What is Energy Conservation?
There seems to be some confusion however, when it comes to energy conservation and energy efficiency, so be careful not to confuse the two. In layman’s turns for you and I, energy conservation could be classified as turning off a light, while energy efficiency would be replacing an old incandescent light bulb with a newer, energy efficient bulb.
The end result of energy conservation can be seen as less energy expenses, improved environmental quality, increased national security (due to less dependence on foreign energy sources), increased personal financial security and comfort (less money spent on energy bills). Individuals and organizations that are direct consumers of energy choose to conserve energy to reduce energy costs and promote increased economic security. Industrial and commercial users can increase energy use efficiency to increase profit margins as well.
Where we run into trouble with energy conservation in our current energy systems, as the above flow chart of the estimated US energy use in 2009 assembled by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), illustrates. It draws a sobering picture of the current state of our energy situation. To begin with, it shows that more than half (58%) of the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies, such as waste heat from power plants, vehicles, and light bulbs. In other words, the US has an energy efficiency of 42%. And, despite the numerous reports of progress in solar, wind, and geothermal energy, those three energy sources combined provide just 1.2% of our total energy production. The vast majority of our energy still comes from petroleum (37%), natural gas (25%), and coal (21%).
That percentage of oil, or petroleum use illustrates that by far our biggest problem, or area in need of the most improvement is transportation. As the chart shows, the transportation sector is the single biggest consumer of energy, accounting for nearly 40% of the energy consumed by the four sectors (along with residential, commercial, and industrial). In comparison, just 16% is used for residential use. And while the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors waste about 20% of their energy, the transportation sector wastes a full 75%, making it just 25% energy-efficient. Part of this waste is due to the fact that cars are an inherently inefficient way to move people around, since most of the energy is applied to moving the massive car and not simply the person.
The chart also emphasizes the importance of using alternative methods of transportation such as walking, biking, public transportation, trains, planes, or anything else that moves more people together and involves the use of less vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the expansion of the 1950’s into the suburbs, which is still the ongoing development model for the most part in America, developers building sprawling suburbs to satisfy Americans’ demands of large homes and yards, many people now find themselves miles from the nearest grocery store and have no choice but to drive everywhere. To illustrate how transportation consumption and waste dwarfs residential consumption, a blog post on Treehugger notes that “building suburbs of Energy Star houses with solar panels on top is a complete waste of time.”
That may be the case, especially when they drive SUV’s, however more fuel efficient vehicles and electric cars and now making that more possible and feasible, however it will take lots of those cars to make any significant changes. To utilize energy conservation, we must make a commitment to utilize less energy. Walking or riding a bike, or even a moped is a great way to do this. We also should remodel our development plans, and instead of building vast expanses of homes, and big box stores and malls, we can shift to more eco friendly practices like smaller stores in more locations so that people can walk or ride a bike to those locations.
Another possible solution is to increase public transportation options, and the safety and security on those options which may be a problem with attracting new riders. With all the budget problems, public transportation in many areas has taken a hit, and that will result in less routes which is counter productive. Other nations have vast networks of public transportation and is more easily accessible, and utilized by far more people than in America. I guess that individualistic mentality still lingers among many in America today, even though we are more connected than ever due to the global economy and internet. Another issue with increasing public transportation riders in America is convenience, and without increased funding to provide better services, that is another reason which keeps the rider numbers from increasing.
All said and done, with estimates of 50% energy wasted in America alone, consider this, the U.S. alone had 98 quadrillion Btu’s consumed in 2010, with 28% coming from transportation and 40% coming from electricity. By reducing emissions, energy conservation is an important part of lessening the potential impact of climate change. Energy conservation facilitates the replacement of non-renewable resources with renewable energy, and is often the most economical solution to energy shortages, and is a more environmentally friendly alternative to increased energy production, particularly coal fired power plants.
Our friends over in India have developed the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) which is an Indian government body created in 1977 and engaged in promoting energy efficiency and conservation in every walk of life. In the recent past PCRA has done mass media campaigns for television, radio & print media. An impact assessment survey by a third party revealed that due to these mega campaigns by PCRA, the overall awareness level has gone up leading to saving of fossil fuels worth crores of rupees as well as reducing pollution and harmful emissions.
From our friends across the big pond, energy conservation in the United Kingdom has been receiving increased attention over recent years. Key factors behind this are the Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, the projected ‘energy gap’ in UK electricity generation, and the increasing reliance on imports to meet national energy needs. Domestic housing and road transport are currently the two biggest problem areas.
Responsibility for energy conservation fall between three Government departments although is led by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is still responsible for energy standards in buildings, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) retains a residual interest in energy insofar as it leads to emissions of CO2, the main greenhouse gas. The Department for Transport retains many responsibilities for energy conservation in transport. At an operational level, there are two main non-departmental governmental bodies (“quangoes”) – the Energy Saving Trust, working mainly in the domestic sector with some interest in transport, and the Carbon Trust, working with industry and innovative energy technologies. In addition there are many independent NGOs working in the sector such as the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol or the National Energy Foundation in Milton Keynes, and directly helping consumers make informed choices on energy efficiency and energy conservation.
Energy Conservation Tips
- Home appliances
- Turn your refrigerator down. Refrigerators account for about 20% of Household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees and your freezer as close to 3 degrees as possible. Make sure that its energy saver switch is turned on. Also, check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly.
- Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot. Switching from hot to warm for two loads per week can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater, or 150 pounds for a gas heater.
- Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20 percent of your dishwasher’s total electricity use.
- Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine. Each 10 degree reduction saves 600 pounds of CO2 per year for an electric water heater, or 440 pounds for a gas heater. If every household turned its water heater thermostat down 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions – the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya.
- Select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances. Look for the Energy Star Label – your assurance that the product saves energy and prevents pollution. Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs – not the biggest one available. Front loading washing machines will usually cut hot water use by 60 to 70% compared to typical machines. Replacing a typical 1973 refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model, saves 1.4 tons of CO2 per year. Investing in a solar water heater can save 4.9 tons of CO2 annually.
- Home Heating and Cooling
- Be careful not to overheat or over-cool rooms. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime, and 55 degrees at night. In the summer, keep it at 78. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees during winter saves 6 percent of heating-related CO2 emissions. That’s a reduction of 420 pounds of CO2 per year for a typical home.
- Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when air conditioners and hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of the energy used. That could save 175 pounds of CO2 per year.
- Small investments that pay off big!
- Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most-used lights. Although they cost more initially, they save money in the long run by using only 1/4 the energy of an ordinary incandescent bulb and lasting 8-12 times longer. They provide an equivalent amount of bright, attractive light. Only 10% of the energy consumed by a normal light bulb generates light. The rest just makes the bulb hot. If every American household replaced one of its standard light bulbs with an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb, we would save the same amount of energy as a large nuclear power plant produces in one year. In a typical home, one compact fluorescent bulb can save 260 pounds of CO2 per year.
- Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket, which costs just $10 to $20. It can save 1100 lbs. of CO2 per year for an electric water heater, or 220 pounds for a gas heater.
- Use less hot water by installing low-flow shower heads. They cost just $10 to $20 each, deliver an invigorating shower, and save 300 pounds of CO2 per year for electrically heated water, or 80 pounds for gas-heated water.
- Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows. Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and weather stripping is under $10 per door. These steps can save up to 1100 pounds of CO2 per year for a typical home. Ask your utility company for a home energy audit to find out where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. This service may be provided free or at low cost. Make sure it includes a check of your furnace and air conditioning.
- Whenever possible, walk, bike, car pool, or use mass transit. Every gallon of gasoline you save avoids 22 pounds of CO2 emissions. If your car gets 25 miles per gallon, for example, and you reduce your annual driving from 12,000 to 10,000 miles, you’ll save 1800 pounds of CO2.
- When you next buy a car, choose one that gets good mileage. If your new car gets 40 miles per gallon instead of 25, and you drive 10,000 miles per year, you’ll reduce your annual CO2 emissions by 3,300 pounds.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying minimally packaged goods, choosing reusable products over disposable ones, and recycling. For every pound of waste you eliminate or recycle, you save energy and reduce emissions of CO2 by at least 1 pound. Cutting down your garbage by half of one large trash bag per week saves at least 1100 pounds of CO2 per year. Making products with recycled materials, instead of from scratch with raw materials, uses 30 to 55% less for paper products, 33% less for glass, and a whopping 90% less for aluminum.
- If your car has an air conditioner, make sure its coolant is recovered and recycled whenever you have it serviced. In the United States, leakage from auto air conditioners is the largest single source of emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which damage the ozone layer as well as add to global warming. The CFCs from one auto air conditioner can add the equivalent of 4800 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.
- Home Improvements
- When you plan major home improvements, consider some of these energy saving investments. They save money in the long run, and their CO2 savings can often be measured in tons per year.
- Insulate your walls and ceilings. This can save 20 to 30 percent of home heating bills and reduce CO2 emissions by 140 to 2100 pounds per year. If you live in a colder climate, consider superinsulating. That can save 5.5 tons of CO2 per year for gas-heated homes, 8.8 tons per year for oil heat, or 23 tons per year for electric heat. (If you have electric heat, you might also consider switching to more efficient gas or oil.)
- Modernize your windows. Replacing all your ordinary windows with argon filled, double-glazed windows saves 2.4 tons of CO2 per year for homes with gas heat, 3.9 tons of oil heat, and 9.8 tons for electric heat.
- Plant shade trees and paint your house a light color if you live in a warm climate, or a dark color if you live in a cold climate. Reductions in energy use resulting from shade trees and appropriate painting can save up to 2.4 tons of CO2 emissions per year. (Each tree also directly absorbs about 25 pounds of CO2 from the air annually.)
- Business and community
- Work with your employer to implement these and other energy-efficiency and waste-reduction measures in your office or workplace. Form or join local citizens’ groups and work with local government officials to see that these measures are taken in schools and public buildings.
- Keep track of the environmental voting records of candidates for office. Stay abreast of environmental issues on both local and national levels, and write or call your elected officials to express your concerns about energy efficiency and global warming.
Bureau of Energy Efficiency is an Indian governmental organization created in 2001 responsible for promoting energy efficiency and conservation.
While during these tough economic times, climate change isn’t at the forefront of discussions, or even an afterthought, at least in political circles, however it is still there and still needs to be addressed. It may be some time before governments tackle the issues at hand regarding this, however, we as individuals can, and must still do our part in helping to minimize the potential climate change effects by partaking in a sound energy efficiency and energy conservation plan. If you have learned what is energy conservation, then you too can take part in our effort to reduce our harmful emissions as much as possible to potentially reduce the effects of climate change on our planet. Peace my friends!