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It feels like our world is constantly a-buzz with words like energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmentally friendly, and clean energy revolution. We’ll be the first to say that when it comes to bettering our world by choosing to integrate renewable energy at home and other aspects of your life, we’re very much on board!
At WattDoesItUse, one of our goals is to cut through the chaos and confusion surrounding those important words so you understand what they mean, the value behind them, and how to implement clean energy in your daily life by integrating all of them.
So today, we’re addressing the first step in a super important (and sometimes intimidating sounding) area—renewable energy.
It’s not uncommon for most people to think that renewable energy is a concept best left to the experts. But we’re here to tell you exactly the opposite—you can be an integral part of America’s clean energy future by choosing to integrate renewable energy at home.
So in this post, we provide a complete breakdown of everything you need to know about home renewable energy.
What Is Renewable Energy & Why Should I Use It?
First things first, let’s answer the questions that are likely of every reader’s mind—what exactly is renewable energy and how do I implement that in my own home? Let’s take this one step at a time.
What Is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy, also known as clean energy, comes from natural resources or processes that are constantly being replenished. These sources either do not deplete or can be replenished within a human’s lifetime. When we talk about clean energy or renewable energy, we typically refer to methods like wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower.
At its very core, the goal of renewable energy is to replace “dirty” energy methods (i.e., fossil fuels) and reduce lower greenhouse gases while offering the same reliability.
Though renewable energy seems like a new concept, it’s actually been around for a very long time. The idea of harnessing the power of nature for heating, lighting, transporting, and more have been around since about 200 BC. It’s only in the past 500 years that humans have turned toward those dirty energy sources.
But as the need for finding renewable energy sources increases, we’ve turned back to nature in search of cleaner energy. In fact, renewable energy currently accounts for about 1/8 of U.S. power generation. Further, renewable energy expansion is happening in more than just power generation plants. Homes across the United States are investing in home renewable energy processes in order to produce the clean energy they need.
Why Is Home Renewable Energy Important?
So, we understand what renewable energy is and why it’s valuable on a large scale, but what about home renewable energy? Why does a small change in someone’s daily life and home energy process—a solar panel on their roof, a functional windmill in their yard, etc.—make a difference?
Home renewable energy is important for a ton of reasons.
- It might sound obvious, but we’re taking from energy resources that can’t run out—if we’re already adapting to using our unlimited resources, we can leave the finite resources be. Clean energy is the most sustainable option for energy production.
- Renewable energy is clean energy. It produces little to no waste products like carbon dioxide or other chemical pollutants, meaning it has minimal impact on the environment. That means your home-base, your personal environment, will be cleaner and healthier.
- It might seem like altering your own home to run off clean energy is such a small change it won’t make a difference, but it does. Even if you can’t totally power your home via renewable energy, the smallest change makes a difference—and tiny changes can add up over time.
The First Step to Integrate Renewable Energy At Home: Reduce Then Renew
Feeling pretty sold on integrating renewable energy in your home? We don’t blame you—we’re pretty wild about the idea, too. Our best advice to you is this: focus on energy efficiency first, then apply renewable energy.
Now, you might be wondering why we’ve been talking up renewable energy if we were just going to divert you away to a different strategy.
But these strategies go hand in hand. If you simply slap on solar panels before maximizing energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption first, you might not reap the full benefits that renewable energy can provide.
How To Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
First things first, gain a firm grasp on your energy & electricity bills to learn where your main costs are coming from and embark on a home energy audit. This way, you can get a better idea of what type of energy consumption you’re dealing with. You can analyze where you’re wasting key energy and what appliances are the key drivers behind energy consumption in your home. Then deduce how you can improve your energy efficiency.
These changes can be easy:
- Switch out incandescent lightbulbs for LEDs.
- Invest in a smart thermostat that automatically adjusts to save you money and conserve energy.
- Swap out old appliances for energy-efficient ones.
- Get rid of phantom electricity loads.
- Adjust how and when you do your home chores.
Once you’ve tackled the basics of energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption, you’ll be in a great position to take full advantage of any renewable energy options in which you invest.
Options for Home Renewable Energy
We won’t dive into every single option out there for home renewable energy (we doubt you actually want to read 20 pages on the subject, and we could seriously talk about renewable energy all day long). But there are straightforward and cost-effective ways to integrate renewable energy at home. Here is the “Cliff Notes” version of the five most viable ways to really invest in home renewable energy:
This is one of the most popular—and potentially cost-effective—ways to integrate renewable energy at home. Solar panels, or photovoltaic panels, are typically placed on the roof in a yard and capture the sun’s energy and convert it to energy. There are a growing number of resources to help you determine the right panel capacity for your home based on location and intended use. Many utilities also provide information and support to integrate this electricity into your service and sometimes even to help finance your investment. As an example, take a look at PSE&G’s Solar & Renewable Energy website.
Though solar ovens might not be the ultimate renewable energy solution, they definitely make a difference! Solar ovens trap sunlight to heat food and passively cook food, too! They cook food for free, can be used anywhere, and can work even when there’s a power outage. All they require is a little sunshine.
Wind turbines require significant plots of land in more rural areas and are a bigger upfront financial investment than solar panels. However, if you have enough land, a wind turbine can be a great way to power your home! Wind power is more stable than solar (typically) and it only takes sustained winds of 10 mph to produce a significant amount of power! If you want to invest in this technology to support its growth but don’t have capacity for it at home, consider investing in wind energy companies!
Sounds weird, right? You use the hot sun to power a cold AC unit? It might seem strange, but it’s a real thing! Solar air conditioning employs the same principles of a solar water heater and it can cut costs, save a substantial amount of money, and even be configured to produce heat, too.
The geothermal heat pump, also known as a ground source heat pump, provides space heating and cooling as well as water heating. Because the ground remains at relatively constant temperatures throughout the year, a geothermal heat pump transfers that heat into your home during the winter and transfers it back into the ground in the summer.
Over the coming months, we will publish posts that dive into each of these five primary avenues to integrate renewable energy at home. Each post will include a dive into the technology, how to get started with it, financing options available, and an overall business case so that you can see how each stands to help you save money while also helping to save the planet!
If you’re not quite ready for this kind of commitment, there are an increasing number of solar-powered devices—from device chargers and computer keyboards, to lamps and flashlights—that can help you make smaller dents in your utility bill before taking the leap.
Save Money & Help Save The Planet: Choose to Integrate Renewable Energy At Home
Renewable energy doesn’t seem like such a massive undertaking now, does it?
We won’t lie—it isn’t always easy to integrate renewable energy at home, but in the long run, it will save you money, help you conserve energy, and make the world a better (cleaner!) place. As a first step, prioritize energy efficiency to minimize your home’s demand for power and stay tuned for more in-depth pieces on each of the renewable options to choose from.
If you’re after more information on energy conservation, alternative energy sources, or even 101 guides on electricity, subscribe to keep up with our regularly updated WattDoesItUse blog! Stay in the loop on energy trends, the latest must-have energy-efficient devices, and insight on living a cleaner, more energy-efficient lifestyle!