Renewable energy, especially solar energy, has been booming in recent years. The technology is becoming more affordable, making it possible for more and more people to go green.
But how much does solar energy actually save the average American family? To answer this question, we will examine how solar energy compares to the energy consumed by standard home appliances.
When comparing solar energy and household appliances, it’s important to take into consideration the level of energy consumption in each case. People who use more energy-consuming appliances tend to be more affluent, which means they have the means to purchase more expensive products and make them work harder. In addition, newer models of appliances often consume more energy than previous generations, adding up overall energy consumption figures.
Looking at the level of energy consumption per appliance gives us a clearer picture of the true impact of solar energy. The chart below shows the comparative amounts of energy consumed by various appliances, and it ranges from a low of 2.1 watts per appliance for the water dispenser to a high of 10.2 watts per appliance for the clothes dryer. (Based on the 2014 Annual Energy Consumption Survey done by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).)
It’s also important to examine how much electricity costs. While renewables have become more affordable, electricity has steadily increased in price over the past decade. The cost of power is largely determined by the amount of energy generated by the utility company (typically the cheapest option) and the current rate of inflation. The cost varies by location, with some states costing more than others. (See the U.S. Department of Energy’s Report on Monthly Electric Forecasts for more information.)
An important caveat about comparisons of this nature is that you have to look at your own electric bill to determine the exact amount of savings to be had. There are various state and federal incentives that can significantly reduce your electricity costs if you are interested in taking the plunge and going green. The savings, however, depend on your own electric company’s pricing structure and whether or not you qualify for any government incentives.
The average American family spends around $1,600 per year on electricity, not including the costs of other utilities such as gas and water. If you’re serious about slashing your energy consumption and spending less money on electricity, you can reduce your energy consumption by investing in energy-efficient appliances and upgrading your insulation and ventilation. Many homes also take advantage of solar power, which not only reduces your electricity bills but also provides you with free power when the sun is shining. (See our blog post on How to save money on your electricity bill for more information on slashing your energy consumption.)
CO2 Emissions Reduction
Another major consideration when comparing solar energy and conventional homes is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that they emit. You won’t find many eco-friendly homes that don’t have a carbon footprint, as CO2 is one of the most abundant gases in our atmosphere and is considered a primary contributor to climate change. (See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions for more information on how much CO2 eco-friendly homes put out compared to traditional homes.)
To determine the comparative amounts of CO2 emitted by solar and conventional homes, we will use the EPA’s 2014 life cycle assessment for the average American home. This means we will compare the energy consumed during production to the energy consumed during the life of the product. (See the 2014 CO2 Emission Report done by the EPA for the complete breakdown of emissions in each category.)
One of the key takeaways from this report is that even though solar energy systems don’t produce any emissions during energy production, they do emit some during installation and maintenance. This is because of the fossil fuels burned by DIYers and contractors to install the equipment. The good news is these numbers are decreasing, and recent studies show that solar energy systems have a notably smaller carbon footprint than many other home appliances. (See the U.S. Department of Energy’s Report on Global Warming Potentials (RGWP) for more information on how much CO2 different home appliances and industries contribute to putting into our atmosphere.)
When comparing solar power and conventional homes, it’s important to look at the big picture. While the process of creating solar energy doesn’t produce any greenhouse gas emissions, it does pose some threats to our environment if not handled properly. The good news is these threats are often greatly outweighed by the benefits of using solar energy. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s also a sustainable and green alternative to conventional homes. (See our blog post on Why Going Green Is Important for more information on why going green is important.)
Looking at your own electric bill and the amount of CO2 emitted by different home appliances gives you a good idea of the environmental benefits and costs associated with using solar energy. It also shows you where you might find savings depending on your own electric company’s pricing structure and whether or not you qualify for any government incentives.
The Final Say
In determining how much energy-saving solar power is right for your home, it’s important to consider your own situation. You must ask yourself whether or not you have the money to invest in solar energy and home appliances, as well as whether or not you want to commit to a long-term lease or purchase agreement with a solar company. (See the U.S. Department of Energy’s Financial Assistance Programs for more information regarding government-backed loans and grants.)
Make sure you are aware of all the options available to you, whether it’s through a financial grant or loan program, before making a decision. In addition, take into consideration how much energy you consume in a given year. If you’re constantly running the air conditioner, for example, then investing in a more energy-efficient unit may not be the best solution for you. The key is to find the perfect mix of energy-saving solar power and other appliances to suit your needs and situation.