Though modern living is completely dependent on energy, there is a need to cut back on the amounts used to be sustainable. In response to this need, various sophisticated means and measures are continuously being developed to conserve energy in all spheres of life.
Energy Conservation at Home
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), gives a detailed breakup of electricity use in an U.S. home, which shows that space heating and cooling, lighting, and appliances use the most energy. Measures to cut back energy use in these areas are necessary.
Switch Off Home Appliances
Nearly a quarter of energy at home is used for running appliances according to EIA. It is customary to leave many equipments in the house plugged in and switched on.
Computers, printers, radio, television, kitchen appliances, etc. continue to use electricity even when they are in stand-by mode. Many of the appliances can be turned off leading to a 30% reduction in stand-by power use. This excludes appliances like signal receptors, clocks, and those regulating temperatures which need to function continuously.
Replacing Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent bulbs are the least energy efficient lighting method as 90% of the energy gives heat not light. Halogen lamps, LED, and CFL are better alternatives according to Energy.Gov (Electricity). All bulbs, especially incandescent bulbs, should be switched off when they are not in use.
Reap Vacation Savings
The Mason County Public Utility District has easy tips to cut energy consumption and bills in an empty house while the family is away on vacations; these are also applicable for second or vacation homes. For example, unplug water heaters to get 25% reduction in energy, and space heaters to get 40% energy savings. Use timers or day-night sensors to switch on lights for security only at night.
Make the House Energy Efficient
A household spends 50% of its electricity bill, which on an average is around $2200 per year, on heating and cooling according to Energystar.Gov (pg. 2). There are many ways to reduce this amount of energy used to heat or cool a house. Using passive solar design, insulating walls and roofs, proper orientation of the house and rooms, fixing air leaks, and replacing single panes with double paned glass for windows and doors are some ways.
Air sealing can save energy for heating by 20-30%, and external shading can reducing cooling needs by 20% according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) (pg. 7). Overall energy savings up to 75% are possible through green buildings.
Moderate Temperature Settings for Heating and Cooling
Energystar.Gov suggests using programmable thermostats that can set different temperatures for the night and day, depending on use. For example, during mornings and evenings when the house is populated the temperatures are kept higher during the cooler season, and less by at least 8 ̊ F during night and when the house is empty (pg. 8). Maintenance and regular checks of equipment to ensure proper functioning can add to energy savings. Since space cooling takes up 18% energy and space heating 9%, as per EIA, a 10% reduction in this category which is possible can lead to substantial energy savings.
Use of newly produced material is more energy intensive. Energy can be saved by recycling and material recovery. The energy efficiency that results varies among materials. The American GoeScience Institute reports on the percentage of potential energy saved by recycling compared to new production of materials:
- Aluminum: 95% of energy
- Glass: 10-20% of energy
- Beryllium: 80% of energy
- Lead: 75% of energy
- Iron and steel: 72% of energy
- Cadmium: 50% of energy
The Environmental Protection Agency's EPA WARM Version 14, reports on the amounts of energy that can be saved by recycling one ton of different materials:
- Aluminum: 113.85 to 152.72 million BTU
- Glass: 2.13 million BTU
- Residential paper recycling: 20.24 million BTU
- Mixed plastics: 38.84 million BTU
- Computers: 29.15 million BTU
Energy Conservation in Transportation
In the U.S., 29% of the total energy is used to transport people and goods, according to EIA-Transportation, of which 92% was from gasoline, 5% was from bio-fuels, 3% from natural gas, and 1% was from electricity. Burning fossil fuels is also a leading cause of pollution. So savings in energy here also means less pollution.
Alternative Energy Powered and Small Cars
Small electric cars in 2018 had a mileage of 108 miles per gallon (MPG), and hybrids had a mileage of 40-56 MPG. Large gasoline guzzling cars like SUVs were less fuel efficient giving around 12-18 MPG according to FuelEconomy.Gov.
Use Public Transport
Instead of using individual cars, consider using public transport suggests EPA-Driving. This is growing more popular in cities which are more likely to have a good public system in place. A 2017 American Public Transportation Association survey reports that 71% of the commuters are employed and more than half have a vehicle but prefer using transit. Sixteen percent commute with public services to save gas, and 44% mentioned multiple reasons including saving the environment as a reason for using transit (pg. 4, 5).
Make Fewer Trips
Making one long trip that combines many errands instead of many short trips can save 50% of the fuel according to South Carolina Public Radio.
Not everyone can buy new efficient cars to save the world. For those who still want to do something, the tried and tested carpooling is still a vital option. Carpooling among colleagues to reach work, or among parents taking children to and from schools, and for all the extra curricular activities can save substantial amounts of fuel, as well as time according to South Carolina Public Radio. Only 10% of Americans carpool, and they still manage to save 85 million gallons per year.
