The Appeal of Energy Efficiency (aka "Sexy Energy")

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've been writing for a couple months now about how to make your home more energy efficient, and it occurred to me one day that I should have started with a solid explanation for why you should care. I touched on some reasons briefly in the post Energy Efficiency: Renewable Energy's Less Cool Cousin, but I think it would be valuable to provide more detail about why I think energy efficiency is such an appealing solution.

Energy efficiency...

1. Saves money.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. A home energy retrofit can shave as much as 30% off of your energy bill. What could be more appealing than that!

2. Is affordable.

So you can't afford solar panels...So what! You can afford to add caulking around your windows. You can afford to slay your vampires. You can afford to switch to CFLs. And now with all of those tax credits from the government, you may even be able to afford to upgrade your windows, add insulation, and get a more efficient HVAC system.

3. Increases the value of your home.

Eco-friendly homes are the hot new thing in the real estate market, and they are only going to get hotter.

4. Does not require new technology.

Holding off on solar panels until they get the technology just right? In the meantime, weatherize your home. These are things we've known how to do for a long time, and we just need to do them.

5. Provides jobs.

Any sustainable energy solution is going to provide new jobs, but think about all the existing buildings and homes in the U.S. that need to be upgraded. Think about all those opportunities for work for home builders who are really in need of jobs right now. And as I mentioned above, this type of work does not require new technology.

6. Equates to less overall energy use.

Apply that statement to whatever energy-related issue hits your hot button: dependence on foreign oil, clean coal, nuclear power, offshore drilling, solar power, wind power, whatever. Using less energy does not make those issues go away, but it reduces the need for some of the less-than-ideal options that are being tossed around and makes the smarter solutions seem more feasible.

7. Fits any circumstance.

It doesn't matter if your lot is shady, windless, or tiny, and it doesn't matter if you own a house or rent an apartment. You may not be able to do everything, but everyone can do something toward making their home more energy efficient.

Is energy

Recently, I read an article by Grist staff writer David Roberts asserting that energy efficiency is a boring term and we should switch to something more sexy. He suggests "resource intelligence," explaining:

Imagine you live in a house that gathers rainwater and captures, cleans, and recycles 100% of the water used in it. In that house, you do not need to use less water; the house’s design provides you with an abundance! The water is not used in a miserly way, but in an intelligent way.

Efficiency implies scrimping and trimming and subjecting every move to a cold cost-benefit analysis. Intelligence, like nature, leaves room for beauty and abundance and progress.

I like the connotations of resource intelligence. It's less restricting and more optimistic, and if that's what it would take for energy efficiency to catch on, I'm all for changing the name.

In fact, maybe we should just call it "sexy energy." That's kind of what a home energy retrofit is like. It's taking your fat, leaking, money-sucker of a home and making it sleeker, smarter, and tighter...Sexier.

Sexy energy, resource intelligence, or just plain old energy efficiency. Call it what you want, but don't dismiss it. Energy efficiency might be the lowest rung on the energy solutions ladder, but it's a start, it's accessible, and as soon as we take that first step up the ladder, the other solutions become much more viable.

Have you gotten your home energy audit yet?

Photo by Joe Shiabotnick

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Chris May 22, 2009 at 11:07 PM  

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