Recently I came across the Power Profiler tool to find out how clean our home electricity is. It’s worth knowing because, like most Americans, if you live in an area that has a dirty power source then making energy saving improvements to your home can have a great impact. Considering that half the homes built before 1972 have zero or very little insulation, your old home is potentially a big contributor to regional pollution.

Although there is a romantic notion of old homes designed with nature and living in sync with the land, the reality is a bit more grim. Granted, today we have far more efficient ways of using energy in our houses. Yet sadly, our total annual global energy consumption continues to rise, even as the stuff we use gets more efficient.

In 1800 the typical colonial home burned 15 - 20 cords of wood for cooking and heating. That’s a stack of wood 160 feet long by 40 feet wide by 40 feet high. At this astonishing rate, it took less than 100 years for the U.S. to clear cut about 95% of the forest cover on the east coast. Conclusion: Wood fuel was very dirty.

Hermansville, MI; 95% of forest cover lost by 1890

Hermansville, MI; 95% of forest cover lost by 1890

Luckily, by the turn of the 20th century the remaining virgin forests were saved . . . ironically . . . by coal. My home was built circa 1901. At that time a typical home consumed about 1200 lbs of coal per year (and produced about 100 lbs of ash each month). Conclusion: Coal fuel was very, very dirty.

Today every time you flick the light switch, hit the TV remote, press the power button on your computer, open the door to your fridge, or toast a Pop-Tart there is a good chance that you are burning dirty oil or coal to create that electricity.

The environmental impact of your electricity generation depends on how it’s generated. Renewable energy such as solar and wind have little negative impact. On the other hand, electricity generation from the combustion of fossil fuels contributes toward unhealthy air quality, acid rain, mercury emissions and global climate disruption.

Click here to find your home’s Power Profile: Power Profiler tool

In about 5 minutes and starting with only your ZIP code, you can use the Power Profiler to find out just how clean or dirty your power is.  I discovered that my region generates about 84% of our electricity from fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.  I feel good knowing that the 8.1kW solar array on my roof is powering everything in our house, including the computer that is producing this article.  Fortunately, many others are following our lead and becoming more energy independent.

On the Power Profiler you’ll find some great tips on how you can save energy and money on your utility bills as well as ways you can purchase cleaner electricity.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Matt Grocoff, Esq. LEED is host of Greenovation.TV, a contributor to The Environment Report on Public Radio, the green renovation expert for Old House Web, a net zero consultant and a sought after lecturer. His home is America’s oldest net-zero energy home and was called “Sustainable Perfection” by The Atlantic,honored as one of USA Today’s “Seven Best Green Homes of 2010″ and Preservation Project of the Year.  He has been featured in hundreds of publications and news shows including Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Preservation Magazine, Solar Today, Fox Business News, Huffington Post and more.  Join him on Twitter and Facebook