Energy Efficiency: Worth the Hassle?

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Energy efficiency and going green is all the rage, but is it really worth the hassle?

If “energy efficiency” strikes you as little more than two words, you probably haven’t taken the time to think about what energy efficiency truly means. Despite the growing concern for energy efficiency, you’re certainly not alone if you’re trailing behind and failing to understand it. Many of us are too busy worrying about our jobs and our families to prioritize saving energy.

But energy use is something you should think and care about, because the amount of energy you use touches many areas of life that are already high on your list of concerns.

For example, our energy use affects the prices we pay at the pump and on our utility bills. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. The more energy we need, the higher prices climb, and that’s a direct hit to our pocketbooks.

If we don’t use energy correctly, it could make our homes uncomfortable places to be, when we’re used to looking to home as a place of perfect comfort and solace.

Poor energy usage could negatively impact the cleanliness of the very air we breathe, and affect our respiratory health. The prevalence of asthma in the United States has doubled in the last 20 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA also tells us that visits to emergency rooms across the country for asthma spike on days when ozone concentrations are high. Ozone has been shown to worsen airway inflammation and exacerbate asthma. Power plants, fueled by coal or natural gas, emit carbon dioxide which affects ozone. When we use less energy, we reduce pollution, period.

Energy abuse can impact our economic well-being–not just in family units, but as a society. In either context, surplus funds from saving energy can be applied to worthwhile projects, whether it’s a family vacation or building better schools.

Finally, careless use of energy can leave our children and grandchildren with a trashed planet–waste, greenhouse gases, dirty oceans, extreme climate change and more.

Whether you live in a bustling Eastern metropolis, a Midwestern suburb or a vast rural expanse of the West, your day-to-day actions impact the environment all over the planet. Conversely, the routine behaviors of people in a New Zealand ranching community, on a Caribbean resort island or in a high-rise apartment tower in Tokyo affect you, too.

The good news is, you are a powerful human being, and you have what it takes to make a remarkable difference–both as an individual superhero, and as a crucial cog in the larger machinery of a community. And saving energy can be done with a lot less sacrifice than you may think. Here are a few easy, energy-smart steps you can take right now:

Insulation. Insulate your home and seal it against air leaks. Use foam sealant on cracks and crevices where conditioned air may be escaping. Not only will you increase your own comfort level, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this step can save you up to 20 percent on your home energy bill. That’s cozy!

Energy Star windows. Do even more fierce battle against drafts by installing Energy Star labeled windows with double or triple panes. You could save up to $540 per year compared to single-pane windows.

Programmable thermostat. Instead of trying to remember to adjust your thermostat (because let’s face it, it’s easy to forget), install a programmable thermostat that will do the remembering for you. Setting your programmable thermostat to your own routine has the advantage of conditioning your home environment to be comfortable when you’re home to enjoy it–and not wasting energy when you’re not.  Better yet, chose a smart thermostat, with geofencing, enabling it to automatically sense when you leave the home or return, and  to turn on the heat or air conditioning as needed to make the home comfortable when you arrive.

Turn stuff off. Get in the habit of turning off lights in unoccupied rooms. You might feel a little like your own grandfather, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Also turn off power to electronic devices when they’re not in active use.

Why should you care about energy efficiency? Even if you happen to loathe the planet you live on (and we’re betting you don’t); even if you don’t intend to leave any descendants behind who might be affected by a wasted natural environment (but we’re betting most of you will); at least you can think about your wallet. Because using less energy will not only reduce pollution, it will save money for you, your family, your local community, your state, your nation and your world–and one way or another, at every level, saving energy pays.

Make a change in your routine this season, and you’ll also see a change in your energy bill.

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