Does Solar Energy Produce Carbon Dioxide? | CO2 Emission Breakdown

June 26, 2020
By John Cole

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Many homeowners install solar panels because of their cost-saving benefits. The average home saves anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 over the lifetime of their solar panel system! But solar panels do more for homeowners than save them money, they also help them to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and conserving renewable energy.

So the question remains: does solar energy reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Are solar panels a clean, renewable way to power your home? The short answer is yes.

Have questions about solar energy and reducing your carbon footprint? Keep reading for answers to your questions about solar energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is exactly like it sounds—light and heat energy that is harnessed directly from the sun using various technologies, primarily solar panels.

Solar energy is an efficient form of power because the sun provides an endless supply of renewable energy. Other forms of energy (i.e. fossil fuels) take a long time to form and are not replenished once used, meaning that they are non-renewable.

What Is a Solar Cell?

A solar cell is what will convert the heat and light from the sun into electricity. The sun’s rays are made up of tiny particles of light energy. When these rays of light hit a photovoltaic cell, the light does one of three things—it is either reflected, passed through, or absorbed. Any of the light that is absorbed by the cell can be used for electricity—allowing you to power your home, your vehicle, and much more.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

In simple terms, solar panels capture sunlight. Each solar panel is composed of a group of cells (the solar cells we mentioned previously!). When added to rooftops or yards, solar panels must be carefully positioned to ensure they are receiving maximum sun exposure, otherwise, they won’t be in the optimal position to convert as much energy as possible.

Once the heat and light are absorbed by these cells, it turns into energy. A solar inverter helps to convert solar energy into useful electricity. From there, you can use the electricity to power your home and your vehicles. The more panels you install, the more energy you will be able to harness and convert into usable energy. If there is excess energy, you can sell it back to the utility company to offset any future electric bills. 

What Is Carbon Dioxide?

Carbon Dioxide, otherwise known as CO2, is a greenhouse gas that is natural and harmless in small quantities. CO2 in the atmosphere works to trap heat close to Earth, which allows the Earth to keep solar energy without leaking back into space. Fun fact—if it weren't for this greenhouse effect, the Earth's oceans would be frozen. Thus, it’s important to note that CO2 and other greenhouse gases are good (in moderation). However, too much CO2 in the atmosphere can cause the Earth to heat up.

How Clean Is Solar Power?

In recent years, many people have made the switch to solar energy to start reducing their carbon emissions. One step that’s become popular is the installation of solar panels on residential homes. Why? For one, solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide when they are generating electricity. This is why they are a crowd favorite for those who worry about the impact of their carbon footprint. 

Solar power is a clean, renewable form of energy. Homeowners can harness this power by installing solar panels, which have become much more affordable as of late (they’re available to rent or to purchase). They’re also easy to install and to maintain over time, only requiring a simple wash each year to reduce any grime or buildup.

Your Carbon Footprint: What It Is & How Solar Energy Impacts It

What Is Your Carbon Footprint?

Your ‘carbon footprint’ is the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced and released into the atmosphere to support your actions. This is measured over a set period, usually one year.

The average carbon footprint for an individual in the United States is 16 tons—this is one of the highest carbon footprints in the world! Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons, meaning that people within the U.S. have a carbon footprint four times higher than the global average! 

Do you know what your carbon footprint is? Before determining how you can help reduce your carbon footprint, you need to find out what your carbon footprint is. To calculate your carbon footprint, you will need to consider the following:

  • Approximately how far you travel by vehicle or public transportation
  • Your home’s energy usage
  • How much you spend shopping
  • The composition of your diet 

What Impacts Your Carbon Footprint?

Almost every decision you make throughout the day has an impact on your carbon footprint. These choices might seem minimal when you’re making them—driving to work, going out for coffee or lunch with a coworker, upgrading to the latest technology. But these little actions add up and contribute to increased carbon emissions over time due to the amount of non-renewable energy required to facilitate these choices.

How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?

