Methods to Reduce Home Energy Usage

Update 6-11-2011: I added some information in the Space Heating and Space Cooling sections in order to discuss a different alternative, mini-split heat pumps.


Homes are one of the largest consumers of energy in the United States.  The unfortunate part of home energy usage is that a large portion of this energy is wasted because of inefficiencies.  Inefficiencies can range from air leaks to poor heating and air conditioning systems.

Increasing home efficiency will not only allow you to save money but it also reduces the amount of energy needed for your home.  Before you can start reducing the energy used in your home, you need to have a basic understanding of where the majority of the energy is used within your home.

US Department of Energy

Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy

Looking at the pie chart we see that the four largest users of energy are space heating, space cooling, lighting and water heating.  These four segments account for roughly 66% of all the energy used in your home.  We are going to take a look at these four segments specifically and then cover the remaining segments generally.


Typically, a large portion of household lighting uses incandescent light bulbs.  A very simple way to reduce your energy consumption is to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL).  CFLs use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and CFLs are designed to last ten times longer.  With so many benefits why wait to start converting your lighting over to fluorescent.  If you want more information on the available types of CFLs visit the Energy Star CFL search. also has a decent CFL webpage that contains some good information on CFL bulbs and it is an excellent source to purchase your bulbs too.

Now I know many of you out there probably don’t believe that CFL bulbs are actually cost beneficial so, in order to help get this point across let me do some math for you.  I’m going to compute the total cost of each bulb which includes the cost of the bulb as well as the cost of the electricity used to run the bulb.  Incandescent bulbs have a maximum life expectancy of roughly 1000 hours while compact fluorescent bulbs have a maximum life expectancy of roughly 10,000 hours.  Since compact fluorescent bulbs last up to 10,000 hours I will compute the total cost of an incandescent bulb for the same duration of time, which will require the purchase of several incandescent bulbs.

Below is an example of how I computed this, following the example is the computation for each bulb type.



(Bulb Wattage) x (Total Hours in Operation) = Watt-Hours

(Watt-Hours) / (1000) = Kilowatt-Hours

(Total Hours in Operation) / (Maximum Life Expectancy) = Number of Bulbs

(Kilowatt-Hours) x (Cost of Electricity per Kilowatt-Hour) = Cost of Electricity to Run Bulb

(Number of Bulbs) x (Cost of Bulbs) = Cost of Purchasing Bulbs For Duration

(Cost of Electricity to Run Bulb) + (Cost of Purchasing Bulbs for Duration) = Total Cost of Bulb


Incandescent Bulbs

(60 watts) x (10,000 hours) = 600,000 watt-hours

(600,000 watt-hours) / (1000) = 600 kilowatt-hours

(10,000 hours) / (1000 hours) = 10 bulbs

(600 kilowatt-hour) x ($ 0.10) = $60

(10 Bulbs) x ($ 0.50) = $5

Total Cost of Bulb = $65


Compact Fluorescent Bulb

(15 watts) x (10,000 hours) = 150,000 watt-hours

(150,000 watt-hours) / (1000) = 150 kilowatt-hours

(10,000 hours) / (10,000 hours) = 1 bulb

(150 kilowatt-hour) x ($ 0.10) = $15

(1 Bulbs) x ($ 15.00) = $15

Total Cost of Bulb = $30

So if you look at the computed cost of each bulb you see that a incandescent costs $65 for 10,000 hours of operation  and the compact fluorescent costs $30 for 10,000 hours.  Even though the compact fluorescent bulb costs $15, it is still over half the price to own and operate.

Water Heating

Water heating is the third largest user of energy.  Reducing the amount of energy consumed by your current water heater can be accomplished by:

  1. Reducing the temperature of the water heater, as described here
  2. Installing an insulating jacket over the water heater, as described here
  3. Installing insulation on the hot water pipes, as described here

The other way to reduce water heater energy consumption is by purchasing a new efficient water heater.  There are several different types of water heaters available today, which include:

  • High-Efficiency Gas Storage
  • Gas Condensing
  • Whole-Home Gas Tankless
  • Solar
  • Heat Pump

Gas Condensing and Heat Pump water heaters will have all-new models in 2009.  Both of these water heater types offer an easy replacement and significant energy savings.  A.O. Smith makes a gas condensing water heater that looks very promising, called the Vertex™ 100.  This water heater looks like your typical tank water heater but it offers 96% efficiency and can be used to feed a radiant heating system.

