As we have moved forward in time, technology has helped create a more environmentally conscious perspective on energy consumption. And as time continues to move forward, we hope to see further improvements to technology that will help save even more energy at home and on the road.
In 1983, world electrical power consumption was 1,610,000 kWh per capita. As of 2013, power usage has risen to 3,100,000 kWh per capita. However, as technology becomes more efficient and people become more aware of their place in the environment, there is hope that energy usage can begin to level out. Technology can adapt to require less energy while the general public can continue using technology at an exponentially growing rate. With improvements and advances in residential and commercial equipment, saving energy can be a top priority.
How battery technology can impact residential energy consumption
Finding ways to save on energy costs while at home is becoming more and more relevant. Some companies offer renewable energy storage such as a home battery system that charges through solar power generation throughout the day. This kind of technology helps create a more round-the-clock attitude toward solar energy, something that without energy storage would be impossible. It also fosters the idea of becoming net-zero, or using as much energy as you produce through renewable energy generation.
Use smart thermostats to help reduce HVAC costs
Heating and cooling your home can account for about 50 percent of your energy use per month. It comes as no surprise that learning how to closely monitor and control your home’s temperature can significantly help reduce energy consumption and cost. It’s suggested that you can save up to 10 percent a year by setting you thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day, so imagine how a programmable or smart thermostat can impact your savings.
Many smart thermostats can adjust your home’s temperature based on outdoor weather conditions, cutting back on costs and consumption by turning on the air conditioning when it gets hot and turning it down when it begins to cool off. Smart thermostats often feature smartphone apps that can allow you to control your systems while you’re away, making quick adjustments to make your home more comfortable if you think you’ll get home early one day. Monthly reports from smart thermostats can also help you better understand your own energy usage and better plan your consumption.
Ditch incandescents for more advanced light bulbs
While the incandescent light bulb has been a faithful technology that has lit households for decades, time has introduced a few new, energy-saving bulbs that use a lot less energy. The major advancements in light bulb technology include compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), light emitting diodes (LEDs) and halogen incandescent light bulbs.
- Halogen incandescent light bulbs use up to 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last almost two years longer. However, halogen light bulbs can produce just as much heat, potentially increasing HVAC costs.
- CFLs are the industry standard for lighting, and are about 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs can also last six to 10 times longer, saving about $40 in replacements costs. One of the major draw backs to CFLs is disposal. While you should always consider recycling bulbs, CFLs require special treatment because they contain mercury vapor, which can cause negative neurological effects if inhaled.
- LEDs are by-far the most energy efficient bulbs on the market, using 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs can last significantly longer – up to 50,000 hours of use. These bulbs also waste less energy on heat, making them less of a fire hazard. LEDs can be placed both outdoors and indoors, due to their durability, and are becoming less expensive.
Cut back on energy used in transportation
In 2015, transportation in the United States consumed 15,981 trillion BTUs, or British thermal units. That’s a lot of energy. In fact, the transportation sector is second only to the industrial sector, which consumed 18,212 Trillion BTUs in energy in 2015. With that in mind, finding ways to conserve energy in transportation is vital in reducing carbon emissions and conserving resources.
Invest in solar roadways
One way to impact energy consumption in the transportation sector is through solar roadways. A solar project, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2009, created a parking lot that had 108 solar panels, which could withstand 250,000 pounds of pressure, embedded in the lot. Not only could this solar roadway last 20 years, it also melted snow and ice on impact and had built-in LED traffic lights. If implemented wide-scale, a solar roadway could show a large return on investment compared to concrete or asphalt paved roads. Unlike traditional concrete and asphalt, this solar roadway generates energy that could charge electric vehicles, requires no paint and facilitates energy independence.
Turn off street lights for glow-in-the-dark road markings
Street lights stay on for hours, and rightfully so. Without proper lighting, roads would be a dangerous place. However, technology exists that could cut down on energy usage and still provide ample markings. In the Netherlands there already exists glow-in-the-dark markings that contain photo-luminescing power that charges during the day and glow for up to eight hours at night. While this kind of lighting isn’t widespread, it is an energy-efficient alternative that could cut costs and emissions.
Implement electric priority lanes on major highways
High-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes are pretty common in most metropolitan areas. If this concept is applied to electric vehicles, an increase in energy efficiency on roadways could allow electric vehicles to travel longer distances. In short, electric priority lanes would allow electric vehicles driving on top of these lanes to charge using embedded magnetic fields. This technology is similar to the wireless charging of phones.
Only use energy when needed
Another idea that would prove sustainable are motion-sensor road lights. Unlike current road lights that stay on throughout the night to provide illumination, motion-sensor lights would only turn on when vehicles are nearby. If built into the roadway, this technology could cut back on energy wasted on roads where traffic is fairly light in the evening and night. This type of lighting system could be applied to pedestrian and cyclist traffic as well, cutting back on usage when no one is around.