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Energy Efficiency 101: Everything You Need to Know

Key highlights:

  • Energy efficiency is the use of less energy to perform the same task or produce the same result
  • Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change, reduce energy costs for consumers and improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses
  • Efficient energy use has been a rising trend in the United States due to increasing energy costs and the environmental problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions  

In this article: 

What is Energy Efficiency?

Energy efficiency is simply a more effective way to use electricity to power systems and appliances. This concept isn’t just the installation of Energy Star-certified appliances, it encompasses the use of energy-efficient products, commitment to energy-efficient home improvement and implementation of energy efficiency policies. 

The war against climate change rests in the hands of the consumer, and improved energy systems are the first step to success. As one of the most accessible ways to reduce air pollution and save energy, the decision to make energy-efficient upgrades is a valuable investment for homeowners and businesses alike. 

Energy-efficient homes, for instance, help consumers save money on their energy bills, and corporations can adhere to energy efficiency standards to reduce their levels of emissions. Yet this is only the beginning, other benefits of energy efficiency include:

  • Enhanced energy cost savings: Homeowners can save money on their electric bill if they install energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Critical environmental benefits: Traditional electrical power plants burn fossil fuels that produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-efficient homes cut down on the amount of emissions associated with the energy they use.
  • Improved community health: Fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions are harmful for humans and the environment, so improving your home’s energy efficiency improves air quality for all.
  • Less reliance on the electrical grid: With less strain and congestion on the electric grid, there will be fewer power failures and disruptions in your community.
  • Increased energy equity: Energy-efficiency programs make clean energy accessible for underserved communities so all can access energy-saving technologies.

Energy Conservation Vs. Energy Efficiency: What Is The Difference?

conservation vs efficiency

Energy efficiency and energy conservation are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two terms. These concepts might go hand-in-hand, but the main distinction between energy efficiency and conservation are your daily habits.

Whereas energy conservation refers to the practice of using less energy and your behavior around your energy use, energy efficiency refers to the adoption of technology to use less energy for the same function.

Let’s use a light bulb as an example to demonstrate the difference between conservation and efficiency. If energy conservation was your goal, you would turn on just one light bulb instead of all of the lights in your house after the sun went down. 

If you were interested in energy efficiency, you would install energy-efficient lights in your home. You can choose to change your behavior and turn on fewer lights, but the idea is that you wouldn’t have to because the LED lights reduce energy waste for you.

Common Misconceptions About Energy Efficiency

There is a general consensus that energy efficiency should be implemented wherever possible, but there is a lot of confusion about what energy efficiency improvements truly are. Let’s work on debunking some of these myths. 

Energy Efficiency Requires You to Change Your Habits

As we learned above, energy conservation is the act of changing your own habits to reduce your home energy usage. Energy efficiency may seem like energy conservation for the lazy, but it does require a degree of research about your home energy systems.

As you browse through energy-efficient appliances, you will need to know the amount of energy various air conditioners, water heaters and refrigerators use, for example, to determine what makes an energy-efficient appliance. You’ll also need to compare prices, brands and determine which system makes the most sense for your energy needs.

While this does mean you can keep your home at a toasty 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter without wasting too much energy, it also means that you need to consciously search for the best energy-efficient upgrades for your home.

Replacing a Few Appliances Results In Energy Efficiency Improvements

energy efficient upgrades

There is a common notion that the replacement of just a few home systems — such as heat pumps and refrigerators — will result in drastic reductions on your utility bills. We would all love to see these improvements with the investment of just a few appliances, but that is not the case.

To see any degree of substantial energy cost savings, you will need to take a holistic approach to energy efficiency. Energy Star appliances are fantastic investments, but your fancy new HVAC system will be useless without proper home insulation or energy-efficient windows, for example.

The commitment to energy efficiency is more than just the installation of new appliances. You will need to evaluate the entire structure of your home and make upgrades so that your systems and appliances can work together in energy harmony.

Energy Efficiency Is Too Expensive

The upfront cost of an energy-efficient home may seem daunting, but it is definitely worth the investment. Every small update you make — regardless of if it’s changing out your old lightbulbs or installing efficient gutter systems — ultimately lowers your energy consumption and decreases your carbon footprint.

Over your lifetime, energy-efficient upgrades will save you money and will lead to a positive return on your investment. If you decide to sell your home, upgraded systems and appliances also increase your home’s value.

Some utility companies and brands even offer rebates and incentive programs that make it easier for homeowners to install energy-efficient appliances, so make sure you ask your installer for these money-saving tips.

Residential Vs. Commercial Energy Efficiency 

Both residential and commercial buildings need electricity to power their air conditioning, water, appliances and electronics, but each is subject to different energy efficiency measures. This is mainly due to their different degrees of electricity demand.

On average, commercial buildings require more energy than residential buildings, which is why they have a different set of standards set by the Department of Energy. Energy efficiency measures are also different in scale even though they serve the same cause.

The post Energy Efficiency 101: Everything You Need to Know appeared first on EcoWatch.

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