You can also use geothermal heat pumps to heat your water, and as you will see later in this article, to heat and cool your home as well.  A geothermal system that will heat your home, cool your home and heat your water typically cost several thousand dollars.

For some more information on water heaters and what type you may want to consider visit the Energy Star – Help me choose page.

Space Cooling

When you think about cooling systems, the first type you probably think about are air conditioners.  Over the years, air conditioner manufactures have continually increased efficiencies.  In addition to increasing efficiencies of traditional air conditioners, many companies have developed air conditioners that use solar panels or ice.  Solar panel systems use the electricity from the sun to help offset the electricity used by the A/C compressor.  Ice based systems will freeze water at night, when there is cheap excess energy, and then use the ice during the day to cool the air.  This saves energy and money because the ice reduces the use of the A/C compressor and the ice is created during the night, typically, when electricity costs are lowest.  For more information on air conditioner efficiencies visit the Energy Star Central Air Conditioners page.

Air conditioners are the typical cooling system but in addition to air conditioners there are several other alternatives that you could consider:

  • Ventilation
  • Evaporative cooling
  • Absorption cooling
  • Radiant cooling
  • Earth cooling tubes
  • Mini-split heat pump (see Space Heating section)

For more information on the above cooling technologies visit Department of Energy cooling site here.  A prime example of an air conditioner alternative is a geothermal heat pump system.  We will discuss how these systems are beneficial and how they function in the last paragraph of the Space Heating section.

Among these several cooling technologies there are also several methods that can be used to reduce energy consumption of your current cooling system:

  • Install a programmable thermostat
  • Sealing air ducts
  • Reducing air leaks
  • Shutting blinds during the day
  • Turn down cooling system, especially when your not home

Space Heating

Heating your home is vital during cold seasons and generating heat can be much more efficient than cooling your home.  Typically improving efficiency in this category is accomplished by the following methods:

  • Purchasing and installing new heating systems
  • Sealing and insulating your home

Replacing your current furnace with an Energy Star rated furnace can help reduce energy usage and costs.  If you are interested in looking at several alternative heating systems I suggest that you read a good article called, Alternative Ways To Heat Your Home on The Greenest Dollar blog.

The more that I learn about heating and cooling systems the more intrigued that I get with heat pump systems.  Heat pump systems can heat and cool your home.  These systems can either use outside air or groundwater as their heat source. The outside air heat pump systems are cheaper and easier to install than groundwater heat pumps but they are also less efficient.  Groundwater heat pump systems, also known as Geothermal Heat Pump systems, offer excellent efficiencies as well as a combined heating and cooling system.  Geothermal systems have a relatively high up-front cost, about $10,000 for a 1500 square-foot home, and require enough land in order to bury piping full of heat exchange fluid.

Geothermal systems offer high efficiencies for both heating and cooling.  As an added bonus, many geothermal systems can also heat your water.  If you can afford to go this route it allows you to increase your efficiencies in water heating, cooling and heating. For information on how geothermal systems operate visit California’s Consumer Energy Center site here.


In addition to centralized heat pump systems, there is also a smaller modular type system that can be used.  These systems are called mini-split heat pump systems.  They offer the same type of benefits as a typical heat pump system but these systems are ductless and can be added to an existing system (like wood, forced air, etc…).  Mini-split heat pump systems are primarily intended for retrofits or for installations that are difficult to install a large centralized heat pump system (think old house, or rental property).  These systems use an external compressor/condensor and indoor air-handling units, like your typical heat pump system.  The key difference is that they are linked to the compressor/condensor using tubing or conduit instead of ductwork.  By not using ductwork the mini-split system installation is simplified and the energy loss from the ductwork is eliminated.  For more information about this type of system please visit here.

Computers & Electronics, Appliances, Refrigeration and Other

The remaining four categories would seem like large energy users but when you add the percentage from each of these categories together they equate to 34%, which is only 3% higher than space heating alone.

