Energy costs are getting more expensive and a link has been made between burning fossil fuels and climate change. The term 'Climate Change' is commonly used interchangeably with "global warming" and "the greenhouse effect". It refers to the buildup of man-made (greenhouse) gases in the atmosphere that trap the suns heat, causing changes in weather patterns on a global scale. The effects include changes in rainfall patterns, sea level rise, potential droughts, habitat loss, and heat stress. The vital difference between the current period of global warming compared to previous cycles of climate change is how quickly the rate of change is happening. The planet has warmed by about 1°C over the past 100 years, and most scientists now agree that this is mainly as a result of the increasing amount of greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) released into the Earth's atmosphere from human activity.
As a result of the billions of tonnes of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) released globally each year the blanket of gases in the atmosphere is trapping more heat inside, resulting in global warming and unpredictable weather patterns. As far back as 1967 the first reliable computer simulation calculated that global average temperature could increase by more than 4°C when the atmospheric CO2 levels reach double that of pre-industrial times. However, it is only relatively recently that the full extent of the dangers and possible effects of climate change have emerged.
Ireland is extremely dependent on the importation of fossil fuels. These fuels ensure that we have heating and lighting in our homes and schools, and that we can use our cookers washing machines and other modern conveniences about the home. According to EU figures 91% of all the country’s energy needs have to be imported. (Irish examiner, 2008). Ireland has in fact one of the highest energy dependency rates of any country in Europe.
Did you know that:
- 25% of the energy in Ireland is used in Irish homes - that's more than industry which is 22%.
- The average home now consumes 40% more electricity than it did in 1990
- Energy use is responsible for 66% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. (SEI, 2008)
- We use fossil fuels to create most of our energy.
For more interesting facts and figures have a read of the following sections:
1. Renewable Ireland
We know Ireland has one of the highest energy dependency rates of any country in Europe - What does this mean? This means that in order to create electricity we need to import gas, coal & oil from other countries which leaves us in a vulnerable position. Renewable energy currently accounts for just 2.7% of Ireland’s energy supply.
What’s does the word renewable mean? Infinite vs. Finite!
The resources Ireland imports to power electricity station are non renewable - this means they are finite and going to run out! They were formed millions of years ago from a time even before the dinosaurs where around. They are termed fossil fuels because they are old fuels! Renewable resources are those that can be continually replenished and won’t run out! They are in infinite supply!
Why should we be concerned?
The problem with Ireland using fossil fuels as an energy source is:
- Price—think of all the import and transporting costs, not to mention the fact that increase in demand increases the price!
- The pollution, when fuels are burnt to generate energy such as electricity they emit greenhouse gases which contributes to global warming!
Think about the island of Ireland
Do you know any sources of renewable energy (won’t run out) used to produce energy in Ireland?
Although Ireland is not considered a sunny climate there is considerable untapped solar potential. In fact, every year Ireland receives the equivalent of 600 times the amount of energy from the sun, than it actually uses itself. Families can save up to 50% of the energy bills with solar heating. (www.totalsolar.co.uk, 2008)
2. Energy Vampire Hunt & Family Time!
Energy vampires love energy- they drain energy even when you think they’re not & more energy than they will ever need!
What are they? They live in the electrical appliances that make human life easier. (Your phone & i-pod charger, TV, cordless phone, washing machine even your kettle) They act as vampires draining energy.
How do they do this? When appliances are on standby mode (when you’re not using them but they are still plugged in) they still consume electricity. They can consume up to 20%! The only way to stop them is to unplug or turn appliances off at the direct source of power.
Slaying the Vampire Tips
Unplug It: For items that have a switch make sure it's turned off. (E.g. turn your TV off at the power source rather than using the remote control Unplug all items without switches.
Re-evaluate: Do you really need the latest and greatest model? Be realistic and stick to your needs. Unplug & de-clutter and place items you don’t need in storage (e.g. sandwich toasters & bread makers)
Labels check: Choose models that use the least amount of standby power. Check out the energy star rating of appliances.
Fact: by purchasing an A rated fridge instead of a ‘C’ rated one we could save 18million and 85,000 tonnes of CO2 pa nationally. An ‘A’ rated appliance will use 55% of the energy of a ‘D’ rated appliance (SEI, 2008)
Computer Tip: for items like computers that use multiple plugs use a power board as this means that you just have one switch to turn off after use. Be aware some power boards have standby mode too!
