Deal or Dud? Energy Efficiency

Energy use in homes, buildings and industry accounts for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Many people refuse to install energy efficient products due to the high initial cost, and uncertainty about how they will pay themselves back in the future. Total energy consumption has stayed the same despite the onset of these products.

“Total energy consumption from the residential sector is basically the same,” said James Berry, the Energy Information Administration’s household energy use expert. “But how energy is consumed in our homes has changed. Our heating and cooling has gotten more efficient, but we’ve added stuff to our homes.”


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey

These “stuff” are the appliances that are growing in popularity. People may have many TVs or refrigerators. It seems the best way to fix this is to fix the appliances to use less energy. But will the high initial cost of these products pay off in the long run?


LED Bulbs – Deal


Photo by: Jonathan Cohen

LEDs are “directional” light sources, unlike incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, which emit light in all directions. Since LEDs can be aimed in a specific direction, it allows them to be much more efficient. To produce light, an electrical current passes through tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In comparison, in CFL bulbs, an electric current interacts with gas, producing UV light.

LEDs do not burn out like typical light bulbs- the light being produced slowly depreciates. This is the main argument against LEDs- they will fade and change color over time.

LED bulbs are significantly more expensive than CFL bulbs or incandescent bulbs. However, they last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs, and save 85% more energy. They’re also widespread, and can be found at almost every home improvement store.



Energy Star Appliances – Deal


Photo by: MoneyBlogNewz

When you walk into an appliance store, there are usually a couple things with a big green energy star marking on them. Energy Star is a program led by the US Environmental Protection Agency. That covers appliances like clothes washer and dryers, refrigerators, air conditioning, insulation, light bulbs, televisions, ovens, and many more.

As time has gone on energy efficiency has gone up, with prices going down. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t buy the most efficient technology available. Energy-Star products provide reliable energy-efficient products that have a short payback period. For example, a consumer can save as much as $260 dollars over 5 years on a new refrigerator, while emitting 8,200 less pounds of carbon.

Energy efficient appliances are also being widely bought and have consumer support.

“Right now mostly all appliances are rated energy efficient,” said Darryl Johnson, a worker in the appliance department of Home Depot. He said that there are other energy efficient options than Energy Star.


LEED-Certified Buildings – Dud


Photo by: Fairfax County

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the most widely used third party for green buildings. Building projects get ‘points’ based on how buildings address several sustainability issues. The number of points will get the building a LEED rating: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

In theory, the LEED program should work, and in several cases it does. However, LEED designs do not always turn out the way they were expected to, making them unreliable. 25% of projects deviate worse from design projections. Follow ups and anticipations are frequently off.

LEED certification can also be misleading. For example, a building might install technology to get a LEED certification, but the technology goes unused. The energy used to install it and run it is actually more than the energy saved, making it seem like a green building, but actually not be.