What is conservation of energy?
In essence, energy conservation means using less energy to reduce costs and reduce environmental impact. This may mean using less electricity, gas or any other form of energy you get from your utility. With the finite energy resources available on our planet, actively conserving energy, when possible, is beneficial to us and our energy systems.
You can save energy and money at home in many ways to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and minimize the natural resources used to power your home. While commercial buildings can have a big impact on energy use, there are many things you can do every day at home.
Energy conservation versus energy efficiency
While energy conservation is about using less energy for environmental and cost reasons, energy efficiency means using specific products designed to use less energy. These two concepts are inherently similar but involve different methods. Examples of energy conservation include using smart appliances and energy-efficient light bulbs in your home. Energy conservation can help you save money and also increase your sustainability.
About 40 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated by burning coal and natural gas, which release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Your energy use will vary depending on a few factors, such as the size and age of your home, how many people live in your home, how well insulated it is, and the types of products you use.
Here are 14 ways to start saving energy:
- Adjust your daily behaviors
- Replace your light bulbs
- Use smart power strips
- Install a programmable thermostat
- Use energy efficient appliances
- Reduce your water heating costs
- Install energy efficient windows
- Insulate your home better
- Use natural light
- Dress appropriately for indoor and outdoor temperatures.
Below, we will explore each of these energy conservation options in detail.
1. Adjust your daily behaviors
To reduce your home's energy consumption and increase your energy savings, you don't necessarily need to go out and buy energy-efficient products. Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off lights or appliances when you don't need them. You can also use fewer energy-consuming appliances by doing household chores manually, such as hanging laundry instead of putting it in the dryer or washing dishes by hand.
The behavioral adjustments that have the greatest savings potential are lowering the temperature on your thermostat in the winter and using your air conditioner less in the summer. Heating and cooling costs make up nearly half of the average household's utility bills, so these reductions in heating and cooling intensity and frequency offer the greatest savings.
There are tools known as energy monitors that you can use to find out where most of your electricity goes in your home and which appliances are using the most electricity on a daily basis.
2. Replace your bulbs
Traditional incandescent bulbs use too much electricity and should be replaced more often than their energy-efficient alternatives. Halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs use 25 to 80 percent less electricity and last 3 to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. For example, LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb, while providing the same amount of light.
Although energy-saving bulbs are more expensive, their efficient energy use and lifespan mean they cost less in the long run.3. Use smart power strips
3. Use smart power strips
"Phantom power," also known as "standby power" or "vampire power," is electricity used by electronic devices when they are off or in standby mode. Standby power is a major waste. This "phantom power" accounts for 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use and costs the average household up to €100 per year. Smart power strips eliminate the problem of phantom loads by turning off power to electronic devices when they are not in use. They can be set to turn off at an assigned time, during a period of inactivity, via remote switches or based on the status of a "master" device.
4. Install a programmable or smart thermostat
A smart thermostat can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during times when you are asleep or away. By installing a smart thermostat, you can help reduce the energy you use for heating and cooling.
A smart thermostat could save you approximately 8 percent on your heating and cooling bills. Savings can vary depending on the climate where you live, your personal comfort preferences, how many people live in your home, and the type and age of equipment. Smart thermostats come in different models that can be configured to fit your weekly schedule.
5. Buy energy-efficient appliances
When buying an appliance, you should pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although energy-efficient appliances may have higher initial purchase prices, they generally save you money on your monthly utility bill, as well as on energy.
6. Reduce your water heating costs
Water heating is a major contributor to your overall energy consumption. In addition to buying an energy-efficient boiler, there are three ways to reduce your water heating costs: use less hot water, lower the thermostat on your boiler, or insulate the first few feet of plumbing.
If you are considering replacing your water boiler with an efficient model, you should consider two factors: the type of water heater that meets your needs and the fuel you will use. For example, tankless water heaters are energy efficient, but they are also a poor choice for large families because they cannot handle multiple, simultaneous uses of hot water. Condensing boilers or aerothermal are one of the most efficient ways to heat your home's water.
7. Install energy-efficient windows
Windows are a major source of wasted energy. Heat gain and loss through windows uses 25 to 30 percent of the heating and cooling energy in most homes. To prevent heat loss through windows, you can replace them with thermally broken windows or windows with certified, technical glazing.
In many cases, "low-E" shutters are more insulating and can significantly reduce your heating costs. In addition, interior or exterior low-e shutters can reduce unnecessary heat loss by 10 to 30 percent.
In summer, heat gain through windows can be a problem. In addition to minimizing heat loss, low-e window coverings can reduce heat gain by reflecting more light and reducing the amount of thermal energy entering your home. Blinds, shades and awnings can also provide an additional layer of insulation between your home and outside temperatures, leading to greater energy conservation and improved energy management. Incentives are now being offered to replace windows with more efficient versions.
8. Insulate your home
Insulation plays a key role in reducing your utility bills by retaining heat during the winter and keeping heat out of your home during the summer. The level of insulation you should install depends on the area of your home. Your attic, walls, floors, basement and crawl space are the top five areas where you should consider adding insulation.
9. Use natural light
Using sunlight is an intuitive way to reduce energy consumption. When looking for a home, it is best to have windows facing north and south rather than east and west, if possible. This allows for more heat-producing indirect light and limits intense light in the winter. While east- and west-facing windows allow more direct sunlight, they are not as effective at letting in heat.
10. Dress appropriately for indoor and outdoor temperatures
While it may seem obvious to bundle up outside when it's cold in the winter, doing so indoors can also help save on heating costs. By keeping warm by wearing more clothing indoors, you can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat your home.