Where Does America’s Energy Come From and How to Make the Best Energy Choice for Your Own Home

It’s time for a history lesson! No, don’t click away…we promise that this is super interesting – especially if you’re considering updating your HVAC or hot water systems in the near future.

Over the past 100+ years, energy consumption and sources in the United States have evolved. For example, there was a huge shift in the late 1800s as electricity was introduced and became widespread. Then throughout the 1900s, the ways we produce that electricity changed, particularly after the 1950s as nuclear, hydro, solar and wind power became prominent.

We just ran across the best visual representation of historic energy use and sources we’ve ever seen from the Center for Robust Decision-Making on Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Chicago. Their goal is to illustrate how America’s use of energy has changed to gain an understanding of where we may be headed. “The interactive visualization shows 200 years of evolving energy use in America as an animated Sankey diagram. Line widths represent per capita energy flows each year from primary energy sources (left) to final uses (right).”  Click on the image to see their graphic in action!

Making SMART Energy Choices in Your Home

As green remodelers, we spend a lot of time researching clean energy – that’s how we discovered this “Energy History Visualization.” We use our research to help our clients make the right decision for energy-saving water, heating and cooling systems when we renovate their homes.

Mini split units, including this ceiling mounted unit, also provide dehumidification and are operated by a remote control. The homeowners simply set the preferred temperature and the unit senses if heating or air conditioning is needed.

Two of the things that we frequently recommend are mini-split heating/air conditioning units and heat pump hot water systems. We’ll start with mini-splits, which are ductless heat pumps that use a refrigeration circuit to extract energy from the ambient air and deliver it as heat. Today’s heat pumps can operate effectively even in extremely hot and cold conditions, making them a reliable way to efficiently heat and cool a home in the Boston area. We’ve written extensively about mini splits in the past if you’re looking for more information.

Heat pump water heater diagram courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

For clients looking to update or upgrade their water heating system we recommend heat pump water heaters which operate by using electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. Therefore, they can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters. To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse. Simply put, they pull the heat out of the air and dump it in the water at a higher temperature.  You can read more about heat pump water heaters here.

Then comes the debate of whether or not homeowners should use electricity or gas. At steveworks, we come down on the side of electricity every time. Electricity production has become “cleaner” over time and this animated graphic helps tell that story. Renewable sources such as solar and wind power in particular have become common. And as the demand for cleaner energy increases, and many people are even willing to pay a bit more for it, it gets less expensive in the long run.