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Energy is defined as "the ability to do work." In this sense, examples of work include moving something, lifting something, warming something, or lighting something. The following is an example of the transformation of different types of energy into heat and power.

It is difficult to imagine spending an entire day without using energy. We use energy to light our cities and homes, to power machinery in factories, cook our food, play music, and operate televisions. In a home where electricity supplies all of the energy requirements, the average energy consumption is shown below:

Electricity is generated from both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. These sources are defined below.

Renewable energy sources:

These sources are constantly renewed or restored and include wind (wind power), water (hydropower), sun (solar), vegetation (biomass), and internal heat of the earth (geothermal). About 9.0 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated from renewable sources.

Nonrenewable energy sources:

These are natural resources that cannot be replenished (fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal). About 71.5 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated from nonrenewable sources.

In addition to renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, about 19.5 percent of electric power in the U.S. is generated by nuclear power plants. However, operating such plants poses significant nuclear waste disposal problems; consequently, there are no current plans to build more. Most electricity in the United 2 States is generated by burning nonrenewable fossil fuels and there is a limited amount of these energy sources.


Because of the limited amount of nonrenewable energy sources on Earth, it is important to conserve our current supply or to use renewable sources so that our natural resources will be available for future generations.

Energy conservation is also important because consumption of nonrenewable sources impacts the environment. Specifically, our use of fossil fuels contributes to air and water pollution. For example, carbon dioxide is produced when oil, coal, and gas combust in power stations, heating systems, and car engines. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as a transparent blanket, that contributes to the global warming of the earth, or "greenhouse effect." It is possible that this warming trend could significantly alter our weather. Possible impacts include a threat to human health, environmental impacts such as rising sea
levels that can damage coastal areas, and major changes in vegetation growth patterns that could cause some plant and animal species to become extinct.

Sulfur dioxide is also emitted into the air when coal is burned. The sulfur dioxide reacts with water and oxygen in the clouds to form precipitation known as "acid rain." Acid rain can kill fish and trees and damage limestone buildings and statues.

You can help solve these global problems. In the U.S., the average family's energy use generates over 11,200 pounds of air pollutants each year. Therefore, every unit (or kilowatt) of electricity conserved reduces the environmental impact of energy use.


Protect your home with regular Home Inspections and Proper Maintenance

Understanding Indoor Air Quality

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