WE DEPEND on energy to heat and cool our homes, fuel our vehicles, and accomplish many of our daily activities. Yet people around the world are facing serious energy challenges.
For Gary, from South Africa, “the rising cost of fuel” is a big issue. Jennifer, from the Philippines, is worried about reliable access to energy, since “power interruption is a common problem.” Fernando, from El Salvador, says he is “concerned about the ecological impact.” In many places around the world, energy sources pollute the environment.
Naturally, you may wonder, ‘How can I deal with these energy challenges?’
We can all choose to use energy wisely. Both conserving energy and using it efficiently bring benefits. By consuming less, we save money on our energy costs. We also help protect the environment, not adding unnecessarily to the growing energy demand.
Let us consider three areas in which we may be able to use energy more wisely: our home, transportation, and daily activities.
Use heating and cooling equipment conservatively. A study conducted in one European country revealed that turning down the thermostat during winter just two degrees to limit heating was the most energy-saving behavior over the course of a year. Derek, who lives in Canada, agrees. “By wearing sweaters in winter instead of turning the furnace all the way up, our family saves energy,” he says.
The same principle applies to cooling in warmer climates. Rodolfo, from the Philippines, limits the use of his air conditioner by carefully setting the thermostat. Why? He states, “We save money and also conserve energy.”
Keep windows and doors closed when heating or cooling your home.* We can avoid wasting energy by preventing heated or cooled air from escaping outdoors. For example, leaving a door open in cold weather greatly increases the amount of energy required to heat a building.
Beyond simply keeping windows and doors closed, some people have further reduced energy loss in their homes by installing better insulation and energy-efficient windows.
Switch to more energy-efficient lighting. “Instead of using traditional incandescent bulbs, we switched to new energy-efficient light bulbs,” says Jennifer, quoted earlier. While new energy-efficient lighting products typically cost more up front, they consume much less energy during their lifetime, saving you money in the long run.
Use public transportation if possible. “I use the train or cycle to work whenever I can,” says Andrew, from Great Britain. The book Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know reminds us that “automobiles consume at least three times more energy per passenger than busses and short-distance trains.”
Organize your trips. By planning ahead, you may be able to trim the number of trips you need to make, reducing your energy consumption while saving time and money.
Jethro, from the Philippines, sets a monthly fuel allowance for his car. “This makes me plan my trips more efficiently.”
Reduce the amount of hot water you use. According to one study, “residential hot water heating consumes on average 1.3% of total energy used in Australian cities or 27% of total household energy use.”
Since heating water consumes energy, using less hot water conserves energy. With good reason, Victor, from South Africa, says: “We try to use as little hot water as possible when showering.” According to scientist Steven Kenway, “saving hot water represents a real win-win-win,” because “it cuts energy and water use for consumers, reduces energy demand for utilities, and helps households . . . save money.”
Turn it off. This includes lights, appliances, and electronic devices, such as TVs and computers. Even when turned off, many such devices still consume energy in standby mode. Some experts recommend unplugging them from their power source or using a switchable power strip to turn off this standby mode for further energy savings. Fernando, quoted earlier, has adopted this habit, “I turn off lights and unplug appliances that I am not using.”
We may personally have little control over the cost of energy or the environmental toll to produce it, but we can choose to use energy wisely. People around the world are finding ways to do just that. True, conserving energy may require more effort and planning, but consider the benefits. Valeria, from Mexico, says, “I save money, and I protect the environment.”
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation of heating and cooling equipment. For example, some appliances have specific fresh-air supply or venting guidelines that may require keeping a door or window open.