We are more energy efficient than you might think. However, we can do even better with a little innovative thinking and by controlling hidden power users.
Electricity impacts our lives nearly every minute of the day, and the electricity industry makes up about 5% of the nation’s gross domestic product. It makes sense to use it wisely—whether you are concerned about how it affects the environment or if you want to save money.
Here are a few tips about energy efficiency that can help you make the best use of your electricity:
Proof of Efficiency
America is getting more efficient. Across industries and fuel sources, the country is getting more out of the power it uses. A little-known way of measuring efficiency is with a statistic called the energy intensity index. The energy intensity index measures roughly what percentage all energy industries make up of an area’s total economic activity.
The EII shows we are getting better at creating more economic activity with less energy—energy intensity is down, and productivity is up.
The numbers show energy intensity is nearly half of what it was 30 years ago because we are making strides in a range of ways—from building codes to light bulbs to motor vehicle mileage.
These improvements are expected to continue. The Department of Energy projects energy intensity will decline by 30% over the next 30 years.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money.
An example of spending money to make it is upgrading your thermostat.
“By installing a smart thermostat, which costs $140 to $250, you can save 8% to 12% on your heating and cooling annually,” says Thomas Elzinga, Energy Services manager at Central Electric Cooperative in Redmond, Oregon.
When it comes to appliances that consume a lot of energy, it can save dollars and make sense.
From dishwashers to computers, energy efficiency is improving every year as technology, federal rules and competition give you a better bang for your buck. In fact, if your refrigerator or dishwasher is more than 10 years old, the money you can save on energy use for a new appliance could pay for itself in just a few years.
The yellow Energy Guide labels found on products at your appliance store will tell you how much you can save before you buy.
Another way to compare the old to the new is to Google “flip your fridge,” which will take you to an Energy Star calculator to compare the energy use of your current appliances to what is available in stores.
Did you know you could be spending $100 to $400 a year on unnecessary energy? This power drain comes with scary names: phantom power or vampire electronics. It’s the TV and video games that draw power so they are ready to turn on instantly. It’s the computers and phones plugged in even though they are fully charged.
Getting rid of phantom power can be tricky.
You probably do not want to regularly shut off a wireless router or constantly reboot a smart TV. However, you can plug several devices into a power strip and turn it off when you are not using them. Smart power strips are available to do that for you.
When you are shopping for new electronics and appliances, look for the latest Energy Star-rated models that take vampire loads into account. To start exorcising the phantoms, take a notepad through each room of your home to list anything plugged in, so you can figure out which energy users you might be able to control without causing too much inconvenience.
Phantom power costs do add up, but it’s also true your home has bigger energy users. If you are concerned about energy costs, you will likely see far greater returns making sure your heating and cooling system is up to date and working efficiently, and your windows and doors are not leaking air.
Your electric utility can advise you on the most effective steps for energy savings—they are your local leading authority on home energy use.
Something as simple as turning down the thermostat on your water heater can make a difference.
“For every 10 degrees you turn it down, it will save 3% to 5% on your water heating cost,” Thomas says. “Water heating is typically 15% to 25% of your overall bill.”
Contact your utility for tips that may be helpful to you and your home.