Approximately half of all energy used in the U.S. is consumed within buildings. Half of that energy is wasted because of shortsighted design, sloppy construction practices, and careless building operation. Energy conservation in buildings is the easiest and best solution to our energy crisis. It could dramatically reduce our current energy and carbon excesses with only modest investments and without new technologies.
Key Energy Conservation Steps
Maintenance, repair, and retrofit of building mechanical systems —
Most heating and cooling systems are functioning inefficiently because of installation flaws, neglect of maintenance, and obsolete design. Fixing these problems requires only a commitment to competent design, installation, and maintenance. Annual return: 20 to 100 percent without subsidies.
- Seal leaks and insulate duct work
- Replace used, dirty filters with new, clean filters
- Schedule yearly maintenance work on your furnace and water heater
- Replace aging furnaces and water heaters with energy efficient models
Weatherization of buildings —
Many American buildings have little or no insulation, which is probably America’s most severe energy problem. Excessive air leakage is also a major energy waster that requires little investment to solve. Weatherization can save 50 percent of heating and cooling energy with an investment of between 10 and 40 dollars per square foot of conditioned floor space. Annual return: 5 to 50 percent without subsidies.
- Add weatherstripping around door and windows
- Seal air leaks around windows, recessed lighting, outside wall outlets, and exhaust vents
- Add insulation to walls, ceilings, and in crawlspaces
Shade, reflectivity, and other alternatives to air conditioning —
Air conditioning is a serious problem because of poor design, neglected maintenance, and careless operation. Most coal-fired electrical generating plants built in the U.S. recently service the huge summer peak electric load created by air conditioning. Air conditioning loads can easily be reduced by a third or more by shade, reflective roofs, and alternatives like evaporative coolers, large fans, and desiccant dehumidifiers. Annual return: 20 to 100 percent without subsidies.
- Plant shade trees to help naturally cool and provide shade during the heat of the day
- Replace or coat your roof with a brighter color, helping to reflect the heat and keep cool
- Utilize regular air circulating fans in the same room as occupants to help stay cool and reduce the need for running the air conditioner
All of the above steps will put you well on your way to reducing your energy demand. Simple but effective energy conservation is the best way to reduce the increasing need for more energy and lessening the carbon waste released into the atmosphere.
Find out more about saving energy in your home with The Homeowners Handbook to Energy Efficiency.