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Energy Efficient Choices - Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Energy Efficient Choices

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

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Copyright 2008-2009 Alternative Power Choices - reduce energy costs, energy conservation

Out With The Old, In With The New

An excerpt from ‘The Rewards of Making Energy-Efficient Choices’ by David Nelmes :

The least expensive method to pursue when choosing to reduce energy costs is to practice energy conservation—that is, stop wasting the energy you are currently using. This may seem rather obvious; however, it is often overlooked.

Our lifestyles often include habits by which we simply get used to wasting, without giving it a second thought, so becoming more efficient sometimes simply consists of changing our habits and being more aware of how our actions affect our surroundings.

My Issues With Older Homes

Having lived in or near Pennsylvania's coal regions for many years, I have rewired many old homes, replaced ancient steam boilers, replaced ancient octopus hot air systems—and the list goes on. Through it all, one common thread is that most of these homes were built 100 years ago by the coal companies and there was nothing energy efficient about them at all.

One of my favorite examples of being anything but energy efficient was where balloon construction methods were used to build the home. Balloon construction refers to a method where you build the outside walls of the home using 2x4 beams that were twenty-four to thirty feet tall and then you build the floor frames around the inside of the walls to hold these super long beams in place.

When finished, the end result is that you had an empty and unobstructed wall cavity that extended from the basement, right up into the attic. Not only did this make it almost impossible that any heat would be trapped in the wall during heating season, but these wall cavities acted as chimneys when a house caught on fire, ensuring the home was engulfed very quickly.

I have to admit that when rewiring old homes, the capacity to drop a chain down the wall cavity from the attic to the basement was a perk, but other than that, old outside wall construction leaves nothing to be thankful for. This goes hand in hand for the attic ceiling and roof construction that was designed to not be insulated since no form of venting was provided in the event you did insulate, resulting in wood rot over time.

To overcome these obstacles, call a pro and either blow insulation in those walls or rip the plaster down and really do it right and seal the wall, insulate it, rewire it and you'll have entered the 21st century.

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Our New Old Stuff

OK, so the house itself might need some major bucks to optimize, but how about many of the new items you buy that act like they're old, the moment you plug them in?

When you make a purchase, do you buy the cheaper item or the more efficient item? Granted, you might save $100 on a lower efficiency refrigerator/freezer, but if you consider that you will very likely run that appliance non-stop for 12 to 15 years before you replace it, that $100 dollars you saved can easily result in you having paid two to three times as much for that appliance in the long run.

When the dollar is tight, I know it can be difficult to buy the best item, so take an extra moment when you have no choice than to replace a major item with little or no money and reconsider how the $50 you save today may cost you $1000 or more in 10 to 15 years of tomorrows. Even if you borrowed a few dollars and paid it back with interest, you'll still be further ahead having purchased the more efficient product.

Another point about appliances is that energy efficiency often spawns additional energy savings you had not considered. For example, a refrigerator or freezer that is more efficient will run less. This means it emits less heat into your kitchen, reducing your air conditioning load in the summer.

It pays to pay for more efficient products. There's simply no way around it and you have to break the cycle of buying old acting new stuff—and if you say you can't afford to spend the few extra dollars, I'll say it's only because the current appliances cost too much to run and unless you make a change somewhere along the way, your appliance running costs will always ensure you can never afford the best.

Break the cycle and, as much as this might seem alien to you, you'll save more money than you spent, you'll be part of why the environment is better and you'll have reduced our countries energy demand. People may even write songs about you (ya never know). That's not so bad for just spending an extra hundred bucks or so every decade as each major appliance needs replacing.

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Turn It Off!

Aye yi yi (I'm not sure how to spell that), but anyway, that's what runs through my mind from time to time as I walk through the house, turning off the things my kids leave running. Our world now provides CFL lighting, flat screen TV's, computers, DVD's, Wi's and so many other wonderful things, but our scientists have yet to devise a way for many of these items to realize that the room is now empty and nobody knows they're running.

Granted, computers have made the jump into the energy saving 21st century with low wattage LCD displays, hibernation and sleep modes, but the associated peripherals still need some help knowing what's going on.

I'm as guilty as the next guy to occasionally leaving a room with the TV and lights on, only to get distracted doing something elsewhere, only to return an hour or so later where my TV and lights were merrily consuming our worlds resources for absolutely no reason at all—unless maybe the dog was watching.

A big part of energy conservation is all about changing habits and being open to become more aware of your surroundings. I know you're just running outside for a minute, but has your history of behavior provided memories where you get distracted with the neighbors or where you get distracted sorting the garage. If so, allow that thought to rise to the surface as you leave the room, and now, being aware you might get distracted, either turn things off as you leave or resolve to not get distracted and come right back.

So, next time somebody yells at you and says ‘Turn off the lights!’, it's not just about the few pennies you'll save at that moment, but it's about helping you form a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You'd be surprised at how many other areas of your life would benefit from such a habit as well.


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