The three easiest methods to reduce energy in these four categories is the following:

  • Use Energy Star rated products
  • Install smart power strips
  • Unplug or turn off unneeded devices

Computer & Electronics

One of the largest problems with computers and electronics is that they continue to use small amounts of power when they are turned off.  Using smart power strips, like the Smart Strip LCG3, is an easy, relatively inexpensive method to reduce energy in the Computers & Electronics category.  Purchasing Energy Star rated devices when purchasing future devices or replacing existing devices are also ways to reduce energy costs.  When replacing existing devices it is crucial to compute how much your current device costs you per year and how much you could save with the purchase of a new device.  Many times you do not experience savings for several years, in some cases, waiting until your current device is in need of replacement is the beneficial thing to do.


This category includes items like dishwashers, microwaves and ovens.

These devices, like all electronic based devices, use small amount of electricity when not in use.  Combating this is slightly harder in this category.  Using smart power strips and turning off these devices are not as easy or convenient as with computers & electronics.  You can unplug items like toasters but you can’t easily unplug a dishwasher.  Typically the only method that can be used to reduce energy consumption in this category is the purchase of Energy Star rated devices.  Replacing your current device may or may not be cost effective depending on the cost and savings of a replacement device, make sure you consider this.


The refrigeration category does not allow you to reduce electricity consumption by turning off devices.  Just because you aren’t using a refrigerator does not mean the refrigerator will not need electricity at some point to cool itself.  With refrigeration, there are only two options for combating energy usage:

  • Purchase Energy Star refrigeration units
  • Consolidate and eliminate unneeded refrigeration units


Implementing practices that reduce energy waste like turning off lights, using smart power strips, installing CFL bulbs and purchasing only energy star rated products can greatly reduce your energy bill and usage.

Every small thing that you can do to reduce energy usage will save you money and will reduce the amount of energy used.  With many tax incentives available it makes these efficiency upgrades even more affordable.  All you need is a little bit of time and, in many cases, little money.

My next post will show you some of the things that I have done and am considering in order to reduce the energy usage in my home.

What to do when you’re away from public transportation

Now, I know many of you out there probably don’t live in a large city so; you do not have a public transit system that you can use. I fall into this category.  I live in a small town of roughly 9,000 people.  I have to travel roughly 20 miles from my house everyday when college is in session.  I typically am traveling college related things about six or seven days a week.  This, of course, can add up to a lot of miles per week and a lot of energy usage. So, what types of options are there when public transportation isn’t an option?

There are several options that can be used to help reduce your energy usage:

  • Carpooling
  • Purchase an efficient vehicle
  • Maintain your current vehicle
  • Travel less


Carpooling is an excellent choice if you can arrange travel with someone local.  The biggest problem that I have with carpooling is scheduling.  I am not able to carpool because I usually never know how long I will be at school. The amount of time that I may spend at school will vary day-to-day, it all depends on the schoolwork load that I have.  If I weren’t a student and worked a ‘normal’ job then this would definitely be an option I would consider.  If you live near a work friend, then by all means take advantage of carpooling.  Carpooling reduces the energy used because you are driving one vehicle for two people instead of two cars for two people.  Carpooling reduces wear and tear on your vehicle as well as the amount of gasoline used; all of this will save you money as well.

Purchasing an efficient vehicle

Purchasing a new vehicle can be a good option, depending on the circumstances.  If you are in the market for a vehicle, then by all means buy a fuel-efficient vehicle.  If you are not in the market for a new vehicle, then buying a vehicle is typically not very economical.  Usually the amount of money saved by buying a newer, efficient vehicle, is consumed in the interest on the loan for the vehicle.  If you are can afford to buy a new or used vehicle outright then you might experience a net savings.

I have been debating whether I should buy a vehicle or keep my current vehicle, a 1999 Pontiac Grand AM GT.  I like my car but the vehicle has been very repair prone during its life, plus I have 140,000 miles on the vehicle.  So I started looking at used cars in the $6,000 range.  Here were the two things I was looking for:

  1. Reliability
  2. Fuel efficiency

After spending countless hours researching vehicles I came up with the following vehicles that fit my needs: Mazda3, Honda Civic and Ford Focus.  Now the question was could I find any of these vehicles in my price range and would any of these vehicles actually save me money.

The first thing I looked at was the fuel efficiency of each vehicle, in comparison to my Pontiac Grand Am, as seen below:

Vehicle Comparison

Note: These figures were based on the price of gas being $2.50/gal and driving 18,000 miles annually. Courtesy of

The above image has two key items to look at:

  1. Combined fuel economy
  2. Annual fuel cost

If you look at the combined fuel economy I would not see a signficant gain from any of these cars, except the Honda Civic.  The next thing to notice is the cost to drive each vehicle annually, which can be seen on the bottom line of the image.  At most, I could save roughly $600 dollars per year by buying a Honda Civic.

