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One of the Most Important Things We Don’t Understand

Long ago, the energy we used to do things like heat and cook came from locally sourced firewood. It was easy to gauge how much we needed and how much we had left. It was hard work to chop and haul that energy source, so folks probably didn’t keep putting wood on the fire when they didn’t need the heat. Now that obtaining energy in the form of electricity is as easy as flipping a switch, we don’t have much reason to think about where it comes from and how it’s made.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

According to the World Bank, all but about 1 billion of us have access to electricity. This doesn’t mean there are a billion people without a source of energy – it’s just not in the form of electricity. Those without access, and some with limited access, still rely solely on solid fuels like coal and wood for heating and cooking.

That leaves about 6 billion people, most of whom probably rely on electricity virtually every minute of every day. I recently asked a random assortment of ten people to explain how electricity is generated. The result? All but two of them hadn’t the faintest idea how burning coal, nuclear reactions or spinning wind turbines leads to the electricity that powers our lives. One of the reasons that electricity remains such a mystery is that we don’t need to think about it.

How Much Do We Use?

Six billion people use a lot of electricity. Together, we required the production of over 22,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2011. Tera-what? The metric prefix ‘tera’ indicates a trillion of something. For perspective, it would take just 1 TWh of electricity to light 10 billion 100W light bulbs for an hour.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

With a population of a bit over 300 million, Americans comprise 4.45% of the world’s population (US Census Bureau data), yet we consumed 21.5% of the electricity generated worldwide. In 2011, more than half of our electricity came from coal (42%) and natural gas (25%) combustion combined. Especially in the US, the contribution of natural gas is on the rise, bucking the predicted price increase and remaining competitive with coal.

Compared to the world breakdown of fuels, we’re not that far off, except that hydropower comprises a greater proportion of global electricity production (15.8%) than it does in the US (just a few percent).

I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout

More than 80% of the world’s electricity is generated through thermal generating systems. Fuels like coal, natural gas, oil and even biomass (like wood and animal waste) are burned in large furnaces. The resulting heat is used to boil water.

The steam travels through boiler pipes where the pressure and speed turns the blades of a turbine. That mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy inside the generator because of the relative rotation between magnets and an electrical conductor.  The resultant electricity is run through transformers before beginning its journey along the electrical grid.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Nuclear power is a mystery to many people, but in simplest terms, nuclear electricity generation is just another way to boil water. When radioactive materials like

Uranium-235 are bombarded with neutrons they split apart in a process called fission. This process releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat. After that, it is the same as burning fossil fuels: the heat boils water, the water turns to steam and steam turns a turbine which is attached to a generator. Voila, electricity! Interestingly, December 10th marked the end of a 20 year program called “Megatons to Megawatts” whereby the United States purchased the uranium from 20,000 retired Russian warheads and processed it for use in power plants. Since 1993, 10% of our electricity supply has come from this material. That’s more than all alternative energy sources combined. Even though we’ve received our last shipment, the uranium from those warheads will be providing Americans with electricity even after 2020.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

It is worth noting that a technology called solar thermal electric generation has begun to have an impact on US markets in the past few years. Clustered in the US Southwest, these facilities use various methods to focus the sun’s energy to boil water which generates electricity as described above. Though this technology still occupies a very small share of the market, a recent report by the US Energy Information Administration reports that several new large installations are about to double the electricity generating capacity of this method.

Mother Nature Turns the Turbine

Humans have been using the sun, water and wind as energy sources since the beginning of time, yet they comprise what we call alternative energy. To generate electricity, wind and water turn the turbine directly, skipping the energy-losing step of boiling water, and the rest of the process is the same.

The immense natural power of water can be used to turn a turbine through a variety of methods including channeling through dams, submerging the turbine in an area with predictable tides, using the pressure created by ocean waves, and even small turbines submerged in minimally disturbed rivers and waterfalls. Hydropower is not without problems but continues to comprise a large portion of the renewable energy sector.

