As the world intensifies its efforts to address the causes and impact of climate change, you might wonder what you can do to be a part of the solution. First, it is important to note that it doesn’t take much to make a difference and every little deed helps. Something as simple as switching to energy-saving LED bulbs can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Despite the U.S. economy experiencing a growth of about 30% since 2,000, energy consumption in the country is currently at the same level as it was back then, thanks to various measures to improve energy efficiency. Even more impressive, over the past four decades, energy efficiency has contributed more towards meeting the energy needs of the American population than oil, gas, and nuclear.
What Is Energy Efficiency?
While the terms energy efficiency and energy conservation are related and are centered around achieving the same goal, they mean different things regarding energy use. First, both are aimed at reducing energy use. However, energy conservation achieves this by minimizing activities that consume energy, for example, driving less, switching off lights, and minimizing your reliance on appliances. On the other hand, energy efficiency involves utilizing technology to minimize or avoid energy wastage. With energy efficiency, you can still drive, switch on your lights, and use your appliances while consuming much less energy than normal. Energy efficiency is all about using available energy more wisely.
The Importance of Using Less Energy
There are plenty of positive results that come with reducing the amount of energy required for certain tasks, according to Corgi Homeplan. Energy efficiency is beneficial for your bank account, the economy, and the environment. It significantly helps to reduce the impact that certain types of energy generation have on our air, water, and land. It also helps to minimize the interference caused to critical ecosystems, for example, the disruption a new hydroelectric dam can cause to the migration of salmon. It also helps to avoid overloading the power grid.
Reduce Carbon Pollution
One of the most cost-effective and low-impact ways of lowering climate pollution on a grand scale is to improve energy efficiency in appliances, buildings, vehicles, and equipment. Having an energy-efficient home significantly helps to lower your carbon emissions. This means widespread energy-efficient lighting, appliances, electronics, and equipment, combined with better insulation, can cut 550 million metric tons of carbon footprint annually by 2050. This is the equivalent of the electric power emissions produced by California, Virginia, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois.
Clean energy production has created more than 2.2 million American jobs. This is five times more than the jobs in the dirty energy industries, including gas, coal, and oil. Energy efficiency accounts for every one in six jobs in the construction industry.
Investing in energy-efficient appliances can save the average American household more than $500 per year on utility bills. According to 2016 rankings, people living in the five least energy-efficient states (Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Alabama) saw their electric bills go up twice as much as people living in the five most energy-efficient states (New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, and California).
Partly due to the lack of weatherization, the energy burden of low-income households (the proportion of income spent on energy) is three times higher than that of higher-income households. Likewise, the energy burden of low-income households in rural areas is almost three times higher than that of other households in rural areas.
One less obvious benefit of energy efficiency is that it can help individuals live longer, healthier lives. By lowering energy use in the country by 15% for one year through efficiency measures, we can help save six American lives a day and avoid up to $20 billion in health-related expenses.
One of the biggest issues with power plants using oil, coal, and natural gas to generate electricity is that they release tiny particles into the air, which are known to cause heart attacks, asthma, and lung cancer. Poor ventilation and weatherization can lead to respiratory complications within the home setting. What’s more, energy efficiency can help enhance the comfort of your home and workplace, which can have a positive impact on health.
Energy efficiency helps to ensure energy security by reducing the amount of power needed and creating a more resilient power grid. It helps to make the country less reliant on foreign sources of fossil fuels.
Examples of Energy Efficiency
If you are looking to be more energy efficient, here are some of the ways you can do it:
Use Energy Wisely
You can start with small things like switching off your electronics, adjusting the thermostat settings, setting timers, and tweaking the TV settings. Try to identify all the things that unnecessarily consume electricity even when idle.
Invest In Energy Efficient Home Appliances
When purchasing home appliances, go for models with the Energy Star label. Energy Star is a voluntary program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the Department of Energy with over 18,000 partners. Energy Star appliances can save up to $4.50 for every $1 spent on electricity bills.
Thanks to the national energy efficiency standards, switching to energy-efficient home appliances can save you up to $500 per year. These savings are expected to reach $840 by 2030. This makes this even more attractive for consumers because home appliances are becoming more affordable. For perspective, a modern fridge that utilizes 75% less energy costs less than half its price in the ’70s (adjusted for inflation). Something like a clothes washer with the Energy Star label utilizes one-fourth less energy and one-third less water than standard models. This goes a long way in reducing your energy bills.
The blue and white Energy Star label has been the gold standard for picking out the more energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and buildings for over three decades. According to experts, the program has helped save over $430 billion on energy bills. Additionally, it has helped cut carbon emissions by 2.7 billion metric tons – equivalent to the emissions produced by 670 coal-fired power plants in a year.
More Efficient Heating and Cooling
Did you know that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions yearly by 13 billion pounds if only 1 in 10 households invested in Energy Star-labeled heating and cooling equipment? This equals the emissions produced by 1.2 million gas cars in a year. Appliances with the Energy Star label can also help you cut your energy bills by up to $160.
Modern ceiling fans with light fixtures with Energy Star labels are 60% more efficient than standard units. These ceiling fans can make a space feel 10% cooler while consuming only 10% of the power of a central AC unit.
When it comes to heating and cooling your home and/or business, super efficient electric heat pumps are a cleaner and more cost-effective option. This is especially so when compared to oil and propane furnaces. Heat pumps facilitate the transfer of heat from a cool space to a warm space, for example, from the cold outdoors to the interior of the building. This helps to make the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. Compared to burning fuels to produce heat, an electric heat pump is much more efficient at warming up a space. Depending on the climate, a heat pump can be used as the sole source of heat without the need for another heating device. The heat pump is often more efficient for cooling than the standard window air-conditioning or central air unit. What’s more, it comes in different forms depending on the setup of your home. For instance, a central heat pump can be used in the place of a central AC.
Climate change is a huge contributor to the extreme weather conditions being experienced in various parts of the world today. Consequently, more and more people are finding themselves buying their first air conditioner. But rather than going for the standard AC and furnace, you can invest in a heat pump and save on your utility bills. Also, if your gas furnace or boiler needs replacement, a heat pump will give you more time to think about your next heating system and may serve as your new one.
Home and office emissions account for 13% of the country’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions. Using an electric heat pump, you play your part in reducing the use of fossil fuels. You can also expect other benefits like improved indoor air quality and reduced pressure on your city’s electrical grid. Even though the initial costs of a heat pump are higher than that of a standard AC without a heater, its benefits make it a worthwhile investment for your bank account and the environment.
Lastly, we can’t fail to mention that when your house is properly sealed against the elements, less energy is needed to keep your house cool. A weatherization professional will help to find and fix droughts and add insulation where needed.
Switch to LED Bulbs
Replacing your bulbs with energy-saving LED lights can help you save up to $1,000 per year in energy bills translating to $12.5 billion nationally (if LEDs are universally adopted). This is in addition to cutting down on carbon emissions generated by electricity production.
There are over 150 varieties of LED bulbs available on the market today. These consume 90% less energy compared o incandescent bulbs, which allows you to save over $100 on energy bills over the bulb’s life.