If I were to spend roughly $2000 out of pocket after selling my vehicle, then I would have to keep this vehicle three and a half years before I would begin to see a payback.  Now, granted this does not take into account repairs but these are very difficult to account for.

Again, like I said earlier, depending on your situation purchasing a vehicle could actually be beneficial.

Maintain your current vehicle

Another viable option is to maintain my current vehicle and try to make it as efficient as possible.  This in most cases will be the most cost effective method.  I have actively began to do the following:

  • Eliminate excess weight from the vehicle – I have a audio system in my car so I recently decided to take out my large subwoofers and their box.  I swapped them with a smaller, lighter pair that I have.  This way I can still enjoy my music and reduce weight.
  • Check tire pressure – I check my tire pressure every oil change, but doing it more often is preferred.
  • Slow down – Just driving 5 mph slower can make a significant impact on fuel economy.
  • Cruise control - This keeps your engines work load relatively constant which, increases fuel economy.
  • Idle less – This is actually pretty easy, for example, I have made it a habit to shut my car off when I am sitting in an touch-less car wash.
  • Maintain engine – Keeping up on maintenance intervals and repairs keeps your engine in tip-top shape, which equates to better gas mileage.

Even though my car has lots of miles on it, 140,000, I should be able to get another 60,000 miles out of it, at least.  This should get me through college, at which point I could begin my quest for a newer more efficient vehicle.

Travel less

One of the easiest ways to reduce your energy usage is to drive less.  Now, this method may seem way too obvious but, it is much harder than it sounds.  If you are like me and have somewhere you have to be everyday, then this will consist of less joy rides or consolidating vehicle trips.  I always try to consolidate trips and keep wasteful driving down to a minimum anyways.  The problem is that I, unfortunately, have to be at school every day of the week (when school is in session).  Next time you want to make a trip to town for something ask yourself: can this wait or is there anything else that I need while in town?
If there is anything you feel I missed, leave a comment and we can discuss it.

Also, if anyone has any ideas or suggestions regarding my decision to purchase or keep my vehicle, please feel free to leave a comment about that too.

Coming up next…conserving in your home and what I did to reduce energy consumption in my home.  Make sure to bookmark are site or subscribe to our RSS/Email feed(s).

Energy or Money–Which Is More Real?

Often while I am studying our energy future, I run into this question:

“As the price of energy increases, won’t the market respond by inventing new systems that generate new supplies of energy and prevent energy supply problems?”

This question begs the following question.

Does money control the energy supply? Or does the energy supply control the value of money? In order to answer these questions, we first need to understand the concepts of energy and money.

What is energy?
The word “energy” comes from the Greek word meaning activity, “energeia,” and is the quantity of work that can be done by a force. The study of energy turns up in nearly all scientific endeavors, from studies of the beginning of life to space travel.

While energy can take many forms and is never lost, there are observed behaviors of energy expressed by the laws of thermodynamics. These laws are part of physical reality, preventing mankind from “creating” energy and also placing strict limits on its conversions.

Energy is an important part of anything that is alive. One definition of life is “a characteristic of an organism that uses biological processes to change free energy or energy containing substances to a degraded form.” Energy separates life from death, growth from decay, and breakdown from repair.

Most marvels of the modern world are massive energy consumers. A list of industries in the modern world reveals that nearly all are large consumers of energy. Modern transportation, housing, health care, and food production all require huge inputs of energy. The availability of large quantities of energy has changed human existence in such a profound way that it difficult to even contemplate. Much of what is commonly thought of as “amazing technology” and/or the “power of money” is actually “energy availability.”

The energy that humans currently use has allowed modern societies to break free of the limits that preceded and will follow this period. That limit is living with the energy that arrives at Earth each day from the Sun.

What is money?
Money is an accounting system used to facilitate trade and the keeping of accounts. United States money is a “fiat” currency system. Fiat means that federal law requires the currency be accepted for public and private debts. There are no guarantees the money will retain any value. In fact, the US government neither guarantees the value of money nor actually owns any money. All US dollars are owned by a private banking consortium called the Federal Reserve, and congress is prohibited by law from interfering with the wishes of the bankers. The private bankers adjust the money supply and therefore the value of the money as they see fit.