Wind power continues to be a rapidly growing source of renewable energy throughout the world. Detailed wind maps are constructed to find locations with adequate non turbulent wind without too many powerful bursts. Installations can be found on mountain ridges, plains, coastlines, and in coastal ocean waters. Wind power is not without controversy. Just last month amidst great controversy, the Federal Register published a decision designed to promote the development of wind power but may lead to an increase in the deaths of golden and bald eagles.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Geothermal electricity generation is another example of using nature to turn that turbine. The United States led the world in geothermal electricity generation last year, providing us with four times as much electricity as solar based methods. These plants use the steam that is produced from heat that occurs naturally a few miles beneath the Earth’s surface in some places.

Photovoltaic cells, what most of us think of as solar power, are unique in that there is no steam or turbine. The special materials used in photovoltaic cells are called semiconductors. When sunlight strikes certain semiconductor materials (e.g., silicon) photons are absorbed and electrons are released. We can then channel these electrons into an electrical current. Materials that do not exhibit this photovoltaic effect just absorb the photons and heat up when struck by sunlight. Technological advancements in semiconductor materials that can be applied in thin layers and still efficiently turn photons into electricity are progressing so rapidly that the IEA predicts photovoltaics will grow more than 11.5% a year through 2040.

The Most Efficient Solution

The energy mix that powers your home with electricity depends on where you live and your utility company. For instance, power companies serving California, Oregon and Washington generate more of their electricity using hydropower than any other single source. In contrast, the primary source for the south atlantic states is coal. As consumers we don’t have much control over our electricity sources, but Amory Lovins, physicist and energy expert, called energy efficiency the world’s biggest untapped energy resource. By using less energy to perform the same task, we are not sacrificing comfort or convenience, simply using less electricity. The justification begins with the money you can save and has far reaching implications. Switching to energy efficient products is easy and EnergyEarth is here to help.

Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved

Sources:

http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2013.pdf

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=13791

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/business/international/last-shipment-of-nuclear-fuel-from-russian-bombs-heads-to-us.html?_r=0

http://phys.org/news/2013-12-solar-power-sector-small.html#jCp

http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/subcommittee-examines-role-diverse-electricity-generation-portfolio

http://keshefoundation.org/image/keshe_generator/Electricity_Production_400.jpg

The Nest Learning Thermostat really gets to know you. It automatically learns what temperatures you like, turns itself down when you’re away and can be conveniently controlled from anywhere via Wi-Fi. By programming itself, the Nest thermostat can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling bill – and you don’t even have to set it! You just have to teach it well.

The Nest Learning Thermostat: Smart and Sleek {The Dirt on Green}

The 2nd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat is 20% thinner and can save you even more energy and works with 95% of low voltage systems.  The Auto-Away feature saves energy by turning the temperature down when you’re not home while Auto-Schedule learns what temperatures you like and programs itself. Don’t worry – you can also adjust the schedule at any time. Nest has advanced fan modes, sunlight correction and uses AC to reduce high humidity in your home.

The Nest Learning Thermostat: Smart and Sleek {The Dirt on Green}

Remotely control Nest over Wifi from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

The energy history tab shows you how much energy you’ve used and what affects your energy use most, and you’ll get an energy report every month with information about how much energy you’ve saved over time.

The Nest Learning Thermostat: Smart and Sleek {The Dirt on Green}

The Nest Leaf guides you to energy efficient temperatures with ease while System Match technology automatically activates different energy-saving and comfort-focused features for your home depending on the heating and cooling system you have.

The Nest Learning Thermostat: Smart and Sleek {The Dirt on Green}

Nest has expanded it’s compatibility to work with 95% of 24 volt heating and cooling systems, including:

–          2nd stage cool

–          3rd stage heat

–          emergency heat

–          humidification

–          dehumidification

–          dual-fuel

The Nest Learning Thermostat: Smart and Sleek {The Dirt on Green}

Installation is easy and takes most people 30 minutes or less on their own. Simplify your life and save today with the newest addition to our wide selection of energy efficient smart thermostats!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Savings calculations are easily found on the packages of many items, including light bulbs, appliances and many others. For example, this FEIT bulbadvertises a savings value, but how accurate are these calculations? Manufacturers make assumptions about how much your electricity costs and how many hours a day you use your light fixture. They often use national averages, but often there’s no way to tell where they are getting their numbers.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

At EnergyEarth, we also provide you with savings calculations, but we give you the option to fully customize your savings to ensure you know exactly how much you’ll save. We want to enable you to purchase the products that are exactly right for you, not just approximately.  Even if you don’t want to plug in your own numbers, you can rest assured that our numbers are based on reliable sources with the most current data available.

