Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. It involves using lesser energy - at office and home - for the required services, without compromising on the output or comfort. At home, the energy used in heating/ cooling/ lighting rooms, cooking and washing can always be optimised. This not only helps save money on energy bills, but also helps reduce air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases and therefore mitigate the impact on the environment.
Further, energy efficiency can help businesses by increasing productivity, improving competitiveness, reducing maintenance costs and enhancing workplace health and safety. Investments in energy efficiency may at times be expensive but they pay off in the long run.
If energy efficiency practices are implemented widely by households and businesses across a nation, it will greatly reduce energy demand and bring down capital investment needed for importing energy, installing new power plants and setting up energy infrastructure. Governments of a number of nations have awarded energy star labels and energy efficiency ratings to home appliances for guiding consumers in their purchase decisions. Customers can thus choose the most energy-efficient products as per their needs and budget.
Improving energy efficiency in buildings, transportation and industrial processes can considerably reduce the world's energy needs and thereby bring down greenhouse gas emissions globally.
Ways to achieve energy efficiency
Energy efficiency can be achieved through the use of energy-efficient appliances, green vehicles, sustainable building design, alternative fuels and renewable energy.
Where appliances are concerned, energy efficiency measures include - among many - replacing older technology with newer ones that consume lesser energy and using devices that run on renewable energy (eg solar powered gadgets).
A building's design and surroundings can in a way determine how energy-efficient it is. Planting trees around the building can keep temperatures cool by by providing shade. Windows and skylights should be placed in a way that lets in maximum sunlight This reduces need for artificial illumination during daytime and helps provide passive solar heating. Compact fluorescent lights use lesser energy than conventional lights. Insulation of roofs and ceilings can help keep rooms cooler in summers and warmer during winters. In hotter climates, white-colored roofs can help keep buildings cooler by reflecting sunlight. Sensors like Passive Infra Reds can be used to switch lights on or off at areas of the building that are less frequently visited - like corridors and bathrooms. Further energy efficiency can be achieved in buildings - both residential and commercial - through the use of renewable energy options, like solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and small wind turbine systems.
While travelling, energy efficiency can be achieved by using public transport as far as possible, driving electric vehicles (all-electric or hybrid) and good quality tyres. Further, gadgets used on the go should preferably run on solar power or rechargeable batteries.
How to save electricity
Reducing electricity usage is the first logical step towards cutting down on electricity bills.
Other useful and practical electricity saving tips include :
Switch over to CFL/LED lights and turn off lights when not in use
Do not unnecessarily leave an electronic appliance switched on
Where possible, replace electronic appliances with solar-powered ones
If feasible, install solar panels and use solar-powered battery charger
For drying clothes use clothesline instead of driers
Clean refrigerator periodically to keep coils and air intake grill dust-free
For more energy / electricity saving tips, check out this site :
Renewable Energy options for Home Owners
Renewable Energy is sustainable - it can meet both present and future needs of the society without being exhausted and without harming people's health or the environment. Unlike fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), renewable energy doesn't cause pollution. If there is a service provider of clean green energy in the locality then availing of its service - wholly or partially - is often the easier and economical option than installing a renewable energy system at home. In fact, it's best to use service provider for high-end systems like solar stills and solar concentrators (which uses lens/mirrors for focussing sunlight into a narrow beam) as they might not be economically feasible for individual home owners to install.
Renewable Energy Systems - that home owners can use - include :
Passive solar power
Passive solar power makes use of direct sunlight - instead of any mechanical system - to convert to usable heat for homes. Here the building itself, through its architectural design and absorptive materials, serves as the energy-saving system. Simple techniques involve placing windows (with overhangs to protect against the summer sunlight) in the equator side of a house to allow the low winter sun through and landscaping with deciduous trees (that shed leaves in winter). Other technologies include - solar water heating systems, solar chimneys, thermal mass and earth sheltering.
Active solar power
Active solar power is so called as it actively captures solar energy using solar collectors and distributes that energy for household usage. There is one type that uses solar panels fitted with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electrical energy for immediate use - or later use through a battery storage system. The other type - solar thermal power - uses solar collectors to trap solar energy and may have conducting fluids, charge controllers, pumps/fans to circulate the heat or the heated water/air. Solar thermal power is used for heating purposes - applications based on this principle include solar cookers, solar geysers and even solar concentrators and solar stills.
Wind turbine system
Home owners living in areas with sufficient wind speeds (12-14 km/h minimum), and having at least half acre of land, wind turbine is an efficient and cost-effective renewable energy system for home use. A wind turbine, which converts wind's kinetic energy to clean electricity, can be installed as an off-grid stand-alone system by a home owner. Power generated depends on the size of turbine, wind speed and height of the structure (provided there aren't laws restricting heights of such structures).
Mini hydropower system
Home owners who are fortunate to have a river, stream or creek near their homes(with sufficient flow and vertical drop), may install a mini hydropower system. This uses the energy in flowing water for producing electricity or mechanical energy. Small-scale applications are available - called pico hydro-electric power turbines - which can help generate less than 5kw of power. A dam like structure can be created to make the water fall vertically. Power generated depends on the flow rate and the "head" (i.e. the height the water falls before hitting the turbines).
Geothermal heat pumps
Geothermal heat pumps use the ground as both a source and sink of heat in warming and cooling homes. They are comparatively more efficient - though more expensive - than air source heat pumps, as they depend on relatively consistent ground temperatures for the heat transfer process.
Biomass or biofuels
Home owners living in colder climates may use biomass fuel - instead of fossil fuels - for domestic heating purposes. Biomass boilers come in a variety forms - from wood-burning stoves to automatic pellet stoves - capable of using a range of biomass fuels (apart from the usual wooden logs, chips or pellets ) that include animal / food / industrial waste and high energy crops. Small biomass stoves can be used, with back boilers attached, for heating rooms and boiling water. The only hitch is that while other renewable energy technologies involve only an upfront cost with the power needed to run being free (sunlight/wind/water), the feedstock used here incurs a continuous expense.