electricity generation » energy efficiency - Summary of main areas of energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that there is no single simple solution for the global warming crisis, nor is there an easy way to solve the problem of increasing fuel costs and dwindling supplies. While in an ideal world we would all be able to meet our energy requirements with renewable sources, often this is not possible due to space, money or even the climate zone in which we live.

This is why a philosophy has emerged that presents a dual solution - one that aims to reduce carbon emissions not only be finding alternative sources of energy, but that also aims to retrain people's habits of energy consumption. This solution, which combines the integration of renewable and clean energy with the concept of energy efficiency, is considered to be the most practical way forward in a world where total reliance on renewable sources is not yet possible.

More Efficient Energy Usage

The idea behind energy efficiency is simple - by using the energy available to us (whether it is renewable or fossil-fuel based) in a manner that reduces or eliminates waste, we can thereby reduce the amount of energy that is needed to be produced for us. In other words, by using technology to make our energy-usage more efficient, we reduce the amount of energy we consume but do not necessarily have to reduce the quality of the end result.

An example of this would be the use of fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent light bulbs - fluorescent bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs but can produce the same amount of illumination. By replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, the total electricity usage of a building can be drastically reduced, thereby cutting not only the annual electricity bill but also shrinking the carbon footprint of the building. Many governments around the world are looking into the possibility of banning incandescent bulbs (the United Kingdom is aiming to ban the sale of these bulbs by 2011) so that home and business owners will be forcibly encouraged to use the more efficient fluorescent option.

New Building Techniques

There are many other ways that a building can be made more energy efficient, though budget and the state of the building will play a part in determining the level of efficiency that can be achieved. In many countries (including the United Kingdom), new buildings must meet a certain level of energy efficiency.

In the United Kingdom, new builds are subjected to the Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Dwellings, and there is the expectation that energy efficient technologies will be incorporated into the building's design. This may mean the use of high-grade insulation or even super-insulating the entire building (effectively sealing it from the outside in order to obtain maximum heat retention); the use of triple-glazing on windows; the installation of LED and fluorescent lighting; and the maximisation of passive solar heating and lighting (obtained by positioning the building at a specific angle with the path of the sun in the sky). Each new build is given a Dwelling Carbon Dioxide Emission Rate (DER).

Older Buildings

Older buildings are not as easy to render energy efficient, simply because it is harder to re-insulate them and it is virtually impossible to reposition the building so that the maximum amount of passive solar power can be obtained. Quick fixes include the replacement of incandescent light bulbs, the replacement of inefficient appliances with efficient models (look out for the energy efficiency rating of the appliance - if it isn't listed, ask either the store or the manufacturer), and the use of thick curtains, draught-stoppers and carpeting to maximize heat retention.