What is Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is performing the same action or process as before, but using less energy to do so. Most well known is the growing trend of exchanging incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which are 75% more efficient than incandescents. Different from energy conservation, energy efficiency focuses on changing what processes and products we are using rather than how we are using them. For example, energy efficiency seeks to make our light bulbs use less energy, while energy conservation calls for us to turn off our lights more diligently. For this reason, energy efficiency has been a major aspect of the green movement as it will from day one save us energy without us even thinking about it.
Why Energy Efficiency is Important
Energy efficiency is one of the most underrated sources of energy. Similar to the well known phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned,” energy saved is energy created. In 1974 refrigerator/freezer efficiency was a growing concern as almost every home had one. In 2001, it was estimated that there were about 150 million refrigerator/freezers in the United States. If all of the 1974 models were replaced with 2001 models, the energy efficiency each year would save over 200 billion kWh of energy. To put that number into perspective, this generates more energy than double the energy produced by renewable energies in the U.S.
Creating more energy efficient processes means less GHGs released into the environment overall. It means less energy is required, less new development and construction, and ultimately less green house gases being released. The more energy security and control of energy demand, the more ability there is to choose what energy we use. In the future this can help utilize cleaner and more domestic energy sources.
Energy efficiently aims to reduce energy usage and demand across the board. However, it will greatly impact cities and highly industrialized areas that use large amounts of energy. Imagine the amount of tailpipe emissions that the average car releases. If a car could have double the gas mileage, that would reduce the nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide released into the air by 50 percent. While energy efficiency may appear to just reduce energy usage, it will reduce the amount of domestic pollution that causes harmful health conditions such as asthma and lung disease.
The biggest question when it comes to energy efficient products is: “how much does it cost?” In reality, many people are turned away by the higher upfront costs of a $14.50 CFL versus the cheaper $4.50 incandescent. However, in addition to being more energy efficient, CFLs also last four times as long. When you calculate the energy costs and replacement incandescent bulbs, the cost CFL costs 50% less in the long run. People do not prefer higher up front costs, but in reality, energy efficient technologies, like CFLs, housing retrofits, installing solar panels, tankless water-heaters, and a laundry list of other technologies can save serious amounts of money over the long-run.
Energy efficient technologies and products are becoming one of the biggest areas of the green building movement. The benefits to both individuals and the environment make this a win-win situation for everyone. However, getting these technologies into the homes, businesses, and fingertips of the consumers is the largest challenge. The California Energy Commission (CEC) and many other regulatory bodies have created building efficiency standards amongst other regulations to ensure than new buildings will be energy efficient. Furthermore, the government has gone a step beyond this, making initiatives and monetary incentives available. While energy efficiency is still overcoming the challenge of high up-front costs, the residential home has become a growing market with the help of government incentives.
Energy Efficiency at Home: The American home is one of the five biggest users of energy. In 2002, close to 15% of California’s energy usage came from residential homes, making retrofits and home improvement a viable option for the homeowner. The amount of energy efficiency improvements are honestly everything and anything in your home, from the water heater to the alarm clock on your night stand. Instead of barrage you with every possibility, below are a list of the biggest energy guzzlers and the best ways to put a quick buck back into your pocket.
Heating and cooling make up about 56% of the energy usage in the American home. Be it air conditioning during the summer or running the heater on those cold nights, maintaining the ideal temperature in your home is expensive. Make sure to have a programmable thermostat, a fully functioning heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home. For more information on how to make this happen, read here.
Reduces Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
About 20% of total energy usage is bundled into this category. Everything from dishwashers, laundry machines, refrigerators, to televisions is included here. This makes for an opportunity to make quick and easy upgrades to more energy efficient alternatives. ENERY STAR, started by the Environmental protection Agency and backed by the Department of Energy, sponsors and supplies credible, energy efficient appliances. Find what you want to upgrade here.
If you are like me and really don’t know where to start, the first thing to do is identify where the savings or energy efficiency improvements can be made. Performing an energy assessment on your own takes no more than a printed guide and handy man skills. Click here to get started. If you prefer to have a professional do the job, here is a guide on how to choose the right energy auditor for your home.
For information on green building developments and news, check out these Greeniacs Articles!
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