This page summarizes large
and small operational practices that can be implemented for planned and existing
households to increase overall enviornmental sustainability according the three
pinnacles outlined in The Green Revolution:
1) Resource, energy,
and waste minimization and re-use.
2) Carbon neutrality.
generation (solar, wind, and hydroelectric) is arguably the hallmark of today's
residential-scale green revolution because it achieves environmental
sustainability in all three of the revolution pinnacles.
1) Since flowing
water, sunshine, and wind are continually renewed resources, they can be tapped
and displace other resources actively and continously purchased.
2) Usually, the grid
power that is displaced by alternative energy homes is power that is generated
all or in part by oil or coal power plants, so the alternative energy generation
capacity actually reduces personal carbon footprints.
3) Although payback
periods tend to be between ten and twenty years for typical alternative energy
installations, they are always profitable in the long term, not even factoring
in the inevitable inflation in energy values.
Still, alternative energy
does not come cheap, and robust solar systems for typical American-style
patterns of consumption can be very expensive. Wind and hydroelectric
power are possible only where these resources are abundant enough to work, and
they are not that much less expensive than solar. Transition to a grid-tie
alternative energy generation capacity is a great plan, all in all, but is one
that is often out of reasonable financial reach of household owners.
Still, at the return of investment that such capital expenditures make possible,
creative forms of financing and even piecemeal transition is clearly
economically favored in the mid- to long-term over conformance exclusively to
grid-supplied electrical power.
Home Power Reduction Strategies
There are a number of ways of dramatically reducing the
energy requirements of conventional homes. These vary as a function of
geography, latitude, lifestyle, and other factors and are listed in no
1) Solar hot water heating. In many homes,
the heating of water represents the largest or second largest energy consumer of
all household operations. In developed societies, water is often heated by
either electrical or natural gas hot water heaters. Conventional hot water
heaters maintain a constant volume of water that is always hot and sustained at
a temperature set by a thermostat. Another style of hot water supply
depends on instantaneous hot water heaters, either electrical or natural gas.
For large households with high hot water demands, the reservoir hot water heater
is economically favored, and for households with low hot water demands, the
on-demand model is economically favorable. Roof-mounted solar hot water
heaters are reliably shown to reduce overall energy consumption by 65-902%
depending on consumption patterns and latitude and weather circumstances.
These units depend entirely on solar radiation to heat water and good insulation
to sustain this heat to the extent possible. These hot water heaters have
no moving parts and a long life expectancy. The technology is robust and
proven, and some nations (Israel, for instance) have laws mandating the use of
solar hot water heating as a national energy policy regulatory mechanism.
Active systems link a solar hot water heater to an electric or gas hot water
heater. Since the inlet water is hot, less energy is consumed to sustain
the temperature. In tropical climates where hot water can be sacrificed
periodically with no great loss, passive systems can be deployed in which hot
water is entirely provided from radiated heating and insulated storage with no
supplemental energy source.
2) Climate Control. Both heating and
cooling require variations of heat pumps. Whether driven by natural gas,
diesel, fuel oil, or electricity, a heat pump relies upon temperature gradients
to transfer heat in one region to another. So, in the summer time, heat is
extracted from the outside air and pushed inside a household. In the
summertime, the heat inside a household is pumped out of doors. The amount
of energy required to drive this operation varies as a direct function of the
contrast in temperature between the two regions. So, it takes a lot more
energy to extract heat from a Minnesota sub-zero day and introduce it to a
household than it does to do the same work in Arkansas, where the temperature
the same day might be 45 degrees. Unlike the air, ground temperatures
remain constant year round. Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of this
and used extensive buried hosing to provide a constant temperature with a much
smaller gradient with the house temperature than that presented by the air
outside. In summer time, the soils are much cooler than than the air and
in the wintertime the soils are much warmer than the air. A heat pump
relying on a reservoir of air that is buried through hosing in the ground has a
much lower temperature gradient. As a result dramatically less energy is
required to achieve the same heat pumping results. In terms of economic
viability, the savings of a geothermal heat pump vary in practice according to
the extremes in seasonal temperatures. Geothermal heat pumps are ideal in
temperate and high latitude destinations but have a decreased savings/capital
cost quotient in tropical regions where there is a smaller gradient between
summertime highs and wintertime lows. Despite this variation, geothermal
heat pumps are clearly economical in all cases in which climate control is
intended in the long term. Retrofitting of existing homes with a
geothermal heat pump to replace conventional units carries a larger cost than
planning for the inclusion of a geothermal heat pump in a new construction.
