Energy efficiency isn’t “sexy,” as one of our interns here at Appalachian Voices puts it. It’s not as exciting as solar panels or as imposing as wind turbines. It isn’t as grand as an old growth forest or as beloved as a bald eagle. And access to energy efficiency isn’t defended the same way that access to clean water is. Despite this, energy efficiency holds enormous potential for the people and land of western North Carolina.
Why Energy Efficiency?
Energy efficiency means using less energy to do the same thing. Energy conservation, on the other hand, is a conscious decision to use less energy by going without or by making do with less. For example, turning down your thermostat is energy conservation, but adding insulation to your attic is energy efficiency. Since it’s a technology change, not a behavior change, energy efficiency can be easier to implement and more effective in reducing energy use than energy conservation.
Energy efficiency has many benefits, for both people and the planet. It helps households save money on their energy bills and makes their homes healthier and more comfortable, while creating local, green jobs and promoting economic growth. In addition, reducing energy use through efficiency improvements results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less pollution. It can even lessen the need for new coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, which if built, would lock in fossil fuel use for another couple decades. Energy efficiency also makes renewable energy more feasible and affordable by reducing the amount of energy that the system must generate.
Light Bulb Moments
Though the impacts of energy efficiency are significant, the practice can be as simple as changing a single light bulb. Through my service position at Appalachian Voices, I helped organize a volunteer project called the Daylight Savings Challenge, which distributed energy efficient LED light bulbs to local seniors. LED light bulbs use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and they last up to 25 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. LEDs are even more efficient than CFLs, and they do not contain mercury.
For the project, we visited six seniors’ homes and replaced almost one hundred light bulbs. All together, the participants should save at least $280 (3,390 kWh) a year on their energy bills. That’s the equivalent of about 1.75 tons of coal that won’t be burned to create electricity, preventing more than four tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
Ways to Save
Many people want to save money or to limit their impact on the planet. This is especially true for AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, who must balance their love for the environment with the need to stay on budget. Practicing energy efficiency and energy conservation in our own lives is any easy way for everyone to embrace environmentally-friendly and frugal living.
Want to save energy? Here are some tips:
● Switch to LED light bulbs
● Turn out the lights when you leave a room
● Unplug appliances when not in use (use a powerstrip to make it easy!)
● Take shorter showers
● Turn down the heat and air conditioning
● Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows
● Install low-flow aerators in your shower and sinks
● Ask your energy provider or electric cooperative to offer an on-bill financing program to pay for larger home energy upgrades
Even though it doesn’t seem like changing a single light bulb would make a huge difference, the impact of everyone switching to LED lighting would be enormous. Every bulb counts!