Being energy efficient, although simple to define, is actually for most people a darn hard thing to achieve at the end of the day. We live in a society surrounded by things that consume energy at an enormous rate, be it the electric kettle we use to make our cup of tea in the morning, all the way up to massive air conditioning units in offices. We are in effect 'addicted' to consuming power to function and we have become largely ignorant to how much we really do consume.
People tend to forget too readily that literally everything in the Western world has been manufactured - so energy is not only being consumed by these devices during use, energy also got consumed during their manufacture and delivery as well. So the figure you see on that new electric kettle you got is only part of the total, hidden in what it cost you is the price paid for the energy to get it to you so you could buy it.
How to be more efficient
You can only become more energy efficient in one of two ways:
- Consume 'less' energy. Although strictly not being more efficient, you are reducing your whole demands for energy, so a step in the right direction.
- Get more out of your energy consumption. This is actually improving your direct energy efficiency, in effect for the same energy consumption you are achieving a better rate of 'return' in something useful being done.
We shall now look at several different 'classes' of energy consumption in most people's lives and give advice on how to be more efficient.
Getting from one place to another costs money, energy and time. A car is perhaps the most expensive way of transporting yourself around your local area, but this is put up with for the sheer convenience it gives you. So we shall focus on ways of improving your car efficiency:
- Get the car regularly serviced. An engine which is out of tune will consume more petrol than one which is.
- Make sure the tires are fully inflated. Tires that are under pressure can increase petrol consumption by up to 10%.
- Keep the junk out of the trunk- excess weight you pay in increased petrol consumption to 'lug' around.
- Plan your trips to do more in the one trip - for instance instead of doing two weekly shops do one and get the perishables from the local corner shop (or grow your own veg!)
Heating and Cooling
For most people this is a very big cost item in their budgets, the good news is we have an extensive article on this here
The easiest way to reduce your energy consumption with consumer devices is to learn to do with less of them, but for most people this is not a realistic option. So you can instead:
- Every night do the rounds and turn off all the devices you to not need to leave running; i.e turn off video recorders, TV's, computers, hi-fi units, unused chargers, lights, etc. This effectively 'resets' your phantom electricity load back down to its minimum every day. This also a good practice to get into from the point of view of reducing your fire risks - as things have been known to short circuit and catch alight for no apparent reason.
- If you cannot be asked to do that, buy a set of 24 hour timers and plug everything not essential into them.
- Get into using rechargeable batteries for all your portable devices.
- Get a fridge and/or freezer just big enough for your needs - i.e. do not pay to cool air. Also invest in the most efficient fridge/freezer you can buy.
- Change over to more efficient light bulbs, this will not only save energy but reduce your ongoing replacement costs.
You may think this a strange category to have, but all that food you buy and keep carting back from the supermarket is costing you a lot of money and a lot in energy consumption. Instead see if you can get into growing your own local veg if at all possible, or at least do some more shopping in your local shops.