So what goes into our custom calculations? Some of the simplest calculations are for lighting. Let’s look again at the FEIT Dimmable LED bulb. From the product page, if you click on Custom Savings / Learn More you will see just how easy it is to input your own numbers.  Include as much or as little detail as you’d like, just keep in mind that the more information you put into the calculations, the more accurate your results will be.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

For lighting, just adjust the number of hours that you expect to use the light and how much your electricity costs – simple as that.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

At the bottom of the page you can check out the math that happens behind the scenes to arrive at the savings figures. There is no other tool on the internet that allows you to personalize your savings to this extent!

Some products require much more complex calculations; for example, these simple AM foam outlet gaskets that cost just ten cents each. These calculations must consider everything from the region where you live, to the size of your house and the number of outlets on exterior walls. We have included conservative estimates for all of the variables and with just a few clicks you can customize any or all of them.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

Adjust the custom savings on a showerhead like the Bronze 3 Function Showerhead and you can see that if you shower for 10 minutes a day, you’ll save $368 over the life of the product! Check out the custom savings calculations to see how much you can save in your home today.

At EnergyEarth, we do our best to empower you to make the best decisions about how to invest your energy savings dollars on every product you purchase from us.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Does Green Need to Cost More?

December 3rd, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Green Tips - (0 Comments)

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

No, It Doesn’t.

Too often going green is thought of as a choice made by only hippies or the wealthy. The good news is that going green doesn’t mean you have to drive a hybrid car or shop at a fancy health food store in your organic cotton, fair trade Recycle or Bust! t-shirt.

Think for a moment about the original green advocates: your grandparents or great grandparents. Living in the shadow of the Great Depression, they were incredibly frugal – which coincided perfectly with green.  So many of the things they did to save water, electricity and money make great lessons for us today.

Change a Few Habits and Think Long Term

The key is to recycle, reuse, upcycle and reduce waste in every area of your life – not just your plastic bottles and junk mail. There are plenty of free and inexpensive ways to go green all around you.

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Water

The least expensive way to reduce water consumption is through better habits!

–          Don’t let it run!

–          Stop leaks

–          Don’t over water gardens and lawns

–          Use less hot water

–          Find out where your water comes from

A small investment in a few simple devices will save you in the long term.

–          Faucet aerators

–          Low flow shower heads

–          Rain barrels (see our previous article about how much they can save you!)

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Electricity

The best way to use less electricity is by changing your habits!

–          Turn off your lights when they’re not in use

–          Turn off devices when not in use

–          Adjust your thermostat

Plus, get a few helpful devices. A small investment upfront will save you in the long term.

–          Motion control light switches

–          Energy efficient lighting

–          Smart power switches

–          Improve insulation

–          Programmable thermostats

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Upcycling

–          Reuse old clothes

–          Find new purposes for forgotten items

–          Donate unwanted items to a local charity

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Real Estate

Green building doesn’t need to cost more.

–          Going green actually increases real estate value

–          ENERGY STAR® certification can increase your home’s market value

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

More Ways to Save

–          Grow some of your own food

–          Hang dry your clothes

–          Make your own green cleaning products

–          Drink your tap water instead of buying bottles

–          Increase your fuel efficiency

What’s your favorite way to save? Tell us in the comments!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks

August 29th, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Green Tips - (1 Comments)

Thinking of making the switch to LED light bulbs? Now is a great time! Not only will you save hundreds over the lifetime of these bulbs, you won’t be hassled with frequent burn outs or changing light bulbs. Make your life a little easier and your wallet a little fatter with these great energy efficient lighting choices today!

