Simply put, energy efficiency is a technological concern. Energy conservation is a human concern. For example, you can make furnaces and air conditioners more efficient by improving the technology that governs their operation. But people are responsible for turning the thermostat to 68 degrees instead of 75 degrees.
Yes, this is an oversimplification. But it makes an important point opticlimate. Technology can take us only so far as we attempt to keep energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions down. People have to take responsibility for using the technology wisely.
The focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation has been around for quite a while, at least since the 1970s when the oil crisis had gasoline and heating oil prices skyrocketing and cars lined up at the pump. A physicist named Amory Lovins introduced the idea of negawatts, which contradicted the notion that, to meet energy requirements, you have to generate more energy. He thought you could meet those needs by using energy more efficiently, not just providing more.
From the technological point of view, making homes more energy-efficient is hugely important in reducing energy consumption. The steps toward greater efficiency can be pretty simple. For instance, you can exchange an incandescent light bulb with a fluorescent bulb and get the same light output for 13 watts that before required 60 watts.
Of course, your furnace and air conditioner use the most energy in your home, so they make good targets for action that can improve energy efficiency. One way to improve heating and cooling efficiency is to make sure your furnace and air conditioner are inspected each year and necessary repairs are made.
Another solution is to exchange your older-model furnace and air conditioner for a newer version. Today, manufacturers are producing units of very high efficiency that are able to pay for themselves in energy savings in a remarkably short time.
You can easily find out how energy-efficient a new furnace or air conditioner might be.
Air conditioners are rated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The SEER is computed from the cooling output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input in watt-hours during the season. The higher the SEER rating the more efficient the air conditioner.
Furnace efficiency is measured in the percentage of fuel – for example, natural gas – that is turned into usable energy – that is, heat. Thus and 80 percent energy efficiency rating is better than a 70 percent energy efficiency rating.
Scorching hot summer temperatures are no joke: a massive heat wave in 2006 killed over 200 Americans, and temperatures are still expected to rise this year as well. Interestingly enough, the hotter it gets, the more greenhouse gases are released from the very same power plants that pump out energy from our ACs. Studies have also shown that the average home spends half of its energy bill on home cooling, and for these reasons, many people may be trying to find new ways to beat the heat.
Electric fans may provide cool air, but they do little to actually decrease temperatures. On the other hand, swamp coolers are cost-effective, eco-friendly devices that can provide cooling comfort and temperature reductions, but these are only suitable for hot, arid climates. Therefore, how does one stay cool? The answer lies in a relatively new invention: a portable air conditioner.
Portable air conditioners work very much like traditional central or window ACs as they use the refrigeration cycle to cool. However, they are much simpler in design and have the added benefits of being compact, mobile, as well as not requiring any type of permanent installation. Instead, a hose is vented out a window, drop ceiling, or wall, and when the air conditioner needs to cool another area, it is simply rolled from one room to the next. In terms of energy efficiency, portable air conditioners are second to none. Because they are used for spot cooling certain rooms or personal spaces as opposed to entire homes, they can provide you with significant savings on your energy bill over an entire summer.