Saturday, January 2, 2021

Using Energy Conservation and Efficiency Saves Money, Resources 

When I ask people what they think are the two cheapest, cleanest, safest, most environmentally friendly, and most reliable energy technologies available today, the answer I receive is almost always wind and solar. But the correct answers; conservation and efficiency; have nothing to do with generating electricity. And the first step to utilizing these technologies is to commit, individually and collectively, to making a coherent and lasting reduction in our consumption of energy.

Energy Conservation 

The term ‘energy conservation’ implies using less or cutting back on use; in other words, avoiding excessive use or waste. Its basic principle has to do with applying simple behavioral changes to our lives; turning down thermostats for example, especially when we’re not at home or while we’re sleeping; turning off and/or unplugging appliances when they’re not in use; or driving your car a few less miles every week. These simple practices can conserve substantial amounts of energy and save considerable amounts of money. However, in all of these examples, the amount of energy used is reduced by either cutting down on your comfort level or doing without or with less.

Energy Efficiency 

Unlike conservation, efficiency is science- or technology-based and implies achieving equivalent or superior results while using less energy or using energy more effectively. Insulating a building, for example, or even just plugging up the leaks that allow cold air to slip into your house, will allow you to achieve and maintain comparable or even greater comfort, while using less heating energy.

Energy Efficient Lighting – LEDs vs. Incandescents vs. CFLs 

LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is just one example of technology-based energy efficiency. Lighting typically accounts for about 20% of home electricity consumption and LEDs are the most efficient lighting option on the market. For many people however, the cost of the bulb is the deciding factor when buying replacements. And, since incandescents are the cheapest bulbs on the market, they buy incandescents. Regrettably, this thinking fails to consider the cost of operation, or return on investment.

The average incandescent bulb will last around 1,200 hours before burning out. EnergyStar rated LEDs can last 50,000 hours or more. This means that you’ll have to purchase at least 40 incandescent lightbulbs just to equal the lifespan of a single LED. (It also means that the string of LED Christmas lights you have on your tree today will still be working 40 years from now.) What’s more, a 60-watt incandescent light bulb will consume 60 watts of energy, whilean equivalent 800-lumen LED will only consume about 8.5 watts, orroughly 14% of the energy of the incandescent. That’s an 86% energy savings. Combine that with the savings on bulb repurchasing over time and it can add up to… well… a lot of saved money.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)produce light differently than incandescent bulbs. In incandescent bulbs, electric current runs through a wire filament and heats the filament until it starts to glow. In a CFL, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapor. This generates invisible ultraviolet light that excites a fluorescent coating (called phosphor) on the inside of the tube, which then emits visible light.

CFL bulbs have a projected lifespan of 8,000 – 10,000 hours; considerably more than the 1200-hour lifespan of incandescents, but just a fraction of the 50,000-hour lifespan of LEDs. 50,000 hours of CFL use will require 5 or 6 bulbs vs. one LED bulb. And, since an 8.5-watt LED will produce as much light as a 14-watt CFL (equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent), the LED bulb will use just 425 KWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity, as opposed to 700.

Not only do LED bulbs last almost forever, they’re durable. An LED bulb can drop to the floor without breaking. Incandescent bulbs and CFLs break easily when dropped. And small amounts of mercury can be released into the environment when a CFL breaks, or is improperly disposed of.Mercury can be poisonous and, as such, CFL bulbs cannot be recycled or disposed of in standard ways. They must be taken to a recycling center that deals with heavy metals to avoid environmental contamination. LEDs don’t contain mercury and are therefore less hazardous and easily thrown away.

Energy Efficient Appliances 

Efficiency is the idea behind EnergyStar rated appliances, as well. For example, Energy Star qualified clothes washers generally use about 30% less energy than standard models. And less than half the water that regular clothes washers use. And many EnergyStar qualified clothes washers also have a greater capacity than conventional models. That means fewer loads are needed to wash comparable amounts of laundry.


