment.
Fossil fuels can come from a variety of sources, gas, oil and coal are all examples of non-renewable fossil fuels. These sources of energy are still being used on a mass scale by large businesses and organizations and well as for perusal use, in our homes and cars. So how much fossil fuel do we actual use and how can it be replaced?
How much Fossil Fuel do we Use?
On average humans use 350 quadrillion BTUs of fossil fuel per year. In case you are not a rocket scientist and are unfamiliar with the term BTU it is a unit of energy measurement which stands for British thermal unit. One BTU is about equal to the amount of energy it takes to light a match, so imagine that on a scale of a quadrillion. So how does this amount relate to the big picture? Fossil fuels account for 88 percent of the world's energy usage. From this amount oil is the most type of fossil fuel used, accounting for 41 of the earth's total energy sources (which equals roughly 165 quadrillion BTUs).
What is Renewable Energy
So now that we are aware of the problem what can we do to begin to fix it? More and more money and scientific research time is being spent on discovering more efficient ways to integrate alternative energy into the world's energy consumption.
Alternative energy is defined as any energy source that does not derive from fossil fuels and comes from a renewable source. Some of the most popular examples of alternative energy include water-powered energy, solar energy and wind-powered energy. All of these energy sources have huge potential, and all of these energy sources are currently being extremely underutilized. For example, the sun produces 12.25 million quadrillion BTUs (or 12,250,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs) of energy a year! That is 35,000 times more energy than man consumes annually. However, solar technology is struggling to enter the mainstream, currently we see it being used on cars, homes and sometimes large communities, like schools but is still makes up less than 10 percent of the world's energy consumption. One of these reasons is the cost of solar energy, on average solar energy costs $0.30 per kWh whereas coal is only $0.06 cents per kWh. However, with recent advancements in solar technology and the standardized production of materials necessary to produce and harness solar energy, this cost is expected to drop dramatically by 2014. Learn more about some of the newest green energy ideas.
How You Can be Green Around your Home
While we wait for society and technology to make it possible to fully rely upon alternative energy sources there are feasible changes we can make around our homes that are both practical and money saving.
Build with Steel Buildings
Thanks to advancements in interior and exterior aesthetic alterations residential steel homes and community buildings are now becoming increasingly popular, in fact steel is one of the fastest growing building materials in the US. Steel has superior performance when it comes to withstanding storms and inclement weather, precipitation and time. Steel is also made from 100 percent recycled materials, making it extremely eco-friendly and dramatically cheaper than lumber and other building materials.
Steel buildings also provide the ideal conditions for retaining heat and cool air, dramatically decreasing the costs of regulating your building's temperature and also greatly decreasing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the structure.
Use Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heaters are ideal for any type of building and can be used in any climate. They work by pooling water in an insulated collection tray and transferring energy from the solar collector to heat to heat the water in reserve tank. Most solar water heaters also comes with a back up power source, which switches on in the case of damage to the solar panel or extended periods of time without direct sunlight.
There are two varieties of solar water heaters, one which continuously circulates water, known as an active water heater and one which does not called a passive water heater. Solar water heaters are relatively easy to install and maintain, with passive solar water heaters requiring almost no maintenance at all and active water heaters requiring maintenance every three to five years. After installed you will notice the difference in your water and heating bills almost immediately.
Use Natural Light
Not only is the sun great for heating your water but also for providing free light throughout your home. While this may sound obvious many home owners do not plan their homes based around this simple concept. Real estate agents are reporting that the number of rooms in America with 25 percent or more of the room's light coming from natural sources is dramatically decreasing. An abundance of natural light can decrease your need for lamps and overhead lights cutting costs on your electricity bills, as well as providing natural heat which can help keep buildings warm during the winter. When planning your next home consider adding skylights to room where you will spend the majority of your time, including the living room, kitchen and play rooms. Also teach children to be mindful about electricity. Oftentimes we turn on the lights in the room when it is not necessary simply out of habit. Teach kids to only turn on the lights when necessary. Learn more about making your home or building greener with our 12 tips for a greener home resource article.