Big change starts with action. Instead of driving to work, take a long walk there instead, brew your own coffee at home, or wait to upgrade your cell phones, computers, and tablets until you absolutely need to. Here are 30 easy ways to get started reducing your carbon footprint:

  1. Install solar panels to power your home – harness the clean, renewable solar energy of the sun to power your home
  2. Drive your car less often – walk, use public transportation, carpool, or bike when possible
  3. When driving, go easy on the gas and brakes – aggressive driving can result in 40% more fuel consumption than consistent, calm driving
  4. Reuse and recycle – buying used products and reselling or recycling no longer used items can drastically reduce your carbon footprint
  5. Install a low-flow showerhead to reduce hot water usage – taking shorter showers (or cold showers!) can help too
  6. Eat less meat – meat and dairy are responsible for 14.5% of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions!
  7. Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season – cut down on transportation emissions and only shop for fruit and vegetables that are seasonal
  8. Insulate and seal your home – ensure your home is energy efficient by reducing drafts and air leaks with caulk, insulation, and weather stripping
  9. Switch lights off when you leave the room – if no one is in the room to benefit from the lights being on, you’re wasting excess power
  10. Visit sustainable restaurants – if you head out to dinner for date night, choose restaurants that serve sustainably sourced food
  11. Eat more meals at home – when eating at restaurants, meals tend to be oversized and a lot of food gets wasted, eating at home allows you to make better portions that limit food waste
  12. Reduce how often you use your heat, lights, and appliances, and unplug when possible – even when an appliance or electronic device is turned off, it is still using power
  13. Don’t overbuy food in bulk – try not to buy in bulk unless it is an absolute must; if food goes bad before you can eat it, you’re increasing your carbon footprint
  14. Use a reusable water bottle – plastic production results in high carbon emissions, using a reusable water bottle will lower both your carbon and water footprint
  15. Set and forget your thermostat – it is recommended that homeowners install a programmable thermostat to turn off their HVAC system when they are out of the house
  16. Use a laptop in place of a desktop computer – laptops require less energy to charge and operate than a desktop computer
  17. Avoid sitting in traffic jams – Idling in your car unnecessarily creates CO2, avoid traffic by utilizing direction apps that help you avoid these jams
  18. Choose organic and local food when grocery shopping – transporting food from outside your local area, whether by truck, plane, or another method, uses fossil fuels for fuel and to keep food from spoiling
  19. Do your laundry in cold water – doing laundry weekly in cold water instead of hot or warm water can significantly reduce your carbon dioxide emissions each year
  20. Shop at thrift or consignment shops – reduce the number of new clothes and items being purchased and visit your local thrift stores to shop for clothes
  21. Use a reusable shopping bag when shopping – reduce the number of paper and plastic bags that are in circulation
  22. Clean out your fridge more often – when food sits on the shelves of your fridge, it takes up space and energy
  23. Switch your lighting to LEDs – incandescent light bulbs can waste up to 90% of their energy as heat!
  24. Carpool if you’re headed to the same place – one of the best ways to positively impact your carbon footprint is to carpool with others heading the same direction as you
  25. Use a dishwasher instead of hand washing dishes – many people don’t realize that hand washing dishes wastes a lot more water than running your dishwasher!
  26. Grow your own garden in your backyard – by growing your own food, you eliminate the emissions that come from the transportation of food to your grocery store
  27. Consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle – look into factors like a car’s mileage, fuel type, and emissions from the production of the car
  28. Avoid flying if possible, and fly nonstop when you must travel – takeoffs and landings use more fuel and produce more emissions 
  29. Turn off your refrigerator’s ice maker – shutting off your ice maker can decrease your energy consumption by 12-20%
  30. Support local businesses – when the option is available, make purchases on products and services from local businesses instead of national chains that tend to be more wasteful

Making even a few small changes to your daily routine can help to reduce your carbon footprint over time. You don’t have to make a ton of drastic changes all at once. Try picking five things from the list above to focus on over the next month, and once you’ve accomplished those, come back and choose the next five to tackle. 

Do Solar Panels Reduce Your Carbon Emissions?

Yes—by installing solar panels, you can reduce the demand for fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and shrink your carbon footprint. This sounds like a win-win to us! Not only can you reduce the cost of your monthly electric bills by installing solar panels on your home, but you can also improve your carbon footprint and the health of those around you!

The Big Question: Does Solar Energy Produce Carbon Dioxide?

No, solar energy does not produce carbon dioxide. Generating electricity with solar power instead of petroleum, coal, and natural gas can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide.

While the financial returns are a major incentive for switching to solar energy, money isn’t the only thing that solar panels save. When making the switch to solar power, you’re helping to save the environment. 

If you’re looking for a way to power your home that is safe for the Earth and will reduce your carbon footprint, solar energy is a great way to make a difference.

Have Questions About Solar Panels or Solar Energy? Green Energy Geeks Can Help!

If you’re in the market for solar panels or have questions about utilizing solar energy to power your home, Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

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