In summary
Money, at least the kind that most modern societies use, is a concept created by man and does not exist in the physical world. The rise and fall of currencies is of little consequence to the laws of energy and energy will limit the “wealth” of all organisms, beings, and societies long after all human currencies have collapsed and cease to exist. Money must be managed carefully by humans so that it remains useful in the face of changes in the energy system, for it is energy that powers everything from the human heart to the world’s largest building.

Transportion With Less Energy (Part 1)

Transportation is one of the largest users of energy in our society.  If you break down transportation even further you will find that privately owned vehicles are the largest users of energy within the transportation sector.  Privately owned vehicles are vehicles owned by people like you and me.

Our society’s infrastructure is largely dependent on people owning their own vehicle.  With the exception of some major cities, public transportation is either non-existent or is dismal at best.  Unfortunately, the United States hasn’t built a very robust public transportation like many other countries in the world.  Typically public transportation in only located around large cities and there is no form of public transportation for longer travels (with the exception of Amtrak).  If you live in a large city then you typically have some options for public transportation:

  • Bus
  • Rail and Train
  • Taxi
  • Water

Public Bus Transportation

Bus systems are very common in cities, even some smaller cities.  Buses offer a good use of resources because you have one bus transporting several people.  This cuts back on energy usage and many bus systems offer decent travel times.  If you can ride the bus it will help save energy and can save you money too.  Often time’s bus fares are very reasonable because tax dollars partially fund most bus systems. Another small benefit is the reduced wear and tear on your vehicle.

Public Rail and Train Transportation

Rail and train transit systems are typically found only in large cities, like Chicago or San Francisco.  Most of the time these rail systems are located within a large city and possibly the cities suburbs.  This form of transportation is very efficient.  Rail systems offer fast transportation times; the ability to transport many people and they typically operate on efficient energy systems using electricity.  I have personally used the Chicago rail system several years ago on a trip and I found it to be a very nice system.  If I lived in that area I could easily see myself using this system for the majority of my in city travel.

Public Taxi Transportation

Taxis are another form of public transit but they are generally privately funded.  I suppose there might be some minute gain in efficiency when compared to everyone driving themselves but this still uses inefficient vehicles to transport just a single person.  The fact that taxis can reduce the amount of vehicles on the road, seems to be the only significant positive to the taxi system.  Several taxi services are looking into increasing fuel efficiency by using hybrid vehicles. This might make the taxi system more efficient but, one can argue that hybrids require more energy to produce than a typical vehicle in the first place.  Also, from my experience taxis usually are not very price competitive so, this makes this a last choice in my book.

Public Water Transportation

Water transportation is very limited and is a niche form of transportation.  When it is available though it can be a good choice both economically and environmentally.  The major downfall that I can see with water transportation is speed.  From my personal experiences, most water systems, like ferries, are relatively slow.

So what should you do if you find yourself out of reach of public transportation?

That we will discuss with my next post.

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Helping Reduce Energy in the Industrial and Commercial Sectors

It is relatively difficult for you, as an individual, to have a large-direct effect on the energy usage in the commercial and industrial sectors.  These sectors consist largely of corporations and businesses that you have little control over.  This does seem like a large problem at first but, there are things that you can do to suggest increased energy efficiencies.

Commercial Sector

The commercial sector consists of things like: stores, restaurants and offices.  The commercial sector is mainly concerned about reducing operating costs.  As energy costs increase, the benefits of increasing energy efficiency also increases.  Some methods commonly used to improve energy efficiencies include:

  • Using Energy Star rated devices
  • Modern, automated HVAC systems
  • Efficient lighting
  • Occupancy and/or photosensors to dim or shut off lighting
  • Solar panels to generate electricity or to heat water

Most of the items listed seem small but when implementing several small changes, you can experience a larger overall change (I feel a reoccurring theme beginning).

Many companies in the commercial sector take suggestions from their employees.  If you are employed in the commercial sector, you can make a friendly suggestion to your superiors that include ways to improve energy and/or operating efficiencies.  This can help you by:

  • Being noticed by your superiors
  • By increasing your company’s profitability, therefore allowing you to keep your job.

