Reduce Your Energy Consumption
Things You Can Do to Conserve Energy
Conserving energy, by taking actions like insulating/weatherstripping your home and purchasing Energy Star certified (high efficiency) appliances, is usually the smartest, most economical and most potent environmental action you can take. Cleaner, greener energy supplies may provide the cleanest supplies of needed electricity, but minimizing the energy we need is still the first step to take before selecting the cleanest, greenest supplies.
Whenever you save energy, you not only save
money, you also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil,
and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions
of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and
You do not have to do without to achieve
these savings. There is now an energy efficient alternative for almost
every kind of appliance or light fixture. That means that consumers have
a real choice and the power to change their energy use on a revolutionary
The average American produces about 40,000
pounds of CO2 emissions per year. Together, we use nearly a million dollars
worth of energy every minute, night and day, every day of the year. By
exercising even a few of the following steps, you can cut your annual
emissions by thousands of pounds and your energy bills by a significant
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. Energy savings usually have the best payback when made at the same time you are making other major home improvements.
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.)
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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 overcool 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
Alliance to Save Energy www.ase.org
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy www.aceee.org
Clark, Sarah L., Fight Global Warming: 29 Things You Can Do (New York: Consumer Reports Books in association with Environmental Defense Fund,
DeCicco, John, et al, CO2 Diet for a Greenhouse Planet: A Citizen's
Guide for Slowing Global Warming (New York: National Audubon Society,
Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) Energy Efficiency http://www.repp.org/efficiency/index.html
The Efficient House Sourcebook and Home Made Money: How to Save Energy
and Dollars in your Home. Rocky Mountain Institute.
U.S. DOE - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN) www.eren.doe.gov
Wilson, Alex, 1991 Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings (Washington,
D.C.; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 1990).