Understanding energy conservation to become more energy efficient can help both you and the environment. By using energy saving and energy management techniques, it’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy bills. Let’s look at energy consumption and the many simple ways you can conserve energy and reduce energy costs.
What Is Energy Conservation?
Simply put, energy conservation is anything that results in the use of less energy. Energy conservation can take many forms. Walking to the bus stop instead of running uses less energy. We even tell people to stop worrying about trivial things and save their energy for for more important matters.
Likewise, energy usage can be reduced in homes and commercial buildings. It’s a hot topic as people become more aware of the need to save energy because of climate change. Conserving energy doesn’t necessarily mean using fewer appliances at home. Energy conservation comes in many forms, from energy-efficient appliances with lower energy usage to better insulation of structures.
Energy conservation also applies to our behavior such as turning off light bulbs when leaving a room, only using washing machines when full, and being more conscientious when using air conditioning. Heating and cooling homes account for 47% of their energy use, with heating water next at 14%, followed by washers and dryers at 13%, and lighting at 12%.
Our energy sources are an essential consideration, too. Gas and coal power stations burn fossil fuels to power generators that create electricity, which uses up lots of energy. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power occur naturally and are replenishable, conserving energy because they directly power generators.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy in the United States in 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for around 17% of electricity generation — up from 10% in 2009. Wind power and hydropower accounted for 7% apiece and solar 1.7% while natural gas dominated at 38.4% of the 2019 total. Greater reliance on renewable energy sources is not only about energy sustainability but it’s also a form of energy conservation.
The Definition of Energy Conservation:
What is Energy Conservation?
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries define energy conservation as:
The act of preventing something from being lost, wasted, damaged, or destroyed
- to encourage the conservation of water/fuel
- energy conservation
Using renewables as an example, wind energy and solar energy are not lost. Instead, we harness them and convert their energy into electricity. Conversely, digging up coal and burning it to spin generators can be seen as wasting and destroying a finite resource. It also damages the Earth through increased carbon dioxide emissions.
What Are Energy Conservation Methods?
There’s more than one way to reduce the amount of energy you use at home or work. Energy Star is a United States’ government-backed advisory body for people and businesses who want to conserve energy. The organization offers help and advice across various energy conservation topics, from utility bills to tax credits to energy-efficient products and appliances.
Energy Star can also help with energy audits to reduce your baseline consumption, as well as provide information on rebates and offers across many state government lines.
Domestically, heating systems, cooling systems, and hot water usage are three of the significant contributors to a home’s total energy use. Let’s take a closer look at how to conserve energy in these areas.
Energy Conservation and Air Conditioning
A programmable thermostat allows you to use heating or air conditioning when you need it. You can override the thermostat in real-time should you require more warmth or cooler temperatures. You can save up to 10% on your bills by using your thermostat carefully.
In the winter, set the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during waking hours and lower it when you’re away from home or asleep to save more energy. In summer, let the house be warmer when you’re not there, then set the thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when present at home and if it needs cooling. As a general rule, the closer the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your bill will be.
Air conditioning units account for around 6% of all electricity use in the United States. A small window unit starts at about 500 watts, with central air conditioning units reaching 3,500 watts in terms of power.
Ceiling fans are an energy-efficient substitute for air conditioning as ceiling fans need around 25-110 watts of power. A 100-watt ceiling fan cost 6 cents to run for five hours a day, according to Energy.gov’s calculator. In contrast, a 3,500-watt central air conditioning unit is $2.10 a day for five hours a day.
Heat pumps are an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. They can save up to 50% on electricity use when compared to furnaces and baseboard heaters. There are three types of heat pumps to choose from:
- Air-to-air: Moves air around to keep your building warm or cool
- Water source: Transfers heat from a nearby water source into your building
- Geothermal: Transfers heat from the nearby ground into your building
Heat pumps collect thermal energy and heat from the air, water, or ground outside and then transfer it for indoor use.
Insulation and Energy Conservation
Taking a shorter shower, even by a single minute, will help reduce energy usage and water heater costs. Running dishwashers and washing machines on full loads conserves energy, and washing clothes in cold water rather than hot water can save even more energy. Drying your laundry outside on a clothesline or clothes rack rather than in an electric dryer also conserves energy. Swapping incandescent light bulbs or halogen bulbs for compact fluorescent lights helps too.
A well-insulated building can also help conserve energy by ensuring that all the energy used to cool or heat a home is not lost through drafty windows and doors spaces. Adding weather stripping to doors and windows is an affordable and effective way to insulate your home and conserve energy.
Why Is Energy Conservation Important?
Our use of energy has increasingly come under closer inspection during the 21st century. Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels has led to a surge in interest and adoption of renewable energy sources like wind energy and solar power.
Suppose everyone were to make an effort to save energy, from individual households to businesses of all sizes. In that case, we can cut carbon dioxide pollution associated with power stations and help protect our planet. Not only does this ensure we maintain a healthier, cleaner world for everyone to enjoy but it also helps reduce utility bills and costs.