So, if you have any ideas on how to improve energy efficiencies in your workplace, do it.

Industrial Sector

The industrial sector consists of things like: farming, manufacturing, mining, construction and water management.  Like the commercial sector, the industrial sector is largely concerned with maximizing profits and minimizing operating costs.  Reducing energy consumption accomplishes both.  The industrial sector can improve their energy efficiencies by using the same methods as the commercial sector, in addition to:

  • Using more efficient equipment for farming, construction and mining
  • Generating electricity from waste using methane gas
  • Improving manufacturing processes to use less energy

Several equipment companies like, John Deere and CAT, continue to improve the efficiencies of their products.  This in turn reduces amount of energy used for related industries, like forestry, construction and mining. Also, farmers who raise livestock are increasingly installing anaerobic biodigesters in order to generate electricity.  Any farmer that has livestock, has manure and will always have manure, so instead of piling it up, why not use it for something useful.  These systems can give farmers a way to use a pesky byproduct to generate:

  • Electricity
  • Bedding
  • Fertilizer
  • Heating fuel

Again, as with the commercial sector, many industrial companies accept efficiency suggests from their employees.  If you make a good suggestion, then this will reduce their energy usage and therefore make them more money.  Whenever you can benefit the company you are working for, it is a good thing.  It is not only good for you but, for your company as well.

Even though most of the efficiencies gained in both the commercial and industrial sectors will come from the companies and businesses making changes, due to increased costs, you as an employee can also help with your suggestions.  We need to remember, we need to work together to reduce energy usage EVERYWHERE in our society.

I tried to list several ideas and methods used to reduce energy consumption but, I could have easily missed something.  If you have any other methods that could be used to increase energy efficiencies in your workplace, leave a comment.

Next week, I will begin to discuss methods to reduce energy consumption within the transportation sector.

Conserving energy, a crucial initiative for societies future.

It is estimated that by the year 2032 electricity demand will grow by at least 40%. The amount of energy the world will consume will increase by 57%, over the next 25 years. With data like that, one really begins to ask themselves: Where is all this energy going to come from?

Last summer before the economy really started tanking, gas prices were at record highs. The whole oil industry seemed to be stretched to its max, with very little hope of increasing production drastically. On top of paying higher amounts to fill your vehicle, we are also seeing increased electrical costs and heating costs. As we talked about in an earlier post, if energy costs rise, the cost of everything must raise.  Energy is the foundation of our society, the price of energy will always effect our lifestyles.

As the demand for energy rises, so does the price for energy. This is simple economics but, unfortunately this has the potential of having a very negative impact on our lifestyles. Why is it that America has only 4.5% of the world population but consumes more energy than any other nation? Can Americans really sustain the type of lifestyles that we have all become so accustomed to?

America has the largest economy in the world, which is a major reason why we consume so much energy.  Energy is not only fuel for you car but it is the fuel that makes our economy go.  When the economy is booming, energy usage is up and when the economy is in a slump, energy usage drops.

On the other hand, our society is based on cheap energy. All of our society’s decision makers and infrastructures use this ideology. Since this is the ideology that has been used for so long, it continues to be used by many today. For example, many communities in Michigan are looking into expanding their electricity capacity.  Instead of building more electrical plants and drilling for more oil, why don’t we start looking into more way to conserve energy?

Also, most of the United States is without a good form of public transit. Many large cities offer bus systems, which are a good, but there is typically no transit available for travel destinations that are not within a city. Most of the time we are forced to drive a vehicle in order to get to our destination. Why hasn’t the United States been building a decent public transit system? Where are our high speed trains!?!

Conserving energy is going to become increasingly important. We are looking at future were energy could be less abundant and more expensive than we have grown accustom to. Now, I know many of you might think this is a crazy notion. I mean look at the price of oil now, it hasn’t gone over $70 in months. This sudden drop in price is only due to the fact that the world economies have been tanking. If our economy picks back up, so will the cost and demand of oil.

Everyone in our society needs to stop thinking that we have an endless supply of energy and that you can use as much energy as you want. Society and its members must learn to conserve energy and conserve resources. There are several things that you can do, as an individual, to help conserve.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

If you look at chart, you will see how US energy usage is categorized. You have the ability to directly affect the amount of energy used in the transportation and residential sectors.  You also have the ability to help sway policies in the commercial and industrial sectors.