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks {The Dirt on Green}

Feit LED 7.5 Watt (40 watt replacement) Dimmable A19 in Warm White (3000 Kelvins)

This dimmable FEIT LED bulb features an A shape and a standard medium base. Replace your 40 watt incandescent light bulb and use just 7.5 watts. Only $9.95 and estimated to save you more than $100 over its 25,000 hour rated lifetime. If you use this bulb for an average of 3 hours every day, this bulb could last over 20 years! And even after 20 years it still has our 4ever Limited Lifetime Warranty. It’s quite the energy efficient steal!

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks {The Dirt on Green}

Greenlite LED 8 Watt (40 watt replacement) Dimmable A19 in Warm White (3000 Kelvins)

Greenlite’s 8 watt dimmable A19 LED lamp uses approximately 80% less electricity than a traditional 40 watt incandescent light bulb, making it a great replacement. On top of that, its 25,000 hour rated life makes it an ideal solution for hard to reach areas where a medium amount of light is needed and its medium base means it will fit in nearly any of your existing sockets!

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks {The Dirt on Green}

TCP LED 8 Watt (40 watt replacement) Dimmable A19 in Warm White (2700 Kelvins)

This dimmable TCP LED bulb features a traditional A shape and a universal medium base. Replace your inefficient 40 watt incandescent light bulbs with this 8 watt LED with an outstanding 35,000 hour rated life today for unmistakable savings and convenience!

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks {The Dirt on Green}

TCP LED 12 Watt (60 watt replacement) A19 in Warm White (2700 Kelvins)

This 12 watt TCP LED bulb features a classic A shape, a medium base and a comfortable, warm white color just like the incandescent light bulbs you’re used to. Makes a great, energy efficient replacement for a 60 watt incandescent light bulb while using just 12 watts and features an exceptional 35,000 hour rated life – that’s 35 times a regular incandescent bulb!

Our Top 5 LED Light Bulb Picks {The Dirt on Green}

TCP LED 14 Watt (85 watt replacement) Dimmable PAR38 in Warm White (2700 Kelvins)

This dimmable PAR38 TCP LED bulb has a medium base, making it perfect for recessed lighting throughout your home or office. Replaces an 85 watt incandescent light bulb while using just 14 watts and features an unmatched 50,000 hour rated life.

Don’t see the bulb you need here? Check out the rest of our wide selection of energy efficient LED lighting!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Enter to Win a Water Pik EcoFlow Showerhead! {The Dirt on Green}

Do you “like” us on Facebook yet? If not, now is the time!

At the end of August, we will be giving away a Water Pik EcoFlow Showerhead to one lucky fan – so “like” us and share our page with your friends today!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging Station is an extremely handy, all-in-one charger with four different USB ports so you can easily charge pretty much any device whenever you need. It senses when new devices are added so you always get a full charge, no matter what and once every plugged in device is fully charged, it automatically cuts all power to save money and energy.

Energy Saving Products Review – Belkin Conserve Valet Charging Station {The Dirt on Green}

Simply plug in devices that charge using a USB cable, push the start button and power will flow until devices are fully charged, then automatically shut off. The valet is only compatible with power cables with a standard USB plug on one end (but that shouldn’t really be an issue in this technology age). It includes short charge-only cables for a variety of devices.

Energy Saving Products Review – Belkin Conserve Valet Charging Station {The Dirt on Green}

The handy cord keeper just below the no-slip shelf on top keeps cords neat, concealed and safe from kinks, making charging easy.

Energy Saving Products Review – Belkin Conserve Valet Charging Station {The Dirt on Green}

Personally, we love the Belkin Conserve Valet. It keeps all of our charging cables from ending up in a tangled mess on the table, frees up outlet space and saves energy all at the same time. Not your style? Check out the rest of our energy saving products!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ditch the Disposables - 4 Ways to Have a Green 4th of July {The Dirt on Green}

1. Ditch the disposables. Reusable tableware will save you money and lower your impact on the environment. Worried about an enormous pile of dishes after your get-together? Try asking your guests to bring their own plates or pitch in with cleaning duties.

