*Originally posted February 2016*
Did you know, even with all of the recent interest in wind power and solar power, that over 80% of energy in most American homes still comes from fossil fuels? When we flip a switch to turn on a light, it is easy to forget that the electricity we use often comes from a fossil fuel like coal. There are many facts about energy that are surprising, things that most people do not know…
- Americans account for only about 5% of the world’s population, but we use over 25% of the world’s energy. This incredible amount of energy that we use includes our gas consumption, coal consumption, use of metals, forested woods, and other natural resources. Americans love their automobiles, so this accounts for a large part of our energy consumption. Less than 10% of Americans use public transportation, and the vast majority of Americans drive at least 14K miles in their cars every year.
- Heating homes in the winter and cooling them in the summer accounts for over 55% of the average American’s utility bills. As hard as we work to heat our homes during cold weather, we lose almost half of the heat through drafts and inefficient windows. Single paned windows can allow almost 25% of the heat to escape in a home, resulting in sky-high utility bills.
- Lighting accounts for almost 10% of most home utility bills. This means that turning off lights, like your mother always nagged you to do, can make a significant difference in your utility bills. Replacing conventional light bulbs with CFLs can also save you money, as they are much more efficient and can last many times longer than conventional ones. Setting lamps and outdoor lights on timers can be helpful if you often forget to turn them out.
- The majority of energy used by home electronics is actually while they are turned off and plugged in. Even if an electronic item is turned off, it still takes a small amount of energy if it is plugged in. Think about every electronic item you have plugged in. Every TV, blender, coffee grinder, PlayStation, phone charger, and hair dryer can be costing you money by remaining plugged in all of the time. An easy way to solve this problem is to plug items into a power strip, and simply turn the power strip off when not in use. It will become a habit, much like turning lights off when you leave a room.
- Energy Star products can truly start saving you money quickly. Even if their initial cost is a few dollars higher than a comparable product that is not rated energy efficient, the energy savings can be substantial. The National Resource Defense Council estimates that replacing old models of dishwashers and kitchen appliances will save you between $25 and $120 a year, per appliance. Add that up over each appliance’s lifespan of up to 20 years, and the savings snowball into thousands of dollars quickly. Energy Star ratings really do matter.
- More than 20% of energy consumed worldwide is used for transportation. Whether it is transportation of goods or personal transportation, an extraordinary amount of gas is used. Imagine if you drove 10% less each week, and made a point to buy locally sourced foods and products more often. Then imagine if millions of other people made the same changes. One person may not feel like they can make a difference, but if millions of people change behaviors, a tangible change could happen. Cutting down on fossil fuels used in transportation can substantially impact our world – one person at a time.
Energy is something that people often don’t think about. People climb in their cars to get from point A to Point B. They flick light switches and use appliances without a second thought. But if every person thought about energy and the choices they have in using energy, the world could be changed for the better.