So, how can you as an individual help reduce consumption? I hope to help answer that question with a series of posts, and with some help from you, the readers.

Bookmark Energy Strain or subscribe to our Email or RSS feeds in order to see what you can do to conserve energy.

Energy Strain About Page

I just recently created and posted the “About Energy Strain” page.  This page can be found by clicking here or from the navigation bar under the Energy Strain logo.

Go ahead check out the about page and learn about myself (Zach) and Dan.

Towards the end of the week I will start my series on energy conservation.  Keep an eye out for it, I think you will enjoy it.  Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed or Email feed.  Both feed links are in the upper right-hand side of our website.

PickensPlan Reports on United States Monthly Oil Imports

It is that time again folks, T.Boone Pickens is reporting the statistics on U.S. oil imports.  Here are the numbers:

Barrels of Oil Imported by the U.S.: 386 million

% Imported from Foreign Countries: 65%

Money Sent Overseas: 18 billion

Some key points here is that we imported roughly 14% more oil this month that we did last month (339 million).  Of the oil that we consumed during the month of March, 65% of it was imported from foreign countries.  The represents a 3% increase over the total amount of oil imported when compared to February.  Now here is a big number, 18 billion.  This is the amount of oil that other countries received from the U.S. buying foreign oil.  All of these numbers can decrease if, we begin to place a large emphasis on energy conservation.  The more we conserve, the more we money we save, and the less dependent we are on oil imports.

Conservation is the key folks, we can not expect to drill enough oil to feed our habit.  I am glad to see that T.Boone Pickens continues to post this information, it is very good for people to see these numbers.  As always, feel free to check out the Monthy Oil Imports page on the PickenPlan website.

High Efficiency Google Server Design

Yesterday, Google revealed their own “home-brewed” data server design.  Google has been using this custom design since 2005, while constantly improving design efficiencies.  Google has custom designed servers in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency.  Some key aspects to this custom design include: a 12v battery built into every server and a custom made power supply that only uses 12v power rails, instead of the typical 12v/5v combination.

How much efficiency is Google really seeing with all of these improvements? Well, for example, Google has seen battery usage efficiency as high as 99.9%.  This is roughly a 4%-7% increase over using conventional centralized UPS systems.  Now this may not sound like a lot but when you have literally thousands of servers, this becomes a very big deal. Google has really displayed that they have a passion to make their company as energy efficient as possible.  Not only does Google have custom servers designed to maximize efficiency but Google continues to invest in energy through their arm as well.

Google is one of the few companies that openly and actively tries to reduce their energy consumption. Google seems to understand two very key aspects of energy:

  1. Energy is a valuable resource
  2. We need to help each other in reducing the amount of energy consumed

Now, lets not forget to mention one of the most obvious aspects to this: less energy means more profits.  Google must have an electrical bill the size of a small country so, any amount that they can reduce is a positive for them financially.  I mean, who doesn’t like making more money right.  :)

If you would like to look at some pictures or read more about this check out this CNET NEWS article.

Crash Course

Crash Course: Economy, Energy, and the Environment

As discussed previously on this blog, with time more and more is understood about the effects of decreasing net energy on the industrial economy. Eventually one comes to the realization that nearly everything in Industrial Man’s world will change or will have to be changed.

Few things will have a bigger impact on the day to day life of everyone in the modern industrial world as the destabilization of the exponential financial system. All of us have been taught the “power” of compounding. In high school, I was told that if I put a little money in the bank each year, eventually my wealth would begin to grow in a near vertical curve. I learned this from a teacher who did not understand physics, and it would be 30 some years before I realized the absurdity of this curve. Where would the energy come from to cover my consumption if this were to occur and I were to spend that money? The answer is of course that the system would fatally collapse because the energy is not available.

In the process of studying the decreasing net energy collapse of the exponential economy, I found a web-based course called “Crash Course” from Chris Martenson at This course is very good and is available on the web and via DVD. Chris Martenson has a very deep understanding of what is happening to the exponential financial system. Chris has a PhD in science and an MBA in finance and is the best teacher of this material that I have found. Chris even allows you to burn and sell his DVDs for profit.

Please check out the “Crash Course.” If you are stuck without high speed Internet, please contact us here at Energy Strain and we will send you a copy of the “Crash Course” DVD.