ElectricityMatch has been the proud sponsor of a national essay scholarship contest for three years. During that time, we have received hundreds of outstanding essays on how to show people that conserving energy does not always mean sacrificing comfort. We are especially interested in new and innovative approaches from the next generation of engineers, business people, artists, and scholars.
The 2018 scholarship contest received almost 200 entries. One of those entries took an innovative approach to communicating energy conservation ideas. In addition to an essay, it also included an infographic. This stood out as an excellent of how communication is more visual than ever. This entry, submitted by Taylor Longmire, was selected as winner of the 2018 ElectricityMatch National Scholarship Essay contest. Taylor will be attending Wake Forest University in the fall and gave us permission to share her essay and infographic.
CONSERVING ENERGY – by Taylor Longmire
The world is warming, human population is growing, and houses are getting bigger. The result is: A staggering demand for air conditioning and heating units. The climate impact of air conditioning is at a shocking half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and is projected to grow exponentially. 1 Most people want to protect our planet and save money in the process. Therefore encouraging the use of safe, energy efficient heating and cooling methods play an important part in consumers engaging in energy conversation and the fight against global climate change.
Perhaps the most practical heating and cooling consideration to conserve energy is efficient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning) systems. Choosing the right HVAC system is essential in order to save money, fuel, energy, and reduce greenhouse emissions. HVAC systems that are energy efficient include geothermal heat pumps, solar based heating and cooling systems, and systems with an Energy Star endorsement.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Geothermal ground source heat pump systems are one of the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.” 2 They are on average, 48% more energy efficient than gas furnaces and 75% more efficient than oil furnaces. They derive about 70% of their energy in renewable energy from the ground and burn no fossil fuel on-site to produce heat. They also provide much cleaner air quality since there are no carbon monoxide emissions. “Over an average 20-year lifespan, installation of 100,000 units of residential geothermal systems can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 1.1 million metric tons of carbon equivalents. That would be the equivalent of removing 58,700 cars from our highways or planting more than 120,000 acres of trees.” 2
Solar heating and cooling systems derive thermal energy from the sun to provide hot water, heating and cooling. This system removes the need for electricity or natural gas as a power source. Sourcing solar energy is relatively simple as long as you have sunlight and space. It releases zero emissions. However, they do release emissions during the manufacturing, transport and installation of the system. Nonetheless, its footprint pales in comparison to conventional heating and cooling methods.
ENERGY STAR® HVAC systems are another way to conserve energy. “ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency providing, simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions.” 3 The EPA ensures that each ENERGY STAR® product has been independently certified to deliver performance, energy efficiency, quality, technological innovation, and savings. They use up to 50% less energy than standard heating and cooling systems. Choosing ENERGY STAR® certified heating and cooling equipment can reduce energy, help protect our environment from harmful pollutants, decrease emissions, and reduce global warming.
It is also important to keep a HVAC system in tip-top working condition by conducting regular HVAC Service and Maintenance. Typical maintenance should include lubricating all moving parts. Lack of lubrication can cause friction and increase the amount of energy used. Air conditioning coils should also be checked. Coils that are dirty or dusty can cause the system to run longer reducing its efficiency as well as increasing energy production and costs. Blower components should be cleaned and adjusted to allow optimal airflow. Incorrect airflow can reduce a system’s efficiency by up to 15%.
Using renewable energy or more efficient means of energy to heat and cool, as well as regular maintenance can conserve energy, save money, and reduce a household’s carbon footprint. It is the best way to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. By using these environmentally friendly systems and keeping them in optimal working condition, consumers can greatly contribute to the reduction of global warming. The overall investment in an energy efficient HVAC pays for itself in a short period of time by the money saved in efficient heating and cooling. There is zero sacrifice to comfort. In fact comfort level is increased due to the efficient flow of heated and cooled air. Add in the benefits of cleaner air in your home and the reduction of pollutants; it’s a win-win for consumers.
- Cooling a Warming Planet: A Global Air Conditioning Surge. Stan Cox. July 10, 2012. Retrieved on March 12, 2018 from https://e360.yale.edu/features/cooling_a_warming_planet_a_global_air_conditioning_surge
- Energy Environmental – Solar, Geothermal, Radiant, Wind. Retrieved on 3/13/2018 from http://www.energyhomes.org/renewable-technology/geoefficiency.html
- ENERGY STAR Overview. Retrieved 3/13/2018 from https://www.energystar.gov/about