Why Energy Efficiency Is Important
Today, solar panels, electric vehicles, energy storage and other technologies are garnering a lot of attention as we look for ways to decarbonize the economy and address climate change. But there’s one important area that sometimes overlooked in this conversation: energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency means using less energy to accomplish a similar or better outcome, and it can generally be divided into two categories: 1) using technology to reduce energy usage (such as installing energy-efficient lighting or appliances) or 2) making behavioral adjustments at home (that is, turning off the lights when you leave a room or opening window treatments to let sunlight heat your home).
While this may not seem as exciting as buying a new Tesla or installing solar panels on your roof, energy efficiency is an essential part of developing a cleaner energy grid, and it has many benefits for you at home and for society at large. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of energy efficiency and some reasons why it’s so important today:
1. Saving you money on your monthly bills
Energy efficiency can have a major impact on lowering your monthly energy bills. For example, upgrading to energy-efficient LED bulbs would save the average household about $100 each year. ENERGY STAR appliances – such as refrigerators, dishwashers and water heaters – also have considerable savings over their lifetimes. An energy-efficient clothes washer, for example, could save you about $50 each year on energy and water bills.
There are also no-cost changes to your behaviors that can help you save each month. For example, standby power – the electricity used when appliances are turned “off” or in standby mode – costs the average household about $100 each year. By unplugging devices (or using a power strip) when not in use, you can immediately start saving on your bills – same with turning off lights or adjusting the thermostat by a few degrees.
2. Reducing the cost of electricity for all customers
There are also benefits from energy efficiency that affect the entire electric grid in your area. When communities become more energy efficient, power companies are able to save money by not building new infrastructure, including power lines, substations, transformers and, in some cases, even power plants. Reducing these costs has the potential to lower electric rates, meaning your neighbors could pay less on their monthly electric bills regardless of whether they’ve taken steps to become more efficient or not.
3. Lowering the environmental impact of energy
Energy efficiency also has many environmental benefits. In fact, improving your home’s energy efficiency is likely one of the lowest-cost and most immediate actions that you can take to lower your use of fossil fuels and reduce your overall carbon footprint. According to one report, the widespread use of energy-efficient appliances and lighting – along with other energy-efficient measures, such as weatherization – could cut 550 million metric tons of carbon pollution a year by 2050. This is equal to the combined electric emissions produced by Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and California in 2016!
4. Increasing the property value of your home
Did you know that energy-efficient homes tend to sell faster and for higher prices than similar homes that are not as energy efficient? If you’re a homeowner, every energy-efficient upgrade that you make – such as a smart thermostat, energy-efficient water heater or LED lighting – adds to the value of your home. One study found that energy-efficient homes bring in about $5,000 more than standard homes, and another noted that energy-efficient homes in Los Angeles County sell for six-percent higher than standard homes.
Energy efficiency is an essential part of building a cleaner energy future, and it brings many benefits to both you and society as a whole, including reduced carbon emissions, lower energy costs and even improved health outcomes in communities. Clean energy technologies are also working toward these goals; however, energy efficiency is often the most cost-effective manner to achieve these outcomes, and with renewable energy and energy efficiency working together, these benefits are amplified. By starting to make energy-efficient changes at home today, you can play your part in creating a cleaner, better future for us all.
Want to learn more about how you can be energy efficient at home? Check out our Ways to Save on Energy fact sheets!