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How We Use Energy Nowinefficient lightbulb

With the never ending rise in cost of energy,how we use energy in so many different ways is vitally important. Of course we use electricity to light our houses, streets, and buildings. We use gasoline to power our cars. We use fossil fuel sources to heat our houses as well.

Natural gas is the most widely used energy source in American homes, followed by electricity, heating oil and propane.

Natural gas and heating oil (fuel oil) are used mainly for home heating. Electricity may also be used for heating and cooling, plus it lights our homes and runs almost all of our appliances including refrigerators, toasters, and computers. Many homes in rural areas use propane for heating, while others use it to fuel their barbecue grills.

But many of our other “conveniences” also use up available resources. Plastic containers use petroleum as it’s raw material. Paper uses our trees which many of us use to heat our homes.

Energy Consumption Uses Natural Resources

Because thermoelectric power plants, our main manufacturing technique for electricity, uses a lot of water for cooling purposes, we find that 40% of our fresh water supply is actually used by them. This is often an unseen issue of our current energy sources and makes the benefits of alternative energy like wind, solar, and geothermal that much more compelling.

What’s more, our gasoline and oil consumption is also closely tied to water use. Refining oil and gasoline requires large quantities of water, and in 2006, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that we used 1 to 2 billion gallons of water a day for refining petroleum. Likewise, it takes between 1 and 2.5 gallons of water to refine a single gallon of gasoline - meaning that the 384 million gallons of gasoline that Americans burn daily translates to over a billion gallons of water used per day.

Modern Conveniences

The ability to maintain desired temperatures is one of the most important accomplishments of modern technology. Our ovens, freezers, and homes can be kept at any temperature we choose, a luxury that wasn't possible 100 years ago.

But keeping our homes comfortable uses a lot of energy. Almost half of the average home's energy consumption is used for heating. Another 17 percent is used for water heating, 6 percent for cooling rooms, and 5 percent for refrigeration.

Almost one-fourth of the energy used in homes is used for lighting and appliances. Lighting is essential to a modern society. Lights have revolutionized the way we live, work, and play.

How Energy is Used in Homesoverloaded power supply

Most homes still use the traditional incandescent bulbs invented by Thomas Edison. These bulbs convert only about ten percent of the electricity they use to produce light, the other 90 percent is converted into heat. With new technologies, such as better filament designs and gas mixtures, incandescent bulbs are more efficient than they used to be.

In 1879, the average bulb produced only 14 lumens per watt, compared to about 17 lumens per watt today. By adding halogen gases, the efficiency can be increased to 20 lumens per watt.

Compact fluorescent bulbs, or "CFLs", have made inroads into home lighting systems in the last few years. These bulbs are more expensive to purchase, but last much longer and use much less energy, producing significant savings over the life of the bulb.

Appliances such as water heaters, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers are also more energy efficient than they used to be. In 1990 Congress passed the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act, which requires new appliances to meet strict energy efficiency standards. Learn more about energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, and other ways to save energy at home.

Types of Energy Used In Homes

Natural gas is the most widely used energy source in American homes, followed by electricity, heating oil and propane. Natural gas and heating oil (fuel oil) are used mainly for home heating. Electricity may also be used for heating and cooling, plus it lights our homes and runs almost all of our appliances including refrigerators, toasters, and computers. Many homes in rural areas use propane for heating, while others use it to fuel their barbecue grills.

Energy Use In Different Types of Homes

About 80 percent of residential energy use is consumed in single family homes, while 15 percent is consumed in multi-family dwellings such as apartments, and 5 percent is consumed in mobile homes.

More than half of the energy used for heating in single-family homes (either attached or detached) is natural gas, about one-fourth is electricity, and one-tenth is fuel oil (heating oil). Over three-fourths of single-family homes have some type of air conditioning. Almost all single-family homes have a washing machine and a dryer.

Among Single-Family Dwellings:

In 2001, for the Main Heating Fuel and Equipment:

78% of single family homes have air conditioning (central system, wall/window units - or both)

For Appliances:

Multi-Family Dwellings

Multi-family dwellings such as apartments use about equal amounts of natural gas and electricity for heating. About two-thirds of multi-family homes have air conditioning but only about one-fourth contain washers and dryers.
Among Multi-Family Dwellings:

In 2001, for the Main Heating Fuel and Equipment:

68% of multi-family homes have air conditioning (a central system,wall/window units - or both)

For Appliances:

Mobile Homes

Mobile homes are more likely than the other types of homes to heat with propane(LPG). More than one-third of mobile homes use electricity and about one-third use natural gas for heating. Most mobile homes contain washing machines and dryers.
Among Mobile Homes:

In 2001, for the Main Heating Fuel and Equipment: 

68% of mobile homes have air conditioning(central system, wall/window units - or both

For Appliances:

President Obama's Energy Plan

President Obama in his Inaugural speech had much to say about how he viewed the benefits of alternative energy.

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood ... Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

He expanded on this point a few lines later:

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

He went on to say.

"... we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations ...

With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet."

Obama offered a call to act on a variety of great tasks in the strongest possible terms, most especially on clean energy, resource efficiency, and global warming.

"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

The Bottom Line

If we can reduce our consumption of energy we can make a significant difference in our lives, our economy, and our dependence on foreign sources. Combined with new alternative and renewable energy we can change the lives of our children for the better.


Sources: Energy Information Administration, 2001 Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

The National Energy Education Development Project, Secondary Energy Infobook, Manassas, VA, 2004.

 

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