The biggest issue that has to do with energy, perhaps, may not be how much energy we are using, but rather how much energy we are wasting. It is predicted that the United States uses 95.1 quadrillion British Thermal Units of raw energy each year. While this is a great number, it is not an accurate depiction of how much energy actually fulfills a purpose. Experts predict that the United States’ use of energy is overall only 14%-39% efficient. (How Much Energy Does the US Waste?) This figure is staggering. This shows that the United States actually loses more energy than it actually puts to use each year. Additionally, much of the energy that we use would not be necessary if we took advantage of more efficient technology and habits!
It would appear that, in many ways, people in the United States are either wasting idle energy or using extremely inefficient technology that wastes most of the energy put into it. For example, with an Xbox a great amount of the energy wasted is due to the fact that people leave it plugged in when not using it. Even worse than the Xbox could perhaps be home computers, which are usually left on twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, while only being in use for maybe 10% of that time. This wastes an immense amount of energy. Devices in your household should be unplugged whenever they are not in use. If not, these “energy vampires” will account for up to 10% of your utility bill at the end of the month! (Are Energy Vampire Sucking You Dry?) Along with this, there are numerous simple adjustments which can be made in our lives to become more energy efficient.
Unplugging things in your home is not necessarily as important as being mindful of what you plug in. One of the most important adjustments to make within your home is to switch all of your lightbulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Though they have a higher initial cost, they will end up saving you a reasonable amount of money in the long run. Fluorescent lightbulbs use only a quarter of the energy used by an ordinary incandescent lightbulb and they last eight to twelve times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Don’t be fooled. The only reason to be energy efficient isn’t just to appease the hippies. Some energy efficiency tricks can actually save you a boatload of cash! One of the greatest energy efficiency strategies you can incorporate into your life is passive solar heating and cooling. The premise of PSHC is that you design your house in order to keep it at a comfortable temperature while using as little energy as possible to do so by allowing the sun to heat your home. PSHC is a massive money saver, as “Heating and cooling account for about 48% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.” (Saving Energy at Home)
The first and most important part of PSHC is to have large, south-facing windows. Ideally, the windows should face within 30 degrees of true south. These windows should be able to receive direct sunlight from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. during the colder months. PSHC will be most effective if the floor where the sun hits it is made of something such as tile. What happens in PSHC is the sunlight comes in through the window and heats up the tile and other objects to be referred to as “solar mass.” Once the solar mass is heated, convection allows that heat to be drawn away from the solar masses and distributed throughout the rest of the home. As dark objects will absorb more light than light objects, it is advisable that the solar mass within your home be a dark color. Once the sun goes loses sight of the inside of your house, it is suggested to close heavy curtains in front of your windows in order to aid to keep the collected heat within your home.
There are a few variables to consider outside of just solar mass and window position in order to make PSHC as efficient as possible. In order to keep in the heat that comes through the windows of your home during the colder months, it is highly advised that you make sure that your home is effectively insulated. Windows and doors are important places to check for air seal effectiveness. A building professional would gladly be able to help you with this. Another great trick for PSHC is to plant deciduous trees in front of your south facing windows. The reason for this is that during the hot summer months, the deciduous trees will block direct sunlight from shining in and heating up your home, whereas during the cold winter months, the tree won’t have any leaves to block the sunlight. This will prevent from your home from overheating in the summer without having to block all of the outside light from entering your home. Depending on how many adjustments you make, PSHC can save you from 5 to 75 percent on your home heating bills for the year! (Passive Heating and Cooling article)
A few other things may be done to greatly reduce the cost of your home energy use. First off, turn down your thermostat in the winter! There is no need for you to be walking around your house in shorts and a tank top in the winter. Turning your thermostat down to 68 degrees will put your house at a comfortable temperature while decreasing your energy use and, therefore, your energy bill! In order to make your fridge and freezer as efficient as possible, it is recommended that you set your fridge temperature to 37 degrees and set your freezer to 3 degrees. These tips will save you money, and hopefully make you not too hot, not too cold, but just right!
There are a few basic things that should be said when it comes to conserving energy and saving money on your electric bill. They should go without saying, but some people still make mistakes. Always, always, always turn the lights off when you leave a room. To go along with that, don’t turn on lights during the day unless you really need them! Open the windows and let in a little bit of natural light! The other thing that is always important to bring up whenever talking about energy is the “Three R’s,” which are “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Do your best to not use more materials for everyday things than is absolutely necessary. If you finish using something, try to think of another use for it before you get rid of it! Last, but not least, please recycle. Recycling goods keeps our Earth green and cuts down immensely on energy and material costs.
Save money, save energy, save the planet!