Saving Money and Energy Passively

When I was in eighth grade, we did an entire unit on energy in science class. We learned all about the different types of energy, how energy works, and what happens to energy after we use it. We also learned about energy efficiency which was something that really interested me. At the end of the unit I did a project where I went around my house and assessed how energy efficient my home was. I looked at several things including, windows, lights, and appliances. After that I figured out how much money we could save each year by switching to more energy efficient products in our home.

Now that I have learned a lot in environmental science, I also know that energy efficiency not only saves you money, but it is also good for the environment. The more energy we waste, the more natural resources we are wasting as well. Tons of coal that gives off carbon dioxide is burned each year to provide us with electricity. On average, a coal powered plant will give off 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. We also waste natural gas that several of us use to heat our homes, by not having proper insulation and sealing in our homes that will allow the heat to easily escape.

There are several ways to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home. An easy fix would be to make sure your home is properly insulated. This would include windows. It is also important to seal potential leaks or cracks around windows and doors where heat can escape. Another obvious way to reduce energy use would be to invest in energy efficient appliances, however this isn’t always a viable option, as it can get expensive to replace appliances.

Another way would be to look at how you are heating your home. When I was living at a sustainable organic farm over the summer in Missouri, they were in the process of building a home that utilized passive solar heating. This method really appeals to me because it seems a very natural way to use the sun’s rays to heat your home and provide energy. A passive house reduces the energy used by about eighty to ninety percent. Passive homes can be built in such a way that the sunlight will go in through the windows in the winter to provide heat, but in the summer, and overhang will block the higher summer sun’s rays from entering the windows which will keep the house cooler. Another aspect of a passive home is that the floors and walls are made of stone, concrete, or bricks which will absorb heat that can be release throughout the day.

Thermal image of heat lost from a Passive House next to a conventional building
This shows how much more heat is lost in a normal home compared to a passive home.

Even though it isn’t likely for people to change their homes to passively heated homes, I think it is still a great method that we could begin to implement in new buildings. And for existing buildings we can make other changes. Even the smallest of changes can help improve energy efficiency which will save money and help the environment.

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