The Energy Vampire Hunt
Track down and slay the sneaky Energy Vampires in your home some evening while following the steps below:
- 1. Ask your Mam or Dad to find you a torch & wait until it gets dark outside.
- 2. Pretend you are going to bed and turn things off the way you usually would.
- 3. Hold onto your torch & turn off all of the lights
- 4. Hunt for the eerie glow of red lights that signal appliances are on standby.
- 5. Look for digital displays that are still lit e.g. alarm clocks.
- 6. Touch appliances to see if they are warm - this is another sign they are draining power.
Make a list of any energy vampires that you found. Did you find any vampires that need to stay plugged in?
Pick one evening to turn off the TV, computer and play station. Choose a family activity you can all enjoy (charades, art project, puzzles, monopoly, twister, a trip to the park, outdoor picnic).
In your homework copy book write about the activity you choose and whether it was enjoyable or not. Also, write about other tips you can think of to promote more family time and less energy use.
3. No Cost Solutions - Warm up Wisely!
There are several simple steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption at home without having to spend any money. For example turning off lights in unused rooms and only drying clothes naturally or outdoors when possible can all help to save money and energy. We have listed lots more simple steps that you can take at home below. Try them out and see how much money you can save!!:
- Close doors to ensure that heat doesn't escape and make sure to turn down the heat in unused rooms.
- Use a timer on your immersion heater (Heating hot water accounts for 64% of energy consumption in the home: you should be thrifty in it's use (SEAI).
- Be sure to close you curtains at night to trap heat in your room.
- Turn off lights in unused rooms
- Turn off electrical appliances at source rather than leaving them on stand-by
- The build up of frost increases energy consumption. Consider defrosting your fridge/freezer once a year to avoid this
- Defrosting frozen food in the fridge may take a little longer but it will keep your fridge cool and prevent unwanted bacteria growth
- Locate your fridge/freezer in the coolest part of your kitchen/utility so that it doesn't have to work extra hard (i.e. use more energy) to keep things cool
- Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge/freezer
- It's best to avoid opening the oven door while cook. Every time you do you lose 20% of the accumulated heat
- Microwaves save time and energy as they use less than one unit of electricity per hour. When reheating food consider using the microwave instead of the oven.
- When toasting bread use the toaster instead of the grill, it is much more energy efficient
- Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need. This helps to save time and energy
Low Cost Solutions - Hunting Time!
Families can make further savings by investing small amounts on items like draught excluders, lagging jackets and attic insulation. Complete the 3 activities listed below and discover some new low cost tips:
Hunt 1: Lagging Jacket
1. Does your hot water cylinder have a lagging jacket or insulation?
Fact: A lagging jacket will pay for itself in a matter of months. It will keep the water hotter for longer An 80mm lagging jacket can reduce heat loss by up to 75%. If replacing the hot water cylinder, a cylinder with factory applied insulation should be considered. Such insulation is more effective at retaining heat than a lagging jacket, is less easily damaged and cannot be pulled out of place. (SEI, 2008)
Hunt 2: Draught Hunt! Take your family on a Draught hunt
1. Have you ever felt small breezes creeping through the windows, letter box or fireplace? This is a draught.
To make a ‘draught o meter’ attach a sheet of cling wrap, tissue paper or low weight paper (approx 20 cm by 10 cm) to a pencil. Secure with sticky tape. Close the windows and doors and hold up your ‘draught o meter’ and see if it blows. Test: under doors/your letterbox/windows
2. Did you find any draughts? Where?
3. Can you think of any ways to stop your draughts? A fun way to stop draughts is to make a draught guard! Stuff a sports sock or stocking with lentils, rice or rags-turn and make a fun character
Hunt 3: Attic insulation!
Do you know the depth of insulation in your attic? NB Parental supervision is necessary for this challenge. If parents wish to show their children the insulation in the attic they should inspect attics first.
Do you have enough attic insulation?
- 1. Take the depth-o –meter provide by your child/ren.