Skip the Fireworks - 4 Ways to Have a Green 4th of July {The Dirt on Green}

2. Skip the fireworks. Stay safe and avoid the toxic fumes this year with fun alternatives like biodegradable confetti, a bonfire, attending a parade or light show and other fun activities. If you simply have to get your fireworks fix, try attending your city or community’s display instead or setting off your own at home.

Choose Real Food - 4 Ways to Have a Green 4th of July {The Dirt on Green}

3. Choose real food. It’s no secret that real, homemade food tastes better, but did you know that it can also help lower your impact? Highly processed snacks and ingredients often travel farther and have a larger carbon footprint than their simpler, often regionally-sourced alternatives. And did we mention that it tastes better?

Cool Down with Homemade Treats - 4 Ways to Have a Green 4th of July {The Dirt on Green}

4. Cool down with homemade treats. Turn off the air conditioner and step outside with a delicious fruity (or creamy!) popsicle. You can even make some for your furry guests!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Planey Earth

1. EnergyEarth’s own Home Energy Audit. Just answer a few questions about your home; we’ll help you figure out problem areas and give you personalized product suggestions to help you save money, water and energy. We don’t want to brag (okay, maybe we do), but we haven’t seen another online audit quite as helpful for figuring out how to make realistic, practical changes as this one.

2. Global Footprint Network’s fun and interactive Footprint Calculator helps you determine approximately how much of the Earth’s natural resources you use each year, along with tips on how to reduce your impact based on your answers. We actually had a lot of fun figuring out our global footprint, even if the results weren’t as stellar as we hoped they would be.

Calculator

3. World Wildlife Federation’s EcoGuru calculator is a quick and fairly simple footprint calculator that provides simple overall footprint results (no breakdown, unfortunately) and compares it to world averages, which is pretty interesting to note. They also offer a handy to-do list full of helpful tips to green your lifestyle.

4. The EPA’s Emissions Calculator is aimed at kids, encouraging them to think about their actions and how they affect the environment. It is set up sort of like a quiz and suggests actions that kids can take by themselves or with the help of parents and other family members, showing the results of their actions in pounds of CO2 they can reduce from entering the atmosphere.

Footprints in the Sand

5. Conservation International has two handy tools: one to measure your eco-footprint and one to calculate your carbon footprint (yes, those can be two different things!). One is more about how you choose to recycle, the items you purchase, etc., while the other is more your home, your car and your travel habits. Both are integral to your usage of natural resources and are very interesting to see broken down separately. Like the others, they provide unique conservations tips that can make a big difference without meaning living entirely off the grid or never leaving your house.

So that’s our round-up for now, but we know there many more out there that can help you calculate your impact and guide you to greening your lifestyle. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Kale is all the rage these days – and for good reason. This low calorie, fat free leafy green is high in fiber, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. What isn’t to love?

It can be hard to keep fresh greens on hand all the time without it wilting. Next time you pick up a bundle and don’t quite finish it before it’s about to turn, try blanching and freezing it for an easy and healthy boost in soups or sautéed as a side dish. If you just freeze fresh greens, they will get bitter, but blanching them for a few minutes will kill all the enzymes that cause that unwelcome bitter flavor.

Chopping the Kale

First, wash and trim your kale, as nobody wants to eat the tough, bitter stalk, then chop the leaves into smaller pieces.

While you’re doing that, start boiling water in a large stockpot and place a large bowl in your sink and fill it with cold water and ice.

How to Blanch Kale (and Other Greens) for Easy Freezing

For the easiest results, place the kale in a steamer basket, dunk it in the pot of boiling water, put the lid on (the steam helps cook the bits bobbing on top) and leave it for approximately two minutes.

How to Blanch Kale (and Other Greens) for Easy Freezing

When the time is up, quickly lift the kale from the pot of water into the bowl of ice water. Retrieve bits left behind with tongs.

How to Blanch Kale (and Other Greens) for Easy Freezing

Remove from the ice bath and lay it flat on a kitchen towel to lightly dry. Put it in a resealable container and pop in the freezer. You’re done! Repeat as many times as needed to blanch all your kale.

When you’re ready to eat it, simply pull out of the freezer and sauté in olive oil with a little minced garlic and sea salt or add to soup for a delicious nutrition boost.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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