Do we need to save electricity?
Current usage: While the population of the United States has expanded 89 percent over the past 50 years, the amount of electricity use has grown 1,315 percent. Per-capita consumption of electricity in 2000 was more than seven times as high as it was fifty years ago. The Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2001 report predicts that the US’s near-term energy future will include greater consumption, productions, and imports.
Where does all this electricity come from?
In the United States, coal has been and continues to be the source of most electricity, accounting for over half of all electricity generated by the electric power sector in 2000. Natural gas and petroleum’s combined usage stood at 19 percent in 2000, with nuclear power accounting for 20 percent of total electricity generation. Renewable energy resources (primarily derived from hydroelectric power) contributed 8 percent.
Is this a problem?
Yes. The United States was self-sufficient in energy until the late 1950s when energy consumption began to outpace domestic production. From 1970 to 2000, U.S. energy consumption grew 45 percent while production rose only 13 percent. The Nation imported more energy to fill the gap: in 2000 US petroleum imports reached an annual record level of 11 million barrels per day. Heavy reliance on fossil fuel energy imports has economic, political, as well as environmental implications. The Annual Energy Outlook 2001 report projects U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to exceed 2 billion metric tons of carbon in 2020, 33% more than in 2000.
Are we currently wasting electricity?
Yes, we are wasting electricity in our homes by using inefficient light sources. Lighting represents as much as 25% of our home’s electrical use. We are lighting our homes inefficiently by continuing to use incandescent light bulbs (the same technology developed by Thomas Edison in 1879!). More than 90 percent of the energy produced by incandescent lights is heat, not light.
How can we save electricity?
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. A new 13-watt compact fluorescent light bulb produces as much light – as many lumens – as a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb using only one-quarter of the electrical energy! Fluorescents now have a screw base that fits a normal light bulb socket and produce a wide assortment of color light that match the warm glow of incandescents. Fluorescents last 10 to 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs – 10,000 hours or more.
What about halogen lights?
Standard halogens are modern versions of Edison’s incandescent bulb, and they last longer – 2,250 to 3,500 hours. Yet, most people use much more wasteful high-wattage halogen tubes in their homes. Free-standing torchiere lamps use either a 300- or a 500-watt halogen tube that wastes energy by creating four times more heat than the average incandescent bulb. A 500-watt halogen reaches temperatures of over 1,200 degrees – creating a serious fire hazard. New, energy-efficient torchieres use compact fluorescent bulbs and provide 25% more light than popular halogen torchieres and use one-fourth the energy. The new compact fluorescent torchieres are also far safer than the halogen torchieres because they do not operate at the same high temperatures.
Will my compact fluorescent bulbs make a difference?
Yes. Residential use of electricity is greater than either commercial or industrial use. A single 20-watt compact fluorescent lamp used at home in place of a 75-watt incandescent will save about 550 kilowatt-hours over its lifetime. If your electricity is produced in a coal-fired power plant (like 20 percent of California’s electricity is), that savings represents nearly 500 pounds of coal not burned, which means that 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide and 20 pounds of sulfur dioxide will not get into the atmosphere.
Get 100 homes to switch to electricity saving compact fluorescent bulbs and Save 55,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity
Prevent 132,000 pounds of carbon and sulfur dioxide pollution
Where do I get it and how much does it cost?
Compact fluorescent bulbs can be found at your locally-owned hardware store. The price of a 75-watt equivalent flourescent bulb can range from $5.00 – $9.00, depending on the brand. A new generation of compact fluorescent bulbs now meets the stringent criteria for long-life and energy savings set by the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program. Check for the Energy Star label to help you select a bulb brand. Retailers of Energy Star products often offer promotions, discounts, and rebates on these items.
Remember that, while these lights are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they will last over ten times as long (10,000 hours vs 750 hours)! The purchase is cost-effective: With the compact fluorescent bulb you will save a total of $20.50 over three years (through electricity cost savings and bulb replacement savings). If you replace 25 percent of the lights in high-use areas with fluorescents, you can save about 50 percent of your lighting energy bill.
“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR,” says the US EPA, “we would save enough energy to light 2 million homes for a year, save about $460 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 6 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions from about 550,000 cars” (https://www.energystar.gov). Let’s change our light bulbs now!
What else can I do to save electricity?
- Simply turn off lights when you don’t need them or use the following inexpensive lighting controls: automatic timers, photosensors, motion detectors or occupancy sensors, and dimmers.
- Turn down your thermostat. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you’ll save up to 5% on heating costs. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or off at night or when leaving home for an extended time, saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs.
- Eliminate wasted energy. Unplug spare refrigerators. Turn off kitchen and bath-ventilating fans after they’ve done their job. Keep your fireplace damper closed, unless a fire is burning, to prevent up to 8% of your furnace-heated air from going up the chimney. Insulate your water-heater.
- Reduce hot water temperature. Set your water heater to the “normal” setting or 120, if possible. Shorten showers since they account for 2/3 of your water heating costs. Cutting your showers in half will reduce your water heating costs by 33 percent. Use low-flow shower heads to reduce hot water usage.
- Use appliances efficiently. Do only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer. Use the cold water setting on your clothes washer since it reduces your washer’s energy use by 75%. Be sure to clean your clothes dryer’s lint trap. Use the moisture-sensing automatic drying setting on your dryer. Put your computer and monitor to sleep when not using. Unplug electronics when not in use to prevent leaking energy. The best way to minimize these losses of electricity is to purchase Energy Star products.
Excerpted and adapted from the following websites:
- California Energy Commission (www.energy.ca.gov)
- US Dept of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (www.eia.doe.gov)
To find out more about how consumers and communities can obtain the information and services they need to control energy costs, see the Community Energy Cooperative’s website: