It can be confusing figuring out the difference between energy efficiency and renewable energy. In some instances, like solar energy, they appear to be on the surface the same. They are not.
Energy efficiency is the practice of using less energy to provide the same amount of useful output from a service such as heating water, lighting, or cooling a fridge. A home energy audit locates the parts of your home where energy is wasted. That knowledge allows you to make improvements to increase energy efficiency. Routine maintenance and repairs to your HVAC system or installing a new higher efficiency system will make a difference. Sealing air ducts, proper insulation in walls and attics, using smart thermostats, sealing windows and doors, and switching to LED light bulbs also increase energy efficiency.
Here is one easy example: a traditional light bulb uses 60 watts of electricity to produce 800 lumens of light. An LED light bulb uses only nine watts of electricity to produce 800 lumens of light. An LED is more efficient because it uses nine watts instead of 60 watts to produce the same amount of light.
Steps You Can Take To Be More Energy Efficient
There are many things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient. An important first step is conducting a professional home energy audit, as previously mentioned.
An energy specialist will take an in-depth look at your home’s typical and atypical energy loss points. Using thermal imaging technology to see what the unaided eye can’t, a series of tests will be conducted to ensure that the appliances are properly working, and the windows and doors aren’t drafty. Once the specialist knows exactly where your home’s energy loss is coming from, they will tell you what you can do to solve the problem.
An audit can take 60 minutes to four hours to complete, depending on the size of your house and the thoroughness of the audit you select.
When the time comes to replace your appliances and electronics, buy Energy Star-rated products.
Here are more steps that you can easily implement at no cost.
• Check your utility plan: Be sure you are buying electricity at the best price. Many homeowners are not on the right plan for their energy usage.
• If you are on a rate plan with peak hours or a demand charge, program your thermostat so the units run as little as possible during the on peak time period. If you have more than one AC system, make sure both units do not run at the same time during peak hours. Shift your AC program to run one system for 30 minutes, then the other AC system to run the next 30 minutes. This will keep your peak demand at a minimum.
• For your water heater, if you are using a recirculating pump, check the timer to make sure it is scheduled to run off-peak.
• Leave your bedroom doors open for air circulation unless you have a return in the room.
• Pool motor and cleaner should be programmed to run as little as possible during on peak. Most pools can do fine with the pump completely turned off every day during the on peak hours. Calibrate your variable speed pool pump for the size of your pool. Generally, a low setting is for filtration, and you’ll see an inch of water passing over the skimmer. A high setting is for cleaning and will move the cleaner up the pool walls.
• Change your AC filters every month.
Renewable energy is generated from renewable resources that are naturally replenished, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. It's also often referred to as "green energy" and "clean energy" as the process of generating energy from these renewable sources emits no or hardly any greenhouse gases — unlike fossil fuels like coal and oil.
Steps Towards Utilizing Renewable Energy
A common misconception is that solar panels are a form of energy efficiency or energy conservation. They use sunlight, a renewable energy source, to generate energy for the end-user, similar to how a utility uses a power plant to generate energy for end-use.
Solar panels allow you to generate electricity for your home through solar photovoltaic panels installed on your roof. The panels take the sun's rays and convert them into electricity that you can use to warm your home and power your devices.
Solar, Battery & Generator
Take solar a step further and add a battery system and generator governed by the smart switch.
The battery is rechargeable from solar or grid after use. Store unused power with a backup battery system.
Air Source Heat Pump
An air-source heat pump uses the heat from the outside air to provide heating and hot water. It works similar to a refrigerator but in reverse by extracting energy from the air and using it to warm your home and heat the water.
Small wind turbines generate electricity by the wind turning the blades, which drives the internal turbine and creates power. Wind turbines have been used successfully to generate electricity for centuries!
Other Renewable Energy Options
Use natural light. Don’t turn on the lights during the day. Instead, rely upon natural light from your windows and skylights to light up a room.
Energy.gov offers many ideas, too.
Implementing just a few of these ideas can make a significant difference in your energy usage and bills. And that’s a good thing for all of us!
Regardless of where your energy comes from, fossil fuels, hydroelectric or renewable sources, it always makes sense to pursue and increased level of efficiency.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix; KGVY (1080AM 100.7FM); 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Tucson and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.