We use energy every day for various purposes like cooking, transportation, lighting, heating, cooling, entertainment, etc. While energy usage gives us many benefits, it also harms the environment and health. Moreover, extensive use of energy is a cause of climate change.
Energy efficiency is a concept that allows us to use less energy and obtain the same energy service. It is cost-effective and reduces the impact on health and the environment. Energy efficiency reduces greenhouse gas emissions, household costs, and the need for energy imports. The concept of energy efficiency is used in sectors like buildings, transportation, manufacturing, and energy generation. Overall, the efficient use of energy helps us improve our quality of life.
Some energy efficiency examples include the use of LED (Light-Emitting Diode) bulbs, reusing energy, using renewable resources like solar panels, efficient designs of buildings, lifestyle changes, so on and so forth.
In the context of sustainable energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy are extremely important. This is because these two are the core elements of sustainable energy.
Energy Efficiency And Climate Change
Climate change has become a serious issue in the 21st century. The key to fighting long-term climate change is the proper use of energy. According to research, since 1980, if there were no energy efficiency investments, the rate of energy consumption and emissions would be 60 percent more (Zerrenner, 2020). Furthermore, energy consumption would cost more than $800 billion per year. Therefore, more investments in energy efficiency will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a greater extent.
Reducing water levels, droughts, and heatwaves are the signs of climate change. If the temperature rises, there will be high demand for cooling systems like air conditioners. In addition, we will need more water to generate electricity. Energy efficiency also impacts water supplies. With fewer carbon emissions, we will require less water to generate electricity.
As the years go by, climate change risks are increasing. However, more investments in energy efficiency will reduce such risks to a large extent.
How is Energy Used Efficiently?
Energy is used efficiently by taking notable actions in our daily lives. As we use energy every day, we must consciously take action to use it efficiently. For example, turning off the machines when not in use, choosing energy-efficient appliances for daily use, and using renewable energy resources.
An energy-efficient home created with Canva
Energy efficiency means using less energy to perform the same energy function like turning on a light, heating/cooling houses, driving a car, etc. The most common example of energy efficiency is using LED bulbs or CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs to produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs use up to 80% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
Energy efficiency is used to reduce energy consumption by buildings, vehicles, machines, infrastructures, and other devices. When the same amount of output is produced with less energy, energy is used efficiently.
Here are a few ways to use energy efficiently:
- By using LED or CFL lights at home
- By reusing, instead of remaking
- Using free/renewable resources (like solar, wind, hydro, etc.) instead of non-renewable ones
- Increasing the utilization rate for resources
- Decreasing energy waste
Also Read: Top Renewable Energy Degrees to be Renewable Energy Experts in 2021
5 Ways to Use Energy Efficiently
The concept of energy efficiency can be used in almost every energy-consuming service like lighting, manufacturing, construction, transportation, machines, etc. Using energy efficiently can reduce costs, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life. There are many ways to use energy efficiently. Depending on what energy service you are using, energy efficiency techniques are used accordingly.
Below are five ways to use energy efficiently. These are examples of energy efficiency.
1. Energy Efficient Appliances
Using energy-efficient appliances can help save energy and cost. They include refrigerators, washing machines, thermostats, fans, heaters, etc.
We keep the refrigerators plugged in all day. It is good to replace old refrigerators as they can cost heavy energy consumption and repair. We should choose energy-efficient refrigerators when buying new ones. They are more sustainable and use less energy. With the development in technology, we must update refrigerators with energy-efficient and environment-friendly ones that are available now.
Washing machines also consume a lot of energy and water resources, especially when they are outdated. Therefore, we must use energy-efficient techniques to wash and dry clothes.
Similarly, we should also update other appliances like thermostats, fans, heaters, etc., with new, energy-efficient ones.
2. Energy Efficient Buildings
Buildings can cause the emission of carbon dioxide as they use electricity and fossil fuels. Electricity is the primary source of power in buildings. Every building needs an electric supply for lighting and using other electronic appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, heaters, washing machines, etc.
With modern technology, there are many energy-efficient resources we can use in homes or buildings. These resources provide the same energy service but use less energy. We can apply Energy efficiency in buildings by focusing on energy-efficient design and insulation. An energy-efficient home is environmentally friendly and contributes to reducing your energy bills over time.
Image showing different ways to make your home more energy-efficient home
For example, the placement of windows that provide natural heating and cooling will make it energy efficient. Similarly, weatherization or weatherproofing strategies that protect buildings from sunlight, wind, and rain can reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. It also reduces the cost of energy.
