simplest method to ensure the efficient use of energy
resources is to apply Whole Systems thinking to every
energy use situation. This alone could reduce energy consumption
Nationwide by 50%, with no negative impact at all. Here's
how it works. Whole Systems thinking looks at every aspect
of a situation and determines how each part of a whole
system interacts with all of the other parts. Then decisions
are made that choose the parts that work together best
to form an efficient Whole System.
say the situation is "lighting my house."
Everyone has this situation and everyone solves it slightly
differently. Currently, houses are designed for their
external appearance and structure. Windows are placed
so they look good from the outside in the overall appearance
of the home. Light fixtures are placed in rooms to adequately
light them after the fact. Internal halls, closets and
bathrooms need artificial light sources whenever they
are used. Due to these design features, lighting the
average home costs much more than it needs to.
home is a Whole System that has to be thought through,
beginning at the design stage. We know that the rooms
will need to be lit to be useful, and that light will
be required both day and night. If we choose to implement
our "Conserve and use Natural Energy First"
philosophy, then lighting will be one of the integrated
ideas of the Whole Home System.
of course, is available during daylight hours. So, Whole Systems
thinking designs the house to take best advantage of this free light
whenever it is available. Proper use of windows and glass for exterior
rooms, with the installation of sky lights and light pipes for interior
halls and rooms, allows the home to be totally lit for free during
daylight hours. During evening and nighttime hours, artificial light
sources must be used. Rooms with dark green, blue or brown walls,
ceilings and floors are much more difficult to light than rooms with
white, beige, or pastel yellow surfaces. Lighting work surfaces takes
less energy than lighting whole rooms. Using the new compact fluorescent
light bulbs uses less electricity than using incandescent light bulbs
for the same amount of light. Each of these one-time decisions about
how the house is designed determines the fixed pattern for on-going
energy usage with relationship to lighting. After all, the purpose
is to light my house, not to use as much electricity as a bad design
requires for the rest of my life! So, even if you live in a home
that doesn't currently take advantage of these ideas, installing
a skylight, repainting a room a lighter color, installing a lighter
colored carpet, or changing out some light bulbs to a more efficient
type, are always available options to consider now.
people say they don't want to spend the money to make
these kinds of changes, and that the cost of "wasting"
a little electricity costs less. But Whole Systems thinking
says that if everyone conserved the amount of electricity
that these lighting changes provide, the release of
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from electric power
plants could drop by 10%. (This number assumes that
electric lighting accounts for 25% of home electric
use and these conservation methods can average a 40%
reduction and savings.) So, this is one example.
look at another situation, like "heating and cooling
my house." No matter where you live, insulation
is the key. The more you can restrict the passage of
heat in and out of your house, the better you can control
the indoor temperature. But heat is different than light
in one very important way. The heat you have today can
keep you warm for weeks, IF you don't let it escape.
you ever wondered why a thermos bottle can keep your
coffee hot all day? The answer is that the thermos bottle
has an insulation jacket above R-100. Heat just can't
get out, so the coffee stays hot for a very long time.
If your kitchen refrigerator had an R-100 insulation
jacket you could keep your food cool for an average
power consumption of about 10 watt-hours a day! The
same is true of your whole house.
the last 30 years, R-19 insulation has been the building
standard for home construction. Some of the more progressive
builders are now starting to install walls with R-40
insulation. This is better, but still not high enough.
R-60 should be the minimum for new construction, with
R-70 and higher even better. A building with R-60 insulation
costs 1/3rd as much to heat and cool as a building with
R-20 insulation. It's as simple as that.
to this, heat reflective roof coatings to keep the attic
cool, heat reflective paints on interior surfaces to
keep heat in in the winter and heat reflective paints
on exterior surfaces to keep heat out in the summer.
In hot climates, the new second generation evaporative
chillers or solar powered air-conditioners can further
cut cooling costs dramatically. In moderate and colder
climates, geo-thermal heat pump systems can cost as
little as 1/3rd as much as other heating systems are
to run. The bottom line is, with more insulation and
modern heating and cooling technologies installed, the
cost of heating and cooling your home can drop 88% from
what you pay today!
is estimated that 40% of home energy costs are associated
with heating and cooling. If this figure can be reduced
by 88%, that is a real 35% reduction in total energy
costs for the average home. Add this to the 10% real
savings from better lighting methods and you have just
reduced your home energy usage by 45% in real terms.
You still have light whenever you need it and your home
is always the temperature you want, but it costs you
45% less, month after month to enjoy these benefits.
Energy you can use, day after day at no cost. That's
what I call Free Energy!
are just two examples of what a "Conserve and use
Natural Energy First" plan can do to lower your
energy costs while providing all of your energy needs.
But this is just the beginning. Whole Systems thinking
can be applied to transportation, industrial processes,
power generation, food production, materials recycling,
and just about everything else. The next generation
of eco-friendly engineers will develop systems that
minimize energy waste and maximize energy benefits in
all of these fields.
you can start thinking this way right now. You can look
for products that are already available that let you
implement this energy philosophy in your daily purchases.
Government is dithering, but industry is quietly responding
to this changing climate of ideas. The propaganda that
changing to a low-carbon future is too expensive and
will take decades to implement is non-sense. Many of
the new low energy use alternatives actually cost less
to implement in the first place, and are available right
When Whole Systems
thinking is taken to its maximum extension, each and every product
is evaluated for its cost and benefit from the beginning of its useful
life to its ultimate recycling back to the raw materials it was made
from. This is the new paradigm for engineering products, not from
"cradle to grave" but from "cradle to cradle".
To learn more about this, read the new book Cradle to Cradle
by William McDonough.