What’s the Difference Between Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation?
As we have seen, energy conservation is altering our behavior to save energy, such as when turning off the lights when leaving a room. Energy efficiency is a bit different. Let’s stick with our light bulb example
Older halogen or incandescent light bulbs convert around 5% of their electricity into light. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use 25-80% less energy to create the same light level and can last up to 25 times longer. Tests show you can save around $75 a year simply by replacing the five most frequently used bulbs in your home with an Energy Star-approved light bulb.
Changing bulbs is an example of being energy efficient — you choose a light bulb that uses less energy to produce the same amount of light. On the other hand, turning light bulbs off when leaving a room is an example of energy conservation.
What Are Examples of Energy Efficient Devices?
In the United States, look for Energy Star-approved products as a mark of an energy-efficient device. Here are a few examples of energy conservation devices and how to use them:
- Install LED and CFL light bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs
- Use power strips: multiple electronic items can be turned on and off simultaneously (devices left plugged in cost US bill payers about $11 billion annually!)
- Smart fridges automatically choose to use less power during peak electricity periods
- Make sure you have well-ventilated and maintained HVAC systems, with regularly cleaned air filters
- Use a slow cooker instead of a full-size oven
- Install a smart or programmable thermostat to control your heating and cooling when you’re away from home or asleep
- Use energy-efficient washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters (preferably with insulated pipes)
- Ensure you have well-insulated windows and doors to reduce air leaks
What Are Ways to Help With Energy Conservation?
There are many easy-to-pick-up habits to help conserve energy around the home. Here are some energy-saving tips that can be real energy (and money) savers:
- Turn off all lights when you leave a room
- Replace incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs or CFL light bulbs
- For homeowners: insulate walls, attics, floors, basements, and crawl spaces, draft-proofing any air leaks
The washing and drying of clothes is another area ripe for energy conservation.
- Run washing machines full and on cold water washes
- Dry clothes outside whenever possible; if using a clothes dryer, stop the machine as soon as the clothes are dry
- Clean the lint screen on clothes dryers and the lint tray on washing machines between every load
It also helps to assess your currency energy use and look for advice.
- Make sure you buy an appliance suitable for your needs
- Assess the efficiency of any devices that are more than 10 years old, and replace any inefficient appliances with more efficient models
- Check your state government or Energy Star for any grants available for fitting heat pumps or renewable energy sources such as solar panels
Heating and cooling are key areas for energy conservation.
- Install a smart thermostat — even reducing your heating by one degree Fahrenheit brings savings
- Heat only the rooms you use, and dress appropriately for the season and temperature so you rely less on home appliances — for example, wear sweaters in winter and lighter clothes in summer
- Use ceiling fans in place of air conditioning where possible; in sweltering climates, use fans in conjunction with lighter air conditioning to achieve cooler temperatures while using less energy
And don’t forget: if you’re not using it, turn it off!
- Unplug all chargers when not in use, and disconnect any charging devices as soon as they reach 100% capacity
- The last person to bed turns off your Wi-Fi router
- Turn off all appliances left plugged in — the so-called phantom loads caused by standby lights add to your bill
What are Some Suggestions to Be Energy Efficient in the Kitchen?
The kitchen is the heart and soul of many homes. It’s where we use a lot of energy for storing and preparing food. You can save energy by following these easy steps:
- Keep the fridge door open for as short a time as possible; verify that its temperature is correct and try to keep it 3/4 full for maximum efficiency
- Boil only the water you need for hot drinks like tea or coffee
- Reheat food in more energy-efficient microwaves or toaster ovens rather than on the stove or in conventional ovens
- Put lids on pots when cooking on the stove; food cooks faster and you use less energy
- Use eco-modes on appliances where available
- Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full
- If replacing an old oven, buy a fan-assisted one for better efficiency
The type of oven you use has a large influence on your electricity bill. Slow cookers use a lot less electricity than a conventional oven or toaster oven. A slow cooker requires 70-210 watts of power when in use, which is very energy efficient compared to the 1,500 watts of a toaster oven and the 2,000-5,000 watts of conventional ovens.
What are Ways To Be Energy Efficient in the Bathroom?
The bathroom is somewhere you can save a lot of energy, too. Every drop of water that leaves the house needs to be treated, using energy in the process. Water heating is also a big user of energy. You can reduce energy use in the bathroom by:
- Spending one minute less in the shower
- Using a water-efficient showerhead
- Reducing water waste by only flushing when essential
- Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth and in between rinsing plates when washing dishes
Why is Energy Conservation Important?
Saving energy can help reduce carbon emissions, making for a cleaner planet that is healthier for everyone. It’s quick and easy to learn a few day-to-day tricks to ensure you’re using energy sensibly and conscientiously. There is no real downside to learning how to conserve energy. You help the environment and you win with lower utility bills from energy brokers.
Most people won’t waste their energy doing something they feel brings them negative results. Understanding energy conservation is a win-win for a better quality of life.
Brought to you by amigoenergy
All images licensed from Adobe Stock.