Maintenance of Cars
Regular maintenance to keep the car in good running condition can save the amount of fuel used. Some suggestions are: checking car tire pressure, cleaning air and oil filters, driving at a steady pace, and not carrying unnecessary load.
- Proper-inflated cars can save $300-500 worth of gas per year.
- "Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking" can reduce mileage by 15-20% in regular traffic, and up to 40% in a stop-and-go situation, according to EIA tips.
Traveling by bicycles instead of cars is increasingly become popular, and many cities around the world encourage this choice by planning and integrating cycle paths to enhance safety for drivers. Cycling to the office can save $6,000 worth of fuel a year, according to CNBC.
Energy Conservation at Work
Most of the tips given to spare electricity in residential building are also applicable in offices. By combining energy savings strategies and "smart" technology, workplaces can save significant amounts of energy. For example, an office can achieve nearly 18% energy savings, retail stores and hospitals 14%, and hotels 8% according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Avoid unnecessary use of lighting during the day. Covering windows with shades and using internal lighting is wasting all the free solar light that could light and warm buildings. Optimal size of windows to wall, orientation of rooms in case of new buildings are some other measures that can maximize benefits from daylight. These measures can reduce energy for lighting by 60% according to IEA (pg. 7).
Provide Vehicle Charging Points
Large firms with many employees can consider installing charging points in the parking area, providing free recharge for employees' electric cars. This can encourage people considering new car purchases to make the switch to electric cars. Such employee benefits send a powerful message of the company's commitment to environment protection, and the firm gains green credentials.
Electric cars have the best fuel efficiency which is 73% compared to 22% for hydrogen cars and 13% for gasoline cars. So the number of electric cars that increase due to employer support can be used to gauge the energy savings from this scheme.
Purchase Energy Star Equipment
Energy Star certified products use less energy to function, and 'enter into a low power mode' when they not in use. There are computers, data storage systems or imaging equipment for office use. While restaurants and shopping centers can buy commercial fridges or ovens. 25-30% of energy savings are possible by using Energy Star products.
Use Occupancy Sensors
Occupancy sensors can be used in different sections of an office so that lights are turned off automatically when there is nobody in the room. It is an old innovation, and the Energy.Gov reports that 10-90% of light energy savings can be expected depending on the rooms they are installed in. Since lighting accounts for 20% of all energy use, significant amounts of energy can be saved by using this technology.
Energy Conservation at Schools and Universities
Energy is one of the main expenses for universities and schools. While many measures discussed in the home and office sections are applicable here, some suggestions capitalising on the unique features in educational institutions are made below.
Schools and universities can use cost-free behavioral changes to save energy. Alliance to Save Energy claims savings up to 25% in electricity bills are possible by adopting many measures, including behavioral changes. This includes putting up stickers to remind people to turn off lights, locating switches where students can operate them, and forming a student patrol to turn out lights. For example:
- Lighting makes up 50% of the electricity costs at school, so students and staff can be proactive in efficient use of energy.
- With involvement of only 10% of students, using clothesline instead of dryers can save 15% energy, and taking shorter showers can save 6000$ worth of energy each year according to Kansas State University (pg. 4).
Sub-metering Campus Buildings
Use of individual meters for separate buildings, systems and equipment can make occupants more aware of their energy consumption and provide the motivation to save energy than the traditional system where there is a central meter and billing for the whole campus. American University used data from sub-metering to identify opportunities to cut energy use, and these have resulted in 55% energy savings.
The Brown University holds a competition among dormitories to unplug for three weeks, and the dormitory with the largest energy savings receives prizes as well as recognition according to SaveOnEnergy.
Use Combined Heat and Power Plants
Combined Heat and Power Plants (CHP) generate power, and harness the heat that is produced as by-product to heat or cool buildings and water. The CHP can be used instead of separate providers for power and heating to get a 25% rise in fuel efficiency. CHPs make the most use of fuel; as much as 75% of fuel is converted to energy and heat, points out Energy.Gov. The fuel can be either biomass or oil. The only drawback is that the initial installation costs are high so at present this is popularly used by large institutions than individual houses.
CHP has been instrumental in the 32% reduction of energy consumption at the NC State University.
Go Paperless to Save Energy in Production of Paper
The International Energy Agency (Paper) reports that the paper industry is one of the major consumer of energy using as much as 5.4% of energy produced. Moreover, there has been a 23% rise in paper production since 2000. Though paper recycling and recovery have reduced reliance on new wood pulp from 52% to 43%, the overall energy use in this sector is rising.
The U.S. consumes 30% of the world's paper, and half of this is for writing and copying. Universities and schools which consume large amounts of paper can help by reducing its use. Universities are going paperless in different ways. Some forgo use of paper in applications, and others in printing weekly newspapers.
Mainstreaming Energy Conservation
Given the challenges of climate change and pollution caused by the current energy uses, people and institutions are mainstreaming energy and other sustainable practices. This doesn't just save the environment but also benefits everyone financially by reducing costs.