- 2. Slide the depth o meter down between the insulation and the joist until the bottom edge rests on the ceiling board.
- 3. Mark off the depth of your attic insulation on your depth o meter.
What was your insulation level? Did this surprise you? What action can you take to maintain or improve your insulation level?
FACT INSULATE YOUR ATTIC AND SAVE 20% OFF YOUR HOME HEATING BILL
Some more Low Cost Tips
- Purchase a lagging jacket for your hot water system
- Use black out lining on curtains can further trap heat
- Alter the length of your curtains to prevent heat loss: the ideal curtain length should be
- Insulate your home & attic to prevent draughts
- When buying heaters, make sure that they are the appropriate size for the rooms and have thermostatic controls.
- If the radiator is mounted below a window, a projecting window-board or shelf above the radiator will direct warm air into the room, reducing heat loss through the window.
- Reflective foil, backed by insulation such as polystyrene sheets if space permits can be fixed behind radiators mounted on external walls. Maintenance, servicing & proper control of your heating system can reduce fuel consumption by 10-20%(SEI, 2008)
Learning about lights
Only 10% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is used for light -the other 90% escapes as heat. If in doubt you can do a small experminent with the help of your parents. Take a normal light bulb and an energy efficient light bulb. Place each light bulb in a lamp (one at a time) and using a thermometer check the heat emitted by each of the bulbs by placing the thermometer 15cm away from the bulb. Which bulb wastes the most heat??
Using CFL's for security and general garden lighting is a very cost effective choice. An 11 watt CFL running all night, every night costs less than €6.35 a year in electricity costs! Using task lighting can cut your power bill too: task lighting is lighting an area for a specific task instead of lighting the whole room (e.g. above a cooker or at an arm chair).
Trees play an important role in protecting the environment by improving air quality, conserving water, storing carbon and providing a home to different types of wildlife. Air quality improves as leaves filter the air we breathe, by removing dust and other particles. Trees can also balance the climate by providing shade from the sun, rain and from the wind. Trees help to reduce the possibility of flooding by intercepting water, storing some of it, and reducing storm runoff.
Trees play an important role in storing or “sequestering” the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon is an element that is stored in fossil fuels such as coal and oil, as well as in wood and living plant life. When these fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere where it acts with other gases to form what is called “greenhouse gas.” The over production of greenhouse gases contributes to climate change. By absorbing the excess carbon in the atmosphere trees can help to combat climate change while providing important habitats for a range of species.
Monitoring the Carbon Absorbed/Sequestered by the Trees in your Garden can help tackle Climate Change:
Research is currently being conducted in University College Dublin to assess the environmental air quality at street level in Dublin City and also to examine the correspondence between the carbon dioxide CO2 emissions from traffic and how street trees sequester (absorb) the carbon. To date the research team in UCD have mapped all of the trees on public land between the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal in Dublin’s inner city. The research suggests that this represents 20% of the Trees in Dublin City. Can you imagine how many trees the team had to map??! This means, however, that there are many more trees that could be mapped! The Green Home team would be delighted to be complement this research and we would like to invite you to assist us by pinpointing any trees that you have in your garden on our google map.
This is an optional activity but your cooperation would be much appreciated as it would contribute significantly to this valuable research.
To map your trees please follow this link: http://bit.ly/zKyz1Q You will then need to:
1. Login using your Gmail username and password. If you do not have a gmail account you can easily set one up for the purpose of contributing to the map on this page: http://bit.ly/wfgZVk
2. Once you have logged in please pinpoint any trees you have in your garden as accurately as possible on our map. Be sure to include the following details. If you are missing any of these i.e. tree species, not to worry, just document the other details :
- i) the species of tree (i.e. the type of tree like Oak, Lime, Sycamore etc.)
- ii) the circumference of the tree in centimetres -circumference must be measured at a height of 1.3 meters from the base of the tree or at breast height if measured by adults.
- iii) a photo of each of the trees. If you are unfamiliar with mapping on Google map you may find the following document of use:
If you are unfamiliar with mapping on Google maps, the document below contains some guidelines on how to get started: Mapping Trees on Google Maps
If you have any difficulty uploading any of these details or require any further information please contact Dorothy or Niamh at 01-4002218.
For some energy related games take a look at the links below: