Posted on February 18, 2015
As energy prices rise and more homeowners become interested in green living and financially frugal lifestyles, cutting down on energy bills has garnered national attention. Two of the major approaches households can take when it comes to saving energy are energy conservation and energy efficiency. But while these two concepts may share the conversation, they're not the same thing.
Energy ConservationWhen you set out to conserve energy, you reduce your use of services. This means there's less of a demand for energy through the services which you use. This is a lifestyle change that requires little upfront investment, though it does require more willpower. Some examples of energy conservation include:
- Limiting showers to five minutes or fewer. This reduces the amount of hot water you use, reducing the demand on your water heater.
- Setting the thermostat back five degrees.
- Lowering the water heater's temperature.
- Turning down the thermostat and gathering the family around a fireplace in the winter.
- Unplugging electrical appliances when you leave the house.
- Keeping south-facing windows unobstructed in the winter to take advantage of passive solar heating, and opening windows in the summer to cool the house down.
- Turning back the thermostat whenever you're out of your home or asleep for eight hours or longer.
Energy EfficiencyUsing energy more efficiently often requires upgrades or installation of new appliances, but it can cut down energy bills with little to no noticeable effect on your home comfort. While it does require an upfront investment, federal, state and local governments often offer tax credits and other incentives to help homeowners upgrade their homes to be more efficient. Some examples of energy efficiency include:
- Upgrading the tank water heater to one or more tankless water heaters, so that there's no standby cost of keeping water warm.
- Upgrading a traditional furnace to a high-efficiency condensing furnace (about 98 percent efficient), or to a heat pump (300 to 400 percent efficient).
- Insulating crawl spaces and attics to improve your home's thermal envelope, ensuring less heat loss from your home in winter and less heat gain in summer.
- Insulating ducts and pipes so that heat energy doesn't transfer between ducts, pipes, crawl spaces and other non-living spaces.
- Changing the air filter every month or two to ensure that air flows freely, cutting down on the energy used to circulate air through your home.
- Supplementing an air conditioner with a ceiling fan in summer, and using the ceiling fan in reverse in winter to displace rising warm air back down to a useful height.
- Installing energy recovery ventilators in your home's ventilation system so you're not exhausting conditioned air when you bring in fresh air.
- Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and dryers.
- Upgrading to low-flow, aerating faucets and shower heads to keep the feel of a high-flow shower while using less water, and thus less water heating.