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The average yearly electric bill in the United States is about $2,000 per year per household. On average the amount paid per kilowatt of electricity used in the U. S. goes up 6 percent per year. In eight years that $2,000 will become $3,000 unless you do something to conserve electricity.
While Europe has an energy efficiency rating of 85 percent, the U. S. has an energy efficiency rating of just 35 percent. This means that almost two thirds of the energy that we use is wasted. We still have to pay for all of that wasted energy. With the high price of electricity today and expected price increases in the future, it makes economic sense to implement conservation practices in your home or business now.
Household conservation practices fall into two categories. First, are changes in behavior which cost nothing. Second, are store bought solutions. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage of behavioral change is that it costs nothing. The big disadvantage is that you actually have to be disciplined enough to change your behavior. Just getting into the habit of turning off lights when not in use can save as much as $250 per year.
Turning off electronic appliances instead of having them be in sleep mode can save as much as $150 per year. Decrease the time that it takes you to shower and guess what? You save money. Hot water heaters can use up to 18 percent of a household’s total electric usage. Operating washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full will save you money. Lower the water temperature used and you save more money. Over the course of a year, implementation of several small behavioral changes adds up to big savings.
Store bought solutions have both advantages and disadvantages over behavioral changes. The biggest disadvantage is that they cost money. The biggest advantage is that they do not depend on behavioral changes to conserve energy. Let’s take turning off the lights when not in use. It works if you remember to turn them off. Or you can put a light switch on a timer that will automatically shut it off when not in use. The store bought items will work every time. Behavioral changes work only when you remember.
Let’s look at some store bought solutions. If you replace ten 60-watt light bulbs with ten compact fluorescent bulbs which cost between $25 and $30 you will save about $90 per year. So in this example you get back the money that you invested in just four months. When you buy a new energy star appliance you will save between $75 and $100 per year in electric usage.
A $4 tube of caulking applied properly around doors and windows can save $200 per year in heating and cooling expenses. The average home in Florida uses up to 60 percent of its yearly energy usage on heating and cooling. If you can afford to replace older heating and cooling units you will save a considerable amount of money every year.
So, you can see that energy conservation does not have to be expensive. But, this is about more than just saving energy and money. Conservation also reduces air and water pollution as well as our consumption of fossil fuels. The reduction in use of fossil fuels helps to move our country towards energy independence so that we do not have to send billions of dollars overseas every month.
Finally, conservation does not require some big government program. The only thing that is needed is for individuals, households and businesses to make a commitment to implement conservation practices whether it is through behavioral changes or purchases.
So do something. It is easy and painless to conserve and realize savings. Reading this article and then doing nothing, accomplishes nothing towards that end.
Submitted by Tom Deverin, Cedar Key Energy Advisory Panel
This column is a project of Cedar Key’s Energy Advisory Panel, which welcomes first-person accounts of how individuals are conserving (or, even, aspiring to conserve) our community's natural resources. Your submission may be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and your phone number.