The Concept of Energy Efficiency
First, it helps to think a bit more about the concept of energy efficiency and the impact it can have on how we think about power generation and use. Coming up with better ways to generate power through renewable energy sources and lowering the overall costs of power through policies such as energy deregulation are important, but all too often people assume that power consumption must automatically rise as we add more and more conveniences to our lives. The flaw in this model is that we can also engineer the things we use to give the same or better performance even while using less energy. That’s what energy efficiency means: using less energy to do the same work. For example, the average fridge sold today in the U.S. uses only about three-fourths of the energy one sold in 1975 did, even though it is about a fifth bigger and costs three-fifths less.
The Energy Star Certification Program
One of the ways energy efficiency can have a big impact is in home appliances. While all modern appliances tend to be much more efficient than their earlier counterparts, Energy Star appliances are held to much stricter efficiency guidelines. The Energy Star program was started by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy in 1992, and has now spread around the world. You can buy Energy Star heat pumps and water heaters (something to think about, since water heating is one of the largest expenses in a typical home, accounting for 14% to 18% of utility bills), Energy Star refrigerators and dishwashers, and even Energy Star washers and dryers. In fact, the very first Energy Star-certified dryers just recently went on sale. Most major brands make appliances that are Energy Star rated.
Calculating Return on Investment
To figure out whether you’ll save enough money on your utility bills to justify new appliances, you can look at the guidelines for the appliance you’re considering. Energy Star dryers, for example, must use at least 20% less energy than industry standard dryers. If all new dryers sold in the U.S. were Energy Star certified, Americans would save a collective $1.5 billion annually on utility costs. And if energy savings aren’t enough for you, those dryers would also prevent the emission of the same amount of greenhouse gasses put into the atmosphere by about 2 million vehicles. That makes replacing old appliances with new, efficient ones both a short-term and long-term investment in your pocketbook and the future of the planet.
Add your thoughts on responsible energy savings in the comments.