More Information 

For more information about utility cost and use reduction and available energy assistance programs that will help you use less energy and improve the environment, contact your County Community Energy Advisor.     

  • For Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties: Nick Hamilton–Honey; Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, or 315-379-9192 – ext. 230
  • For Clinton, Essex, and Hamilton Counties: Jen Perry; Adirondack North Country Association, or 518-891-6200

Medium Sized House Energy Chart Courtesy of Jerry Jenkins

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Richard Gast is a retired Extension Program Educator and has been contracted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County to continue his informative and thought provoking articles.

8 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:

    Mr. Gast,
    You got me going. I compared electric costs between bulbs at our rate of $0.0479 per KWH. My $1.25 8.5 watt LED bulb should use $20.36 of electric for its 50,000 hours for a total of $21.61 (Bulb-$1.25; juice $20.36. Your 42ea 60 watt incandescent bulbs at $1.25ea should cost $216.62 (Bulbs-$72.92; juice-$143.70).
    Thanks for your article. Lights out now.
    Bill Ott
    Lakewood, OH

    • Dana says:

      $0.13/KWH here on the Adirondack Coast. And we provide quite a bit of hydro power. Go figure.

      • Bill Ott says:

        Our 4.79 cents per KWH is practically only a third of your cost. The number on our bill is for generation and transmission. These articles bring up more questions than answers.
        Bill Ott

  2. George L says:

    I was told by an architect that more energy goes into the construction of a NYC skyscraper than the energy used in the building’s lifetime.

    Can you comment?

  3. Eric says:

    There’s that phrase “cotton kills” , because when it gets wet it won’t dry out and you end up cold . Well it also takes a lot of energy to use your clothes dryer to get it dry , hang it out .

  4. Worth Gretter says:

    I like the article, but take issue with the illustration. A lot of the numbers in it are inflated. Here are just a couple of examples:

    Concrete blocks: Assume the house is 25 by 40 feet, and two stories, for 2000 square feet. Then the perimeter is 25 + 25 + 40 + 40 = 130 feet. If the basement is a full 8 feet, then the basement walls are 1040 square feet. Each 8 inch by 16 inch concrete block is just a bit under a square foot, for a total of 1170 blocks. But the figure says 2300.

    Vinyl siding: The house perimeter of 130 feet, times the height of 20 feet (two stories plus floor structures), gives 2600 square feet. A little more is needed for the gable ends, but the final number is nowhere near the 8000 square feet in the figure.

    I fully support the idea that there is a huge energy investment in every structure, and we should all be more aware of that. But we should also be honest with the numbers, so that discussions of energy, climate, etc. have credibility.

    • Bill Ott says:

      Mr. Richard Gast,
      …..Your post has numbers, and I love numbers. I spent some time studying yours.
      …..I was in construction for about 10 years, but that was a long time ago. However, I find it hard to find where a house being cladded with vinyl siding requires 10 yards of mortar. A yard is a volume measure of 3ft x 3ft x 3ft, or 27 cubic feet. Masons do not order mortar by the truckload. They mix it up by the bag. It would take a little over 400 bags of Sacrete to mix 10 yards of mortar. Ten yards would weigh 36,441.70 pounds. That would be 20 loads of Sacrete bags in the back of my poor old pickup.
      …..This is only part of my point. Nice graphics aside, if you, Mr. Gast, are publishing these figures as facts and they are not so, people are going to have trouble believing you in the future, even if there is only one mistake. I have looked this over for a few hours, and if I am wrong, then please let me know and I will apologize.
      …..It may be that you got this stuff from somewhere else, but that does not excuse you from validifying the facts therein. People actually read this stuff and believe it.
      …..I want proof that I am wrong, not excuses for your possible mistakes.
      …..By the way, I loved the light bulb part.
      Bill Ott.
      Lakewood, OH

  5. Peter says:


    Finally a article that makes sense. Energy conservation and energy efficiency both can be done without spending large amounts of money.

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