When seasons change, so do indoor temperatures. Whether we’re turning down the AC to cool off, or turning up the heat to get cozy, we use a lot of energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015 more than 76 million American households (64%) used a central air-conditioning system, an increase from less than 66 million households (59%) in 2005. And with increasingly irregular climate conditions, this number is only rising.
Whether your motivation is to save money or to decrease your carbon footprint, making small adjustments to your daily energy consumption can have a positive effect on the environment and help reduce the amount of overall energy consumed by your community.
U.S. energy consumption is on the rise
The U.S. is home to less than 5% of the world’s population but consumes 17% of the world’s energy and accounts for 15% of the world’s gross domestic product, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems. In comparison, the European Union has 7% of the world’s population, uses 12% of its energy and accounts for 16% of its GDP. And China has 18.5% of the world’s population, uses 24% of its energy and accounts for 18% of its GDP.
If projections are correct, U.S. energy consumption is expected to rise by over 7% in the next 20 years, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Global energy consumption is expected to rise 40%.
There’s a direct connection between energy use and the environment. When we consume less power, we reduce the amount of released toxic fumes in the air, conserve the earth’s natural resources and help protect ecosystems from destruction. Perhaps the most notable way reducing energy helps the environment is by decreasing harmful byproducts, such as carbon dioxide, from being released by the power plants that produce our electricity. By simply cutting back on energy consumption, we can reduce the amount of electricity that power plants must make and the fumes they release.
Household Energy Reduction
Reducing energy use is easier than you may think. Living in smaller houses closer to work and using public transportation are lifestyle choices that can help. But households can save as much as 15% a year on heating and cooling bills by simply turning the thermostat back 10–15 degrees for eight hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Although your own energy saving adjustments may seem inconsequential, small steps become great leaps when multiplied by millions of others just like you. Try switching up some of your habits with these easy tips from Green Mountain Energy.
- Invest in a smart thermostat to help with efficiency.
- Seal gaps in windows, doors and air ducts.
- Switch to energy-efficient LED lighting.
- Unplug infrequently used electronics.
- Keep your refrigerator well-stocked so it uses less energy to keep contents cold.
- Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees.
- Keep areas around vents clear of furniture, toys and clutter.
- Replace air filters and schedule regular HVAC tune-ups.
- Make sure your next new appliance is ENERGY STAR® certified.
Energy-saving tips for hot weather:
- Raise your thermostat four degrees when you’re not at home.
- Set your ceiling fan to rotate counterclockwise and use it to circulate cool air.
- Close curtains during the day or tilt your blinds to direct sunlight toward the ceiling.
- Wash clothes and dishes at night, and ensure loads are full.
- Enjoy some free AC with others at a movie theater, shopping mall, gym or other indoor venue.
Energy-saving tips for cold weather:
- Lower your thermostat four degrees when you’re not at home.
- Set your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise and use it to recirculate heat that has risen.
- Open south-facing blinds and curtains during the day.
- Make sure your attic has enough insulation, including around the access door.
- Opt for extra layers or get cozy under a warm blanket.
For more resources on conserving energy, check out our Small Actions Spark Big Changes webpage.