The shocking truth about alternative energy!

If you want to save money switch to LED lighting, insulate your home and buy energy-efficient appliances.  If you want to keep carbon dioxide out of the air the single biggest thing you can do is switch to alternative energy. That’s the “shocking truth”.  Why shocking?  Because no other single thing you do as an individual will have as big an impact on climate change.

 

In this post you will see the huge impact you can make by switching to alternative energy and how to get it for your home.  You can save money, prevent carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, and improve you and your family’s health, all by switching to alternative energy.

Getting your home powered by alternative energy may seem like a daunting task, but really it could be as easy as a quick phone call or web visit to the power company you’re already getting electricity from.  But first some info to show you just how critical switching to alternative energy is.

(If you want to jump ahead to the “How To” part click –> here)

Save money when you switch

By changing all your old incandescent bulbs to LED lighting you can save lots of money over time. Here’s a table from a earlier blog post that summarizes dollars saved.  This table uses the average lifespan of each type of light bulb (incandescent, compact fluorescent, or LED) to determine how many bulbs you’d need to buy to give you ten years of light, with each bulb turned on for about 30 minutes a day, and with a power cost of $0.11 per kilowatt-hour.

Total Cost of energy and bulbs for different types of bulbs (LEDs are best, duh.)

The 2015 price of a single LED bulb was around $5, while a CFL cost about $1.78.  Twenty four bulbs are found in the average small house or one bedroom apartment, 47 in the average 3 bedroom home, and 94 in a large, 6 bedroom home.  See the original post for more details.  Here’s the same info in a bar chart.  Shorter bars are better, lower cost of lighting.

Cost of ten years of household lighting (bulbs + energy)
Ten year cost of household lighting.

Over the 10 year lifespan of typical LED bulbs you can save over $500 on lighting for the average home ($693.93 – $182.36 = $511.57).  Your savings will be even bigger if you leave your lights on or have more bulbs in your house.  And of course you’ll likely save even more as the price of LEDs continue to drop — not to mention that you’ll rarely have to change a light bulb again! Also, the info above is just for lighting.  Imagine the money you’d save if you insulated your home and switched to energy-efficient appliances as well!

You don’t have to imagine.  Try out this –> energy savings calculator

3 pack of LED bulbs from CostCo
These bulbs use 9.5 watts to give 60 watts of light, AND they last 22 years!

The KIND of energy you use is crucial

A previous post in the series about alternative energy from this blog showed how different sources of power affected carbon dioxide emissions from three sizes of homes, a small apartment (1 bedroom), an average house (3 bedrooms), and a large house (6 bedrooms).  Two figures from that post are shown below that show total average energy use per household size (not just light bulbs).

The real eye opener is that a one bedroom apartment getting electricity from a coal-fired power plant (blue bars) will make way more CO2 than a large house that’s powered strictly by solar energy (yellow bars) — as you can see by following the dashed line from left to right in the figure below.  

That’s the shocking truth!  It shows the huge impact alternative energy can have on reducing your carbon dioxide emissions!

Household CO2 made per year using different energy sources

Because the effect of alternative energy is so great compared to coal, you can’t really make out how the different forms of alternative energy stack up against each other.  This next graph shows you just that.  

As you can see, nuclear and wind energy make far less carbon dioxide than solar, and again, a one bedroom powered by solar makes more carbon dioxide than a large house powered by wind or nuclear power.  Pretty amazing!

Household CO2 made per year using alternative energy

 

It’s obvious that using alternative power makes a HUGE difference in your home’s carbon dioxide emissions — much more difference than the type of bulbs, or appliances, or insulation, or anything else. In fact, the single biggest thing we can do as individuals to slow or prevent the worst of climate change is use alternative energy.

 Even if you’re the biggest power hog imaginable, if you’re using alternative energy you are making way less pollution than the most careful power miser who gets their juice from coal!  Wow!

What I find interesting is that you rarely hear the media or other authoritative figures talking about this.  They always say things like “insulate your home”, “use public transportation, “walk more”, “take fewer airplane trips”, etc, etc.  And all of those things are important for many reasons, but when you compare sources of carbon in people’s lives it’s the household energy that makes up half or more of an individual’s carbon footprint.  

Check this for yourself by using a carbon footprint calculator

 

The health benefits are important

The health impacts of climate change are a major focus of this blog.  So far in this blog we have talked about the health impacts from climate change due to worsening…  ozone, increasing pollen, extreme drought, extreme rain and flooding, extreme snow stormsepic forest fires, extreme heat waves, and other topics.  One of the most important thing  people can do to prevent the worst health effects of climate change is to cut their own personal carbon emissions by using alternative energy.  

