Green Lifestyle What is Energy Efficiency?

Published on October 28th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


What is Energy Efficiency? 3 Ways to Save Money and Reduce your Impact

What is energy efficiency? It’s one of the biggest initiatives in the broader sustainability movement, and with good reason. Not only is energy efficiency very easy to undertake, it’s one of the most affordable ways to immediately and drastically reduce your impact on the planet.

What is Energy Efficiency?

At its most basic, energy efficiency means making the best use of the energy used in your daily life– simply doing more with less. It includes water saving technology to reduce the amount of water used in showers and sinks, improving lighting technology to reduce energy bills, and tweaking appliances, furnaces, and water heaters to help them run in the most efficient way possible.

Surprisingly, though the efforts are small, energy efficiency actions have some of the biggest impact overall. This graph below  shows that while building new carbon capturing coal plants has a huge impact (shown in the width of each blue bar), the cost is exceptionally high.

But an action like switching from incandescent to LED bulbs has a smaller abatement potential, but the cost is substantially lower (shown on the far left of the graph). Most interesting is that all the initiatives that reduce carbon AND have the lowest cost are energy efficiency initiatives: changing light bulbs, optimizing appliances and electronics, motor systems efficiency, and retrofits for HVAC. These actions have such low cost that it becomes clear that this is where both personal and political actions need to be directed.

Carbon Cost abatement chart

Furthermore, efficiency saves us all money. Research shows that energy efficiency is America’s cheapest energy resource. The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) Executive Director Steven Nadel says, “The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t have to produce in the first place. [When] utilities are examining options on how to provide their customers with cheap, clean electricity, energy efficiency is generally the best choice.”

And the very best part about undertaking energy efficiency is that change is easy and affordable. Unlike installing a solar panel system, which is too costly for some home owners, efficiency changes incur a small upfront cost, but the payback period is usually quite short. Because of the affordability, almost everyone can take on some energy efficient initiatives in their life, whether they are a homeowner, a renter, a building manager or a city official.

LED lightbulbs

change your lights to LED bulbs for immediate energy savings

{Learn how home energy efficiency can save you money and energy}

One of the reasons the energy efficiency is so important for the sustainability movement is because it reaches people at a level that everyone can understand– their budget.

Not everyone cares about whether the polar ice caps are melting or the drought in California is at the worst level ever, but everyone cares about saving money. Energy efficiency is a gateway to engage people in the green movement who may not be inclined to pay attention otherwise.

There are many different types of energy efficiency, and all are important in different ways, though the end result is the same: saving money, energy, and water to immediately and drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

3 Ways to Save Money and Reduce your Impact with Energy Efficiency

1. Electricity Efficiency
Especially in high cost regions like Hawaii, switching to LED light bulbs from incandescent has a big impact on electricity usage, . LEDs have a higher upfront cost than CFL light bulbs, but switching to either LED or CFL means immediate savings and reduction of your energy usage. LEDs are now more available than ever, and come in almost every shape and size for home and business. LEDs use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, which saves you money everyday. But they also last 3-25 times longer, saving you money in the long-term too, according to

timer strip Light bulbs are the big efficiency hack, but learning about how your TV, gaming consoles and gadgets use electricity unnecessarily can help reduce your bills as well. Learn more about energy use of gaming consoles, get tips for reducing vampire power in the home, and learn about how to use timers, and how to choose the best power strips and smart strips to reduce the energy draw of all your electronics.

2. Appliance efficiency

It doesn’t matter whether you have brand new appliances or older models, all dryers, refrigerators and air conditioners can benefit from easy and fast efficiency tweaks. Task yourself with quick energy efficiency activities for dryers like cleaning the lint trap and vent, a clean drying sensor, and using the auto-dry settings; and learn more about efficiency for washing machines here. Find out about energy efficiency tips for the refrigerator and stove to reduce you energy use in the kitchen and ensure a longer life for your appliances.

dryer lint vent

clean your dryer lint vent after every load and biannually clean the lint tube for higher efficiency

3. Water efficiency:

Water Efficient Showerhead

a high efficiency shower head can reduce your water draw by at least half!

Water efficiency is just as important as electricity efficiency. Water saving devices can reduce your need for water draw, but also your need for gas and electricity. Reducing the amount of hot water wasted in the shower or sink reduces both water bills and gas/electric bills. This is important at the home level and at the municipal level. Lots of electricity is used to move water around our cities to your home, so reducing your water draw at home reduces electricity usage overall.

Water efficiency initiatives are very cost effective and easy to implement. Reducing your water intake can include tasks like swapping out regular faucet aerators and shower heads for high efficiency options, making your toilet more water efficient with tanks and dual-flush converters, and adding gadgets for reducing water in other ways around the home. Click here to get more energy efficiency tips for your bathroom and home.

Image credits: LED image, kilowatt image from Shutterstock

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