3) Refrigeration. Conventional alternating
current refrigerator motors use 20 times more power than equivalent direct
current refrigerator motors. Refrigeration, after climate control and
water heating, is the largest source of routine electrical consumption in
conventional households. DC-refrigerators are typically somewhat more
expensive than their conventional AC counterparts--though not by much--and most
DC refrigerators are fabricated chest-style. Since cold air is heavy and
sinks, a chest style refrigerator is more efficient than a vertical refrigerator
when opened, since denser cold air pours out of a vertical refrigerator but
stays in place in a chest style refrigerator. Typically DC refrigerators
have a single compartment so that depending on the thermostat range, a single
unit can be either a freezer or a refrigerator, but not both. Sunfrost
manufactures a refrigerator/freezer in a vertical style configuration, but at
twice the cost of competitors like Sundanzer that provide single compartment
options, all of them chest-style.
4) Cracks and leaks. For homes that depend
on heating and cooling for climate control, sealing of homes is vital to ensure
efficiency. Typical homes in the United States have leaks and cracks in
them that add up to the equivalent of one window left permanently open.
Simple sealing of all such leaking places in the home with a variety of sealant
products will have a dramatic impact on overall energy utilization.
5) Thermostat Sacrifice. The costs of
climate control vary as a direct function of the gradient between outside and
inside temperatures (or in the case of homes outfitted with geothermal heat
pumps with inside and soil temperatures). Dramatic savings are possible by
maintaining climate controls so that they are as cool as reasonably possible in
winter and as warm as possible in the summer.
6) Energy efficient Appliances.
Contemporary manufacturers are making continual improvements in efficiency so
that conventional appliances use less and less energy than their predecessors to
achieve the same function. Careful attention to the appliances purchased
and how these appliances are used will provide an avenue toward reduction in
energy consumption patterns. With the advent of ultra-efficient compact
fluorescent bulbs, the enormous power consumption required for incandescent
bulbs can now be cut by a factor of nearly ten without sacrifice in luminous
7) Drying clothes on the line.
The conventional electric clothes dryer is a power pig. Outside of a hot
water heater and a large central air conditioning unit it is the household
appliance that uses the largest amount of electrical energy (4500 watts,
typically). Dramatic savings can be achieved over the long term by drying
clothes on the line when conditions permit and restricting dryer usage to rainy
8) Water conservation fixtures. The
wastage of water in routine daily household operations and functions is dramatic
and without any added value. Conventional pressure in US water supply
districts is 40 psi. My water pressure here in a Central American tropical
backwater is only 8 psi. Yet, I have water for cooking, laundering,
bathing, and for everything else. The higher the water pressure setting
the more water is released in every tap upon use. How much water is really
required to wash one's hands? The answer to this is that the absolute
water requirement for routine tasks is 20-50 times lower than the water that is
routinely used in conventional American style households to perform the task in
question. A household interested in reducing its overall resource
consumption down to what is reasonably required, accommodating the luxuries as
desired, would reasonably consider basic steps such as the following:
1) reducing household water pressure with a household
pressure reduction valve
2) reducing the flush volume of toilets by adding a one-liter volume
displacement in the back of the tank or outfitting bathrooms with energy
conservation toilets to start with.
3) water conservation shower fixtures.
4) elimination of all daytime irrigation to reduce evapotranspiration.
5) implementation of drip irrigation where reasonable and possible to
6) reduced reliance on dishwashers; never running a dishwasher unless it
is completely full.
7) grey water reuse systems for irrigation and lawn watering.