Increasing length of ragweed pollen season over past twenty years due to warming climate
Increasing length of ragweed pollen season over past twenty years due to warming climate

We’ve yet to specifically talk about the impacts of changing patterns of infectious disease, water and food scarcity, and other topics, although we’ve touched on them here and there.  All of these things are already affecting you, your family, and your community’s health.  The goal is to keep it from getting worse — worse than the change that’s already “baked” into the system.  We can do that if we all work together, and a big part of that is changing our relationship with energy.

 

Getting alternative energy for your home

I like things to be easy, so we’re not going to talk much about installing solar panels on your roof, or putting up wind mills in your backyard, or anything like that.  If you want to do that, all the better — you are my hero.  I’d one day like to have my own solar panels on my roof and go “off-grid”, or better yet, sell my power back to the power company.  

Let’s talk about the easy way to do things.  The easiest way to do your part and get alternative energy is to get it from your local power company.  I’ll use myself as an example.  I live in Texas and thanks to deregulation of the power industry there are plenty of power companies ready to sell alternative energy here.

A few years ago I went to the Champion Energy website and switched to a power plan with 100% wind power.  Now the wind doesn’t blow all the time, but it doesn’t have too.  Champion and other companies that sell alternative energy buy energy credits from wind energy producers, and then use those credits in proportion to the amount of energy I use.  That’s called a renewable energy credit.

Here’s how Champion Energy describes it…

“Champion Energy is able to provide green power through the purchase of an environmental trading commodity known as a renewable energy credit (REC). RECs are created when a qualified renewable energy generation facility (like a wind farm or solar array) produces electricity. They represent the added value in terms of renewable energy’s environmental benefits and costs when compared to conventional means of producing power. We buy RECs from wind farms contributing electricity to your local grid, then ‘retire’ those RECs in direct proportion to the amount of energy you consume. In this way, you can be confident that every kWh you use is helping to promote and support the continued development of green energy infrastructure in your area.”

As Champion Energy says… Being green is easy!

In this model, the money you spend on alternative power goes directly to the wind energy producer, builds the market for alternative energy, reduces America’s reliance on imported fossil fuels, does not go into the pocket of terrorists and decreases the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.  Whether you deny the facts of climate change or not — that’s what I call a win-win situation.

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So how can you get alternative power for your home??

Seven step checklist to get alternative power for your home

  1. First, visit your power company’s website and search for “alternative energy” or “green power”.  Many companies these days will have some sort of green power offering.  And just be aware that alternative energy may cost a penny or two more per kilowatt-hour than dirty energy, but the true costs of dirty fossil fuel energy are not figured into the price.
  2. If your power company does not offer green or alternative energy, the next step would be to use the GreenE Certification website to help you find an alternative energy company in your area.  You can also use the U.S. EPA’s Green Power Locator.

    If you live in Texas or Illinois and want to save $25 on your first bill use the code DChampion00760 when you sign-up at up at –> 100% Renewable Green Power from Champion Energy Services..  This blog will also make a few bucks.  I’ve used Champion for over 4 years now and have never had a problem.  Their customer service is outstanding.


  3. Once you’ve found a company or companies in your area, visit their website(s) to compare your options and sign-up for a plan.  Please read the fine print before locking yourself into any contracts.
  4. Don’t forget to check the U.S. Department of Energy’s DSIRE website to see if you qualify for any tax breaks or other incentives. This site lists all alternative energy tax credits and other incentives for all 50 states.  Although switching power companies does not qualify for an incentive, many other things you do will, such as buying energy-efficient appliances or insulating your home.  This is free money, especially if you were considering doing these sorts of things anyway.
  5. There’s a small chance that you are in one of the states with limited deregulation of their electricity markets, or perhaps you are in a small city or town with only one option and no green power choices.  In this case you may have to consider installing your own alternative power system.  Here’s a few resources to get you started…
    1. Planning for Home Renewable Energy Systems – a pretty extensive guide from the U.S. Department of Energy
    2. OR you could fight for municipal ownership of your local power company!
  6. Lastly, sit back and bask in the glow of your alternative energy!  You have now done way more than the majority of people to help avert climate catastrophe.
  7. Alright, that’s enough basking.  Now it’s up to you to get out there and spread the “shocking truth”!  The future of the human race is in your hands.

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