Energy efficiency is a good idea, both for the good of the planet and for saving money. Which concept motivates you more? It doesn’t really matter, because everyone benefits — you, your family, your neighbors, your city, your planet.
Who doesn’t want clean air, clean water and clean, healthy food? Saving energy is probably the most effective way we can clean up the planet. If we can stop polluting the air with gas fumes and carbon emissions from oil and coal heating, we’ll breath, drink and eat more healthfully. But using public transportation or buying a car that gets better gas mileage is not the only way we can save more energy.
What else can we do? We can make energy efficient choices in our daily lives. We can make our daily routines and living spaces more energy efficient. Some of the things we can do will cost money, others will cost time, and others will just be a matter of being willing and persistent about changing habits.
Let’s look at a habit you can change right away. If the room you’re in is lit using incandescent lights (regular light bulbs), turn them off when you’re the last one to leave the room. Incandescent lights don’t use energy efficiently – 90 percent of the energy they use is given off as heat, and only 10 percent is given off as light. So if you’re also paying for energy to cool your home, turning off those light bulbs will help you save on cooling costs, too.
Here’s an idea that will take a few hours, but can result in a lot of energy savings: conduct a do-it-yourself energy audit. Here’s a link to a U.S. government website that will help: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11170.
The process is simple. First, you look for air leaks – cracks and gaps that can let out the indoor air that you use energy to heat or cool. Finding and fixing many of these leaks can help you save up to 30 percent on your utility bills. Next, check your insulation – especially if your house has an attic. Proper insulation can reduce both heating and cooling costs. Also, check your heating and cooling system, and make sure it’s maintained in good working condition. Last, inventory your lighting; replace high-wattage incandescent bulbs with low-wattage compact fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that are left on for long periods of time.
And if remodeling is in the budget, make a list of the energy-efficient items you can include in the process. Insulated windows and doors will save energy and cut utility bills. You may be able to use energy-saving light fixtures, or install ceiling fans to improve both warm and cool air circulation. And don’t forget that there are solar energy alternatives for heating, hot water, electricity and pool systems.