*Conservation's Role in Alternative Energy*
By: CountryLady
15 January 2005

Its all fine and good to be able to have machines, appliances and tools to accomplish a desired result, but they are expensive, wear out, fail, and are sometimes not available when & where they are needed. This is true of the machines, appliances and tools that produce alternative energy.

Some uses are less appropriate for various forms of alternative energy. HEAT producers are notorious for being energy hogs. These are electric heaters, hot water heaters, cook stoves, clothes dryers, hair dryers, and even refrigerators and freezers. Smaller heating units are not as bad, such as coffee pots, electric blankets, and lighting, but even regular incandescent light bulbs are heat producers, and use far more electric power than the cooler operating florescent bulbs do. Understanding that heat consumes huge amounts of power helps us work to avoid having to replace the usual source with inappropriate alternative sources. We can work to find appropriate types of alternative power for them.

Using refrigerators, as an example... It is far more cost efficient to first reduce the need for refrigeration by reducing the kinds & amounts of food we refrigerate, reducing the amount of wasted air space in the refrigerator, increasing the amount of insulation and selecting an appropriate form of energy to power it.

We might choose a small, propane gas powered RV or marine refrigerator for emergency use. OR revert to a cooler with ice in it to preserve a few items, or create a spring house or ice house to use, and not use propane or electricity of any type at all. Sometimes keeping jars of food in a minnow bucket in a cold stream is quite sufficient, depending on circumstances.

A lot of the decision making of what is an appropriate choice of alternative energy depends on things OTHER than budget and availability. Sometimes its a matter of how far down the list of options we are willing or able to go. A person on the 10th floor of an apartment building probably won't choose putting their mayonnaise and eggs in a minnow bucket in a creek, nor will they choose to use a gas generator. Safety regulations might rule out the storage of propane to power a Propane Heater, but maybe not, as long as the propane tank looks like its an extra for their balcony's grill.

When it comes to heating our shelter in the winter, a lot depends on how we conserve the heat we do have available. Everything from putting on more clothing, wearing a hat indoors, closing off unneeded rooms, blanketing windows, stopping drafts, etc. will reduce the loss of heat. Some who have the financial means might just have a backup heat system installed, but if they are visiting with relatives out of town when a winter storm strands them without power, that backup system in their home is useless, so its smart to understand how to conserve available resources.

By considering ways to increase visibility under any situation can help us reduce our energy expenses in the best of times, and help us prepare for the worst of times. Things like using whiter, thinner lamp shades, painting walls a bright, reflective color, placing mirrors in dark corners, and arranging furniture so it doesn't darken hallways or nooks can make our homes easier to light with alternative sources as well as make it safer from stumbles and falls. Practicing not cluttering our stairways and walkways helps us to navigate them better when lighting is limited. Keeping a candle or lantern in areas such as bathrooms, helps us to have the resources easily available to provide alternatives when the grid power is suddenly cut off.

Sometimes asking ourselves questions and pondering their answers can help us make intelligent choices. Consider the following:

"What things can I easily conserve in order to reduce my energy needs or expenditures?"

When we choose to live a more conservation-minded lifestyle, we have fewer adjustments to make when energy sources are reduced.

"What do I wish I had a better way to reduce my dependence on?"

The less we need, the less we have to find alternatives for.

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