How to Go Green and Save Power - Accent Energy, New York
Rising energy costs and increasing public awareness of the importance of energy conservation have caused the "green" movement to gain some serious momentum. More than ever before, people are being proactive in attempting to save energy; turning off lights and television sets, monitoring thermostat use, and putting themselves as well as their homes on "energy diets" by making a concerted effort to simply use less. Aside from these common sense practices, there are other steps that can be taken, in varying degrees of cost and exertion, which drastically lower both energy bills and carbon footprints.
The first of these steps for many households is getting a home energy audit. It's a lot easier to take action when you're able to pinpoint the areas in which a majority of energy is being consumed. Home energy audits take inventory of home energy use, showing where energy is lost and how it can be saved. Many utilities offer home and office energy audits for free, but there are also professionals who perform walk-throughs and assess current inefficient energy practices. The Kill A Watt is a do-it-yourself auditing device that plugs in to electric appliances to measure immediate and total wattage expense (accumulated since the appliance has been turned on.) Using a watt-monitor can help raise awareness within a household of unnecessary energy usage so that wasteful habits can be broken.
Every household is different as to how it consumes energy, but what most US households have in common are certain wasteful patterns. For instance, many homes use a lot of lighting; some keep lights turned on in a room that isn't in use, while others' lifestyles (i.e. night owls) simply call for a lot of artificial lighting. One way to cut down on electricity for lighting without altering lifestyle habits is by replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). CFLs use a lot less energy than regular light bulbs, and although they might be a little bit pricier to begin with, they last substantially longer than regular incandescent bulbs, and they can drastically reduce utilities costs.
American heating and cooling tendencies are also a major source of high energy expenditure within most households. Studies have shown that changing the temperature could have as much as a 3% net effect on energy bills. Using natural ventilation instead of air conditioning makes a huge difference. Room or whole-house fans can also be used to circulate air throughout the house without using nearly as much energy as AC. If air conditioning is used during hot hours of the day, one way to reduce the cooling load and save energy is by blocking sunlight via light curtains or even window film.
Another piece of good news is that there are now many "green" options for consumers that are using electronics and appliances. Most new appliances come with a yellow EnergyGuide label which shows its consumption in terms of kWh per year. Energy Star products, distinguished with a blue and white seal, are the most energy-efficient appliances on the market as guaranteed by the US government. Also, many electronics on the market, such as MP3 players, laptops, cell phones, and cameras can be bought with solar chargers, so that they never have to be plugged into the wall.
Once Americans are able to see the effects of their energy-use habits, they may be compelled to reduce the amount of unnecessary electric power use through a range of proactive steps from adopting a wider indoor temperature range to installing better insulation. They can also lower petroleum use by practicing less aggressive driving techniques, driving at lower speeds, utilizing cruise-control, and, most effectively, carpooling.
These suggestions are highly effective in reducing energy use (and costs), and don't take a lot of effort. Of course, one can be "green" to any extreme, and there are more drastic measures that can be taken in order to push one's house closer to a net energy consumption of zero. Some of these include opting for green energy (available by many utilities or retail energy providers), installing solar panels to generate energy rather than relying on less eco-friendly electricity. If constructing a home, try using energy-efficient principals that consider the position of the house, use of daylight and natural ventilation, lighting and appliance efficiency, and a renewable energy system. While some of these measures may seem inconvenient in the short term, they provide a major payoff to our planet and our collective wallets.