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Ask the Experts: Energy Consevation

Question:

I want to do what I can to conserve energy and also to become a more responsible consumer of resources in terms of our home and family. Where can a person begin if they have limited resources but a real desire to live more prudently in relation to renewable resources?

Answer:

Energy conservation is always the place to begin when considering one’s options for a more prudent lifestyle. Energy conservation falls into two broad categories: energy usage and energy efficiency. While closely related, we can define energy usage as relating to the patterns and habits we all form as we go about our daily activities. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, involves replacing or upgrading those items we use throughout the day with items that do the same job using less energy. Let’s look more closely at each category.

cfl lightbulb

Switching to CFL lightbulbs will save energy.

Reducing energy by changing our patterns and habits can be as simple as ensuring that lights are turned off when leaving a room or as complicated as matching our energy use to specific time-of-day electric rates. Substituting a 40-watt desk lamp for an overhead room fixture with two 60-watt bulbs can save a significant amount of energy over the course of a year. Your well pump runs every time you turn on a faucet; consider brushing your teeth with a glass of water. Turning off the drying cycle on your dishwasher will save a lot of energy annually. You get the picture . . . strive to become conscious of your energy usage patterns and replace bad habits with prudent living.

Energy efficiency upgrades almost always have a better return on investment than installing an energy system. For most people, refrigeration and hot water are the two biggest culprits in high electricity costs. If your refrigerator or hot water heater is more than ten years old, replacing it with a new Energy Star appliance can save several hundred dollars each year. A compact fluorescent light bulb will provide as much light as a regular incandescent bulb at one-fourth the cost. Great advances have been made in LED lighting in the last two years, and while still a little more costly up front, they can provide energy savings of over 90 percent.

So before calling your local solar or wind integrator, make your home as energy friendly as possible. Not only will this directly reduce your energy costs, but you will find that you will significantly reduce the size and cost of the future renewable energy system you will need. Remember, prudent living is money in the bank.

by Jerry Morton

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