Category DUMMIES

Driving Less

Perhaps this is too obvious to merit inclusion, but one of the biggest things you can do to help out with our energy problem is simply to drive less. Plan ahead; when you need to run errands, make a route that takes you to all the places you need to go in the most time-saving way. Take your vacations closer to home. Walk to those places you can reach on foot rather than drive. Carpool or use mass transit whenever possible. The list of ways to reduce your driving is endless.

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Investing in Energy Stocks

There are thousands of energy companies, some better than others. Many new startups are dedicated to developing and selling green technologies, for instance solar and wind power companies.

Instead of insisting on a maximum return from your investment dollars as your only criteria for investment, you can also look for companies that pro­mote environmentalism. You can even find companies that are green, and also make a lot of green. Energy is a hot topic these days, and the buzz itself often creates profitable ventures. However, be sure to do your research and make sure your “green” company is truly green because some unscrupulous companies claim undue environmental concern.

ШМ power companies, in my view, are going to grow quite a bit in the next few decades...

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Living in an Urban Environment

Living in the suburbs entails long drives and big, autonomous homes, along with spacious yards and landscaping. All of this consumes inordinate amounts of energy. If you live in an urban environment, however, you can take advantage of mass transit and the amount of energy required for modu­lar and high-density living is much less than for a home sitting all by itself.

Government studies have indicated that urban living consumes around 60 percent of the energy, per capita, that suburban or rural living does. That also equates to around 60 percent of the carbon footprint. Urban buildings are generally fitted with natural gas pipelines, which are difficult to find in most suburban and rural environments. In addition, many urbanites don’t even own cars, which equates to big energy savings...

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Energy-Efficient Home

In general, the smaller the home, the less energy the home consumes. Many large homes have long hallways and awkward layouts that are not conducive to maximizing space. A good small home can often feel every bit as spacious as a good-sized mansion, if the design is done well. My personal impression of large homes is that they are more for showing off wealth than creature comfort. That sort of attitude is becoming obsolete in this day and age of energy concern.

If you’re buying a new home, or an existing home, consider the layout, and the way the existing space is partitioned. Also consider how energy efficient the home is. Look for energy-efficient appliances, and if possible, find a home with solar power, or geothermal. A good stove is a plus...

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Installing a Windmill in Your Own Backyard

Wind power is going to grow exponentially in the next few decades simply because it makes a tremendous amount of sense. If you have the right condi­tions, a small-scale windmill can give you a return on investment much better than most other alternative-energy options. In particular, the payback period for a good windmill is around two thirds that of a solar PV system. Wind is generally available more often than solar power, which only works when the sun is shining.

You’ll need a windy location, and you’ll need to consider such things as sound and how the windmill affects the scenery. You may have to get special permits, so consult your county building department...

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Driving with Diesel (Without the Stink)

In Europe, diesel autos and trucks are numerous and common. Diesel- powered propulsion is more efficient than gasoline, and with the right equip­ment, the pollution levels can be much lower as well.

The diesel vehicles that were sold in the United States back in the early ’80s gave diesel an unwarranted bad name, and most Americans equate diesel with dirty, sooty exhaust and strange sounds. New diesel vehicles, with European-developed technology, are clean, powerful, and efficient.

Diesel fuel is available almost everywhere, although sometimes it costs a little more. But because you’ll be getting better gas mileage, your fuel bills will be lower, on net. Diesel engines last longer than gasoline-powered engines and require a lot less maintenance.

Best of all, use biodiesel (See Chapter...

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Installing a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System in Your Home

I explain the pros and cons of geothermal energy in Chapter 12. The tech­nology is not cheap, but it’s extremely clean and reliable. New homes, in particular, can benefit from the installation of geothermal because it’s much less expensive to start a geothermal system from scratch than to retrofit an existing home.

You will need to have access to the right soil conditions, but if you do, this option is an excellent investment, particularly where heating and cooling bills are high year-round. The upfront cost of geothermal equipment is high, but the power bills will be forever low. You’ll not only get lower power bills, but

you’ll be immune from energy price spikes in the future...

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Driving a Hybrid

The cost of a hybrid auto or truck is higher than the cost of an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, but you’ll get much better gas mileage, and you’ll be emitting a lot less pollution. So while the upfront cost may be more, you’ll see savings all along the way in terms of paying for gas. See Chapter 19 for more details on driving hybrids.

Hybrids are here now, and there are more and more of them on the road every year. Most major auto manufacturers offer various versions of hybrids, so your choices are broad, and getting more so every year. Many auto manu­facturers offer their conventionally powered autos with hybrid options (for instance, Camry, by Toyota). You won’t be able to tell the difference in per­formance, but your gasoline bills will be much smaller.

There’s a less di...

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