What is Energy Efficiency?

Have you ever walked into an appliance store and the store attendant tried to convince you to buy one TV over another because one was more ‘energy efficient’? Did you wonder why she was suggesting that the ‘energy star’ rating of one refrigerator was better than the rating for another and tried to ‘compel’ you to get that one? Did you wonder what science mumbo jumbo she was uttering?

The attendant, hopefully in not too many words, was trying to tell you that one product used energy more efficiently than the other. The real phrase (as found in a few physics textbooks) is actually Energy Conversion Efficiency and it means:

‘The ratio between the useful output and the input of energy of energy conversion equipment.”

That’s basically what energy efficiency is all about: how well does an appliance, or home or piece of equipment, use the energy that is put into it to generate the output that is required of it? In layman’s terms you do more with less. You want to use as little input (in this case energy) as possible to generate the most output.

Screen grab from the Nest Thermostat app

Within the context of electricity usage, being energy efficient amounts to being more conscious about our energy use habits in our homes or offices and ultimately using less energy. This involves taking some actions consciously like switching off lights when not in use, unplugging equipment and some actions unconsciously like setting your Nest thermostat and using energy efficient light bulbs.

Apart from the sustainability benefits that can be obtained from being energy efficient, there are also personal benefits in the form of rebates, incentives and in some cases tax benefits. The U.S. Department of Energy has a comprehensive list of energy efficiency tools and tips on their site on the Energy.gov Energy saver site. The tips pertain to how you can make your home energy efficient, how you can save on electricity (this does not preclude you from saving on your electricity expenses through Power2Switch in states where you can) and how you can save on heating and cooling: strewn with infographics and pictures the site is a very good resource for both newbies and experts to energy efficiency.

When it comes to incentives for energy efficiency states tend to have local initiatives based on the peculiar requirements of the residents of the state. A very comprehensive list of these incentives is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. The site lists financial incentives as well as rules, regulations and policies. There are almost 300 incentives and it shouldn’t be a supprise if I share that California has the most incentives; an indication of the state’s aggressive push to getting residents to be energy efficient.

As is the case with all energy related actions, little steps add up to make for huge steps in reducing energy usage. So take your own little steps to become more energy efficient.

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