Forgot Password?
Home arrow GreeniacsArticles arrow Energy arrow What is Energy Efficiency
Written by Gregory Iwahashi   
Share |
Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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
  • Creates Energy
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.
  • Reduces Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
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.
  • Cleaner Air
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.
  • Saves Money
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.
  • Buildings Going Green
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
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.
  • Appliances and Home Electronics
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.
  • Energy Assessments
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!

Browse all Greeniacs Articles Browse all Greeniacs Guides        Browse all Greeniacs Articles


Add your comment
RSS comments

Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.

Click here to Register.  Click here to login.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 September 2011 )


Green Facts

  • Shaving 10 miles off of your weekly driving pattern can eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

  • Refrigerators built in 1975 used 4 times more energy than current models.

  • In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you'll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

  • If every U.S. household turned the thermostat down by 10 degrees for seven hours each night during the cold months, and seven hours each weekday, it would prevent nearly gas emissions.

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.

  • Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees.

  • In California homes, about 10% of energy usage is related to TVs, DVRs, cable and satellite boxes, and DVD players.

  • Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth can save as much as 10 gallons a day per person.

  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%.

  • Due to tiger poaching, habitat destruction, and other human-tiger conflicts, tigers now number around 3,200—a decrease in population by about 70% from 100 years ago.

  • You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), over the life of the bulb.

  • You’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you recycle.

  • Nudge your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter to prevent 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

  • Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct.

  • 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from burning fossil fuels.

  • Americans throw away more than 120 million cell phones each year, which contribute 60,000 tons of waste to landfills annually.

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people die prematurely worldwide every year due to air pollution.

  • One recycled aluminum can will save enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours.

  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch.

  • A laptop consumes five times less electricity than a desktop computer.

  • Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute.

  • American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year.

  • It takes 6,000,000 trees to make 1 year's worth of tissues for the world.

  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.

  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.

  • Recycling 1 million laptop computers can save the amount of energy used by 3,657 homes in the U.S. over the course of a year.

  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.

  • An aluminum can that is thrown away instead of recycled will still be a can 500 years from now!

  • Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and drying your clothes on a clothesline six months out of the year would save another 700 pounds.

  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months

  • For every 38,000 bills consumers pay online instead of by mail, 5,058 pounds of greenhouse gases are avoided and two tons of trees are preserved.

  • Recycling for one year at Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

  • Current sea ice levels are at least 47% lower than they were in 1979.

  • You will save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 miles you drive if you always keep your car’s tires fully inflated.

  • Less than 1% of electricity in the United States is generated from solar power.

  • Glass can be recycled over and over again without ever wearing down.

  • Recycling 100 million cell phones can save enough energy to power 18,500 homes in the U.S. for a year.

  • 77% of people who commute to work by car drive alone.

  • A tree that provides a home with shade from the sun can reduce the energy required to run the air conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.