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Energy Efficiency at Home and Work

Apr 02, 2014 | by Wendy Weinert

Energy usage is a major concern for both homes and businesses. Not only does it cost money to use energy, but it also has potential environmental consequences. This includes pollution of the air and water as well as problems related to global warming. When homes and businesses waste energy, it also puts additional pressure on the world's existing natural resources, increasing the risk of shortages. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways in which residents and commercial entities can reduce unnecessary energy usage and help both the environment and their pocketbooks. To achieve this goal, people will need to become familiar with the concept of energy efficiency, or the conservation of energy to reduce or eliminate waste.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as of 2009, the primary sources of energy usage in single-family homes were heating and electronics, including consumer electronics and lighting. Air conditioning, water heating, and refrigeration are other major ways in which homes use energy. One of the most important ways to conserve energy is to close the windows when the air conditioning or heating system is activated. When the windows are open in the summer, the cooled air will go outside, forcing the system to work harder to cool the house. In the winter, warm air will also flow outside when windows are left open. Sealing drafts around doors and windows is also a quick and effective way to reduce one's usage of electricity for climate control. When residents are absent from the house for long periods, turn off the climate control to save money. In the summer, use fans and gather in a single room to concentrate cooling into that area alone.

When it comes to lighting, turn off lights in rooms that aren't occupied, and replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Use the sun's natural light whenever it is possible to provide illumination during the day. Turn off appliances that don't need to be on, such as televisions, cell phone chargers, and computers that aren't expected to be in use for the next two hours or more. Open refrigerators and freezers as rarely as possible, as opening them forces their cooling systems to turn on. When this happens, more electricity is consumed. Cracked or damaged refrigerator seals should also be replaced in order to avoid overworking the coolant system. Taking shorter showers will reduce water heater usage, which in turn conserves water and results in higher energy efficiency. When replacing old appliances, purchase energy-efficient Energy Star-rated appliances, as this will also achieve an appreciable reduction of electricity usage.

When it comes to commercial buildings, the EIA estimates that as of 2003, space heating and lighting were the most prominent sources of energy usage. Air conditioning, water heating, ventilation, refrigeration, computers, and cooking round out the list of major ways in which commercial buildings consume energy. Many of the same things that homeowners can do to improve energy efficiency also work for businesses. Some businesses have a large number of computers: Turning off computers and monitors when they aren't in use and when the business is closed can add up to significant savings. Set copy machines to sleep during extended periods of inactivity, and turn them off at the end of the workday to decrease their energy usage. Occupancy sensors are another investment businesses can make. They will turn off lights in a room when there is no movement and turn it on when people enter. Open curtains or blinds on the side of the building where the sun is shining to provide illumination during the day. Telecommuting, whenever possible, saves energy that cars would use in commuting.

Finding new sources of energy may reduce the cost of energy or prevent shortages. However, it is also important to practice energy conservation, as it both reduces costs and mitigates the damage that energy production can do to the environment. It can also make finding new sources of energy less necessary. Fortunately, reducing energy usage is often cheap and convenient and requires little more than a change of habits. Even expensive changes, however, will save money in the long run.

For more information about energy efficiency in the home and business, check out the following links: