I probably spend 10% of my free time following my daughter around — doing my best to remind her to turn the darn lights off in her bedroom…the kitchen…the bathroom. Some things never change. When I was growing up — the whole concept of being energy-efficient involved turning off the lights and taking shorter showers. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t worry about conserving energy any more than my kid does. Because like her, I wasn’t paying the utility bills. We’ve come along way since then (I think). The good news is that experts say that largely as a result of technological advances, the United States now uses 47 percent less energy per dollar than it did 30 years ago. The bad news is — unfortunately a lot of the energy we make is wasted by the time it reaches out homes and offices.
A negawatt is a unit of energy saved. It needs to stressed that negawatt isn’t just a concept.The term negawatts was first coined by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) describing how the saving of small, almost trivial, amounts of power can have large peripheral effects on a community. SeirraClub.org points this out to good effect when it relates how a power company in the USA found that it was cheaper to distribute free low energy light bulbs to all their customers, than go to the expense of renewing an ageing and inefficient power plant. The plant was closed, the land sold and as a result the area was turned from a run down industrial wasteland into a new community – all for the sake of a few light bulbs.
Want more proof of the power of negawatts? According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (www.aceee.org) otherwise known as the ACEEE, steps to increase efficiency can reduce U.S. energy use–and related greenhouse-gas emissions — by at least 30 percent. And that’s being … conservative. The “2,000-Watt Society” program promoted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (www.arch.ethz.ch) claims it’s feasible to reduce per-capita energy use in industrialized countries to 2,000 watts per day. Now, my math is not the greatest, but I believe that’s about a two-thirds reduction in energy use for Europeans and a five-sixths decrease for Americans — without crimping anyone’s standard of living. I’m sure my daughter will be glad to hear that.
According to the ACEEE, more-aggressive national policies that emphasize renewable energy sources and efficiency could save a typical American family at least $650 a year. Do you know what I could do with an extra $650 dollars a year? I could probably purchase an air conditioner.
In its simplest form – negawatts are created by changing things so you need less heat energy. This covers a lot of ground, but it is mostly simple things. Check out this list provided by www.energypulse.net:
More energy-efficient windows.
Use insulated window coverings (blinds or drapes).
Put plastic sheeting over windows to increase insulation.
Programmable set-back thermostats.
Lowering the normal thermostat setting by a degree or two, and putting on a sweater.
Install a duct “switch” so that heat from an electric clothes dryer is vented into the house instead of outside during heating season. (This will also increase humidity, which is typically desired in cold weather conditions.)
Capture waste heat by putting a stopper in the bath tub when taking a hot shower, and draining it only after the water has cooled to room temperature.
Capture waste heat from the dishwasher by putting a reservoir in the drain pipe so that the discharge water cools before exiting the house.
Plant evergreen trees on the sunless side of your building. Now that I’m older and money is involved (namely my money) I put a lot more credence into the whole negawatt thing. The more I think about it, the more I realize that nega-wattage is actually powered by common sense. Forty years ago you never heard the term negawatts because the country felt it had unlimited resources. Now here we are in the 21st century and we finally realized that isn’t the case. You want to call energy conservation by a different name? Count me in. As long it reflects a smaller amount on my utilities bill.
Now excuse while I turn the light off in the bathroom.