Contributed by Jennifer Smith
These days, we thankfully live in an age in which a great number of companies and governments are looking at how what we do affects the natural environment.
Many of our energy resources will run out in the not too distant future if we abuse them, and so it has become very important that our technology projects from here on in try to bring about a more sustainable future for all of us.
When you drive around pretty much any area these days, you may just see a few houses that have solar panels installed. Some people think that solar panels don’t look very good, whilst others don’t mind their aesthetic at all (a bit like the whole debate over whether or not wind turbines are ‘eyesores’ or not).
Whatever your opinion on solar panels, their environmental benefits cannot be ignored.For example, according to the solar panel installation experts at DePalma Roofing, “The environmental impacts of solar power are notable as other types of fuel must be hauled in through potentially leaky pipelines, by trucks or dug out of deposits miles deep into the earth.” They are also known as solar photovoltaics, and they work by capturing energy from the sun.
One common misconception with solar panels is that they only work when direct sunlight is shining on them – this is not true. Solar panels can in fact work on cloudier days as well.
The power they absorb through their photovoltaic cells is then distributed throughout the house, most commonly for things such as lights and other appliances.
Of course, as you might imagine, the installation of solar panels isn’t the cheapest of changes you can make to help your home work towards a more sustainable future, however it is an extremely effective one. If you have the money or the means to install a photovoltaic system, you should certainly look into it.
Solar water heating systems
If you get a solar water heating system installed in your home, you will be doing the environment a huge favour. As the name indicates, solar water heating systems basically use the sun’s energy to heat water and distribute it around a home.
Just like solar panels, these water heating systems channel the sun’s energy by way of paneling (which is usually installed on the roof of a house), which act as ‘collectors’ of the heat that comes from the sun.
Similarly again to solar paneling for electricity, the more strategically placed the panels are, the better, as the more sun they collect, the more water will be heated up and stored in your hot water heater.
In this day and age, we are blessed to have such a wide selection of energy efficient lighting options. In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, homeowners are encouraged to invest in lighting that will save them money on their energy bills.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps and Light Emitting Diodes (referred to most commonly as CFLs and LEDs, respectively) are widely available and highly popular.
CFLs are said to make up the most of the energy efficient light bulb population, whilst LEDs are also popular and are said to be the most energy efficient when all is said and done.
LED lighting is generally more expensive when you initially invest, but over the course of a few years they really begin to pay for themselves – and more. In theory, if you were to change all of the halogen light bulbs in a house to LED ones, the savings would be about $67 a year (or £40 or thereabouts).
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In order to get as many people as possible involved in energy efficiency, many governments are now launching programs that encourage homeowners to have energy saving technology installed in their homes.
The United Kingdom has launched the Green Deal, which helps homeowners make energy saving improvements to their homes, and helps them finance them. The typical modifications made to a home include:
- The installation of double glazed windows. Many homes in the UK are yet to have it installed, and as a consequence these homes are losing quite a lot of the energy they pay a lot of money for.
- Loft insulation. A surprising amount of energy can be lost through a property’s loft space, though, when you think about it, it might not be that surprising after all. Heat rises, as we all know, and the highest point in any home is the loft, so it does make sense that heat will rise and exit through the loft before those in the house can feel the benefit of it.
- Wall insulation. Just like with the above point, walls can hemorrhage heat at times, which is good for neither the homeowner nor the environment, as both are losing out (albeit in very different ways).
Once a homeowner has had the energy saving measures recommended by their Green Deal Advisor installed in their home, it becomes what is known as Green Deal Approved.
Editor’s note: In the United States, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is not a government program, but it has a similar aim. It offers different levels of certification for both new construction and remodeling projects.
A very exciting example of recent green technology is the smart meter, which was introduced in 2009. Over the next five years or so, it is thought that these will develop even further and play an even more pivotal role in sustainable energy.
Basically, the smart meter allows homeowners to monitor their own energy use. It updates itself every hour. As a result of this technology, people will be able to see which times of the day they use the most energy, as well as see which appliances within their home are using the most energy.
Some of the more advanced models will also monitor your water and gas consumption and allow you to follow it, and this is a feature that will probably be implemented in pretty much all of the ones that will be manufactured over the next few years.
Can you think of any other projects that aim for a more sustainable future? If so, please leave a comment in the section below, as we’d love to share the knowledge.
This blog was written by Jennifer Smith, on behalf of the Green Deal Shop, the one-stop shop for all of your Green Deal needs.