What you can do

Government takes time to work, and does not always work towards what is best for the people it governs. We expect Congress to pass legislation to make companies function more efficiently and steer our country in the right direction, which most people would agree is in the direction of having a more stable energy supply.  Decreasing exports, increasing taxes on energy, alternative fuels, and more nuclear and coal plants are all possible solutions in the future, but right now, I believe the responsibility relies with the individual, and best place to start is in the home.

We all know the major ways to save energy in the home like watering your lawn at night and turning the temperature up a couple of degrees in the summer, but there are less obvious ways to save money and ease your dependence on the grid.

One of the easiest things to do is simply unplug. I, like many people, leave my printer and computer plugged in while at school. Even in standby it is still wasting energy and the waste can be eliminated by unplugging it while at school. Same goes for TVs which drain power from the grid while away. Basically, don’t leave any appliance on unless you need it to stay on, like your refrigerator.

Another way to keep your house running efficiently is clean your refrigerator. Say what? That’s right! If you clean dust off the motor, condenser coils, fins, etc. a couple times a year, your fridge will have to work less to achieve the same temperature. This in addition to making sure the seals remain tight and not putting the temperature lower than it needs to be will not only increase the life of the fridge but also increase the life of that dollar in your pocket. Oh, and be sure to not position the fridge somewhere where it receives direct sunlight as this will cause it to work harder.

You do however want to let the sunlight in pretty much everywhere else, especially in the winter. Letting lots of natural light in will ease your heater bill and allow you to turn off those fancy compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) you installed last week and make them last even longer! In the summer, it really becomes a cost benefit analysis. Letting the sun in increases the house temperature a tiny bit, but lets you keep the lights off which saves you a little bit. This is when you need to break out the heat transfer equations and engineering finance book and do it to it! I suspect it’s better to draw the shades in the summer and reflect the light unless for some reason you have dark colored blinds.

In the end, you can pass all the legislation that you want, but it starts with people.  Buying more efficient heaters, insulating your attic, and buying draft guards are all great ideas, but I really think it’s more important to start by making small changes in your daily routine.

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2 responses to “What you can do

  1. bhgully

    Great suggestions, very accessible yet so unfamiliar for most. Our behavior and mentality are definitely the driving force behind our energy habits and any potential for change, a fact the public needs to be much aware of.

  2. dhjohnston

    These are great suggestions to save energy costs — I’m especially interested in looking at how vampire power sucks away at my energy bills (leaving unused electronics plugged in their sockets). My friends in Philly began making a concerted effort to unplug everything after they lose it, and they swear their electric bill is about $35 to $50 cheaper each month. I was shocked to learn it might be that much (note: this includes unplugging the TV, stereo, everything except the fridge… even unplugging the microwave).

    I think the particular suggestions for energy savings that you mention do get some media play; the same way that weatherstripping, caulking and duct work do.
    This isn’t a guilt-trip, but just an exhortation of truth. People are more interested in passive energy management than directly changing their behavior, and _actively_ maintaining their energy use.

    In the instance of weatherstripping, caulking and duct work, tho, a professional conservation specialist usually comes to your home and runs an audit before you go about doing the “heavy lifting” of weatherizing your home.

    See, that kind of thing – a professional handling all the “heavy lifting” – is how Americans want their work done. I think if your a venture capitalist, and you have an idea to invest in, the first thing you have to consider is how your product can facilitate the laziness of the consumer.

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