3. Energy Efficient Transportation
Transportation is another sector that causes the emission of carbon dioxide. This is because they use high fossil fuels like oil and gas. The use of energy efficiency in transportation can improve fuel economy and protect the environment.
Similar to energy-efficient buildings, transportation also requires proper design to make them energy efficient. Designers must consider fuel economy when designing automobiles. Reducing vehicle weight, improving engine designs, using hybrid vehicles are some of the fuel economy strategies.
The best alternative is to use electric vehicles. Such vehicles do not consume fossil fuels and operate entirely on renewable energy sources.
4. Utilization of Free/Renewable Resources
Using solar panels is one of the most efficient uses of energy. Sunlight is available for free. It produces 10,000 times the energy consumed by humans. We can use solar energy to make electricity for lighting and other purposes.
Similarly, we can utilize wind, hydro, wave, geothermal energy, etc., to produce energy services. All these resources are free and renewable. They are environmentally friendly as well.
5. Increasing the Utilization Rate of Resources
Resources that consume high energy must be used to their full potential. For example, when using a washing machine, we should use it when filled with dirty clothes. It is energy-efficient to use the washing machine with full clothes once instead of using it with only half-filled clothes twice.
Another example is trains and buses that carry hundreds of passengers instead of those passengers using personal cars.
It is energy efficient to use buses and trains while traveling instead of using personal cars.
Also Read: Apple Promises To Be 100 Percent Carbon Neutral By 2030
What Is Energy Conservation?
Energy efficiency is often confused with energy conservation. Energy conservation is simply the act of using less energy. For example, if you buy a bicycle instead of a motorcycle, that's energy conservation. Similarly, if you turn off the light when it is not in use, you are conserving energy. But, as explained previously, if you use less energy to produce the same light using a LED bulb instead of an incandescent bulb, that is an example of energy efficiency.
So energy conservation is using energy only when you need it. It is about not wasting any energy by taking action (or lowering the demand) for the energy service.
Why Is Energy Conservation Necessary?
There are several reasons we should conserve energy. The obvious is to protect the environment. Excessive use of energy negatively impacts the environment, its natural resources, and other living organisms. Energy conservation prevents such impacts.
When less energy is consumed, it reduces carbon emissions in the environment. As a result, we get cleaner air, water, and other natural resources.
Energy conservation also reduces costs for electricity, gas, oil, etc. The lesser energy we consume, the fewer our expenses will be. So energy conservation helps save money.
How to Conserve Energy?
Energy is conserved by making a conscious effort. It can be done in our day-to-day lives, starting at our homes.
The following are some activities that help conserve energy.
- Turning off unnecessary light
- Using LED or CFL light sources
- Unplugging unused electronic appliances
- Reducing the refrigerator temperature
- Using energy-efficient appliances
- Using solar panels to generate electricity
Energy Star and Energy Efficient
Energy Star is a symbol or label for energy efficiency. It is a government-approved label developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Source: Energy Star
The purpose of the Energy Star label is to provide credible information about energy efficiency to consumers and businesses. Further, the label verifies that its products help save energy in households, reduce greenhouse gas, and save money.
The Energy Star certified products have helped America's people avoid $35 million in energy costs in 2018. The label allows consumers to buy products that save money and make a positive impact on the environment.
The Energy Star products include appliances, lighting, electronics, office equipment, building products, heaters and coolers, food equipment, etc.
What Is The Difference Between Energy Star and Energy Efficiency?
Energy Star is a label that certifies that certain products are energy-efficient. All energy-efficient products are not Energy Star certified, but all Energy Star products are energy efficient.
For an energy-efficient product to get Energy Star certified, it must meet certain specific energy efficiency requirements. Further, it should also follow the EPA principles.
Based on Energy Star principles’ requirements, the Energy Star portfolio managers receive scores for the products. For example, energy-efficient products must obtain a score of 75 or more to get Energy Star certified.
Also Read: Top 15 Renewable Energy Company in Germany
How are People Sustaining on Low Energy? Energy Efficiency Examples
With the development of modern technology, it has become easier to create energy-efficient appliances and machinery. As a result, people have started using them at homes that have saved massive energy consumption. Furthermore, buildings, transportations, and factories have also begun using energy-efficient strategies for design and functionality.
Here, we will discuss a few real-world examples of energy efficiency in use.
