A BIG issue in everyone’s lives today is increasing fuel costs.  (Don’t be fooled by the current low prices.  They’ll be going back up shortly due to limitations in oil production.)  High oil prices are connected to peak oil and gas production, wars to secure limited resources and climate change.  These problems are all a consequence of our overconsumption and dependence on non-renewable energy.  These problems are not going away any time soon.  The seriousness and scope of these problems calls for an all-out effort for sustainable solutions, starting as soon as possible.

We don’t have to devastate the planet to build, heat and cool our homes and workplaces.  Good building design can greatly reduce our energy problems.  With dozens of simple, well-proven solutions at hand, most of which are totally painless to implement, it makes one wonder why more isn’t being done.

Below is a sampling of simple, workable, low-cost solutions for building more efficient structures. (Do a Google search for more in-depth information.)

Free energy from the sun: passive solar design for daylighting and space heating (use correct building orientation, appropriate amount of glass, window placement, size of roof overhang, etc.); solar hot water; solar wall ovens; photovoltaic panels (consider buying one at a time as finances allow).

Superinsulated homes: highly insulated walls, ceilings, floors and foundations; straw bale or earthbag homes; energy-efficient windows; insulated window coverings; window shades; insulated doors; insulated hot water lines; weathersealing (see Energy Efficiency Upgrades for one case study).

Energy-efficient appliances and fixtures:  Energy Star appliances; compact fluorescent light bulbs; tankless on-demand hot water heaters; energy-efficient heating systems; set-back (clock) thermostats; gas ranges with electronic ignition; fans, including whole-house fans, air-to-air exchangers.

j mccoy
1/18/2011 4:13:29 AM

There is no lack of oil. There is a concerted effort to block all drilling of huge known reserves of both oil and natural gas by those who would see this country brought to it's knees, both in the citizenry and our political arena.

t brandt
1/1/2011 1:04:47 PM

Mr. Zulu: your questions suggest your brain is thinking outside the box. Good for you. BUT: here's some answers that explain "why not". Besides the security problems of putting nuclear fuel in the hands of many private citizens, the reason we don't have home nuclear plants is the same basic reason we don't each have a home coal-fire power plant: economy of scale makes that way too expensive comapared to large, commercial plants. (Many other engineering problems asociated with scale, also.) Used motor oil as fuel: it is done, but consider that you change your oil every 3000 miles, using about 150 gal of gas to go that far. Then you get only 5 qts of used oil back, saving you about 0.6% of your gas. For perspective: you can save about 10% just by keeping your tires properly inflated. Same argument about used cooking oil: a busy restaurant only uses 20 or so gal per week. How many restaurants are there? Not enough to make a difference. Re "new oil": all that oil shale in Canada will become oil, if conditions are right, in maybe 50 or 100 million years. We're burning oil way faster than the planet is replenishing it. Re "efficient energy": review the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. We're at the limits of efficiency now with the Law of Diminishing Returns taking over-- at least until we learn how to mimic Nature in areas like photsynthesis & bioluminescence. We've been trying for over a century and no closer now than we were when we started.

12/26/2010 2:34:52 PM

There is no energy crisis. The problem is not our usage of modern conveniences. There is no shortage of oil because it is constantly being manufactured by the earth far faster than we can consume. The oil cartels will have you believe otherwise just to keep the price up. The key is to regain our own "INDIVIDUAL CREATIVITY" and create what we've been told is impossible as individuals. Most of us possess tons of knowledge and collectively we are able to champion and corporation by sharing it. Try thinking of things at your immediate access to which can be transformed from daily waste into a useful item. If veggie oil can be used for fuel then why not old engine oil? And if old engine oil what else? The key to fixing it whatever we think "IT" is is US. In order to maintain our existence, we must constantly be looking for technological advancement. Instead of cutting energy demands and retuning to the stoneage, figure out how to create more efficient energy. Why doesn't each home have a small nuclear reactor which powers it for 20 years at a time.....Answer... because we did not demand or initiate the investment into it. And please don't say it isn't safe.... Navy subs have been powered by them at nearly 1000ft under water since 1951. Why hasn't a home application been introduced in the past 60 years?

pat miketinac
12/19/2010 9:57:55 PM

I remember the Arab oil embargo back in the '70's. As soon as it was over, most people went back to big gas guzzlers. If oil companies were not subsidized, higher prices would have encouraged development of alternative energy and more efficiency many years ago. Now, with the huge ongoing fiat money creation by the Federal Reserve, the dollar will continue to lose value, driving up prices, especially in commodities like oil. This time, I think oil will go high enough that alternatives will be competitive.

12/13/2010 6:00:05 PM

I agree with what Mandy is saying. This article, however, only addressed housing issues. We have to cut our energy use across the board.

t brandt
12/12/2010 11:30:28 AM

At the present rate of growth of oil usage, it may last only 20 more yrs. Instituting the changes recommended in the article may make it last 21 yrs. Mandy hits the nail on the head. Well said!

mandy lange
12/7/2010 9:00:15 AM

There is an energy crisis because we have grown too accustomed to the modern conveniences. People have forgotten that their own 2 legs can get them to places within a short distance of their house. They assume their gas-guzzling "tanks" are the only way to move around. To think that our ancestors walked miles a day during their trek to find a new home-we can't handle to walk a couple of miles! We also are too addicted to technology which all requires electricity. Is it TRULY necessary to have cellphones screwed into your ear 24/7? No. Is it necessary to have an electronic book? No. Read a REAL book. The list goes on and on. Because of this so-called need for technology, we not only have reprogrammed our way of speaking to one another, we have also created yet even more things to cause our natural resources to dwindle. We NEED to get on the bandwagon, people, and realize that the latest gadgets, toys, larger vehicles are a recipe for disaster. We will have an energy crisis on our hands whether in our lifetimes or our children's lifetime. If it means that energy prices become too expensive for most to afford, so be it. We could all learn to live more frugally.

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