1. Mundy's Bay Public School
Mundy's Bay Public School is located in Midland, Ontario, Canada. The school building uses the thermal energy storage principle. Between the floors and ceilings of the building, there are precast concrete hollow core slabs. The building contains heat recovery ventilation and a ground-source heat pump. It captures, stores, and releases natural heat and cold.
Source: Ted Handy and Associates
The ventilation fan draws the cool air at night during summertime. It charges the concrete by circulating through the hollow core slabs. The concrete absorbs and eliminates indoor heat during the day. So the inside temperature remains cool during the daytime. The same function works opposite in wintertime. As a result, the air conditioning loads stay at the lowest.
The air quality also remains pure inside the building. It is because the thermal energy storages circulate fresh outdoor air.
2. Del Ridge Homes
Del Ridge Homes is located in Ontario, Canada. The building uses solar energy of 250,000 Watt to produce as much energy as it consumes—also known as Net-Zero building. It combines innovative energy conservation techniques with solar panels. Further, it also uses geothermal heating strategies.
Source: SRS Consulting Engineers
The insulated concrete forms (ICF) used in the building reduces air leakage and utilizes the thermal mass for geothermal heating. Thus, it helps to maintain the required temperatures inside the building. Also, this reduces temperature fluctuations. With this mechanism, the operational energy per suite is reduced to 4.1 kWh/square feet per year.
3. Manitoba Hydro Place
Manitoba Hydro Place is located in Manitoba, Canada. It holds a Platinum Certification from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by Canada Green Building Council. It is the most energy-efficient building in North America and uses 70 % less energy than other office buildings.
The building has a 115-meter solar chimney that provides passive ventilation, utilizing natural processes to decrease energy use. Further, it has a south-facing garden and natural daylighting. Natural ventilation in the building reduces the extensive use of air conditioners. Also, a geothermal heat pump system controls the room temperatures according to different seasons throughout the year.
The active systems of the building include lighting that is dimmable and programmable. It helps the lighting system to use less energy and fully utilize the passive ventilation system.
Also Read: Electric Vehicles: Everything you need to know updated 
4. Empire State Building
The famous Empire State Building of New York City was renovated using energy-efficient technology to reduce energy consumption by almost 38 percent. The renovation of the building cost $550 million. Now, the building has a Gold Certification from LEED.
Source: World Federation of Great Towers
In 2012, the energy-efficient building saved $2.4 million. Further, it kept the atmosphere from 4,00 metric tons of carbon. The energy-efficient renovation process included installing 6,500 new windows, new building controls, internet-based energy management systems, LED lights, and modernizing the chilling plant.
5. One Angel Square
One Angel Square is located in Manchester, United Kingdom. The double-skinned facade in the building minimizes heat during summer and insulates during winter. The rainwater and greywater recycling systems are also responsible for the energy efficiency of the building.
Source: Design-Build Network
Other building features include low-energy LED lights, solar panels, and heat and power plants from IT systems. As a result, the design of the building was able to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent. Further, it reduced energy consumption by 40-60 percent.
The BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rated One Square Angel as Outstanding.
6. Johnson Controls HQ
The Johnson Controls headquarters in Asia-Pacific, Shanghai, China, is an example of energy-efficient and smart buildings. With a Platinum Certification from LEED, the facility includes a Central Plant, renewable energy, intelligent lighting, and an automation system.
Source: Johnson Controls
The building has a greywater recycling and stormwater recapture system that reduces water usage by 42 percent. In addition, there are multiple charging stations for electric/hybrid vehicles, allowing employees to reduce their carbon footprint. Further, it uses Forest Stewardship Council certified wood-based building that reduces embodied energy in materials by 21 percent.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the two main parts of sustainable energy. In addition, they play an essential role in climate change. Energy efficiency reduces the energy needed for services, minimizes energy costs, prevents environmental degradation, and impacts life quality. Further, it also fights climate change.
Examples of energy efficiency include:
- Use of energy-efficient appliances
- Energy-efficient building designs
- Energy-efficient transportation designs
- Using free/renewable resources
- Increasing the utilization rate of resources.
Energy efficiency and energy conservation are different. Energy conservation uses less energy, while energy efficiency uses less energy to produce the same amount of energy service.
An Energy Star label certifies products as energy-efficient. All energy-efficient products might not be Energy Star certified. But, all energy star products are energy efficient.
Climate change is a serious issue that has been knocking on the door for several years. Its risks have been maximized now more than ever. More investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy can help reduce the risks. Hopefully, we will be able to eradicate climate change and live in a greener and healthier world.