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Energy Efficiency 101

20150923_EE101_fbEnergy efficiency is the name of the game over at CUB.  Read this Energy Efficiency 101 guide to find out how saving energy can save you some green:

What is it?

In simplest terms, energy efficiency refers to using less energy to perform the same task. For example, an energy efficient washing machine cleans your dishes the same, but wastes less energy in the process.  In the summer, drawing the shades keeps your home cool, without the air conditioning unit guzzling electricity.

Energy efficiency covers a wide range of strategies—from smart building design to smart appliances in our homes. It can be as simple as drawing the shades on a cold winter night to help block a drafty window and as complex as sophisticated energy-management systems to help reduce industrial energy use.

For individual consumers, energy efficiency does not need to be difficult or expensive, and often involves simple adjustments that can later have a huge impact on your bills. The benefits of energy efficiency include positive impacts on the environment, public health, and home energy bills.

How does it reduce electricity bills?

The cheapest kilowatt is the one you don’t use. In other words, by practicing energy efficiency, you will use less energy.  If you use less energy, your utility bills go down.

However, efficiency benefits everyone, not just the individuals who partake. One home practicing efficiency can help reduce energy demand across the grid, which in turn signifies less need to build expensive, polluting power plants that ratepayers end up financing through their utility bills. The end result: lower rates for everyone.

What are examples of good EE programs?

The utilities offer a range of energy efficiency programs that you can take advantage of for free or at discounted price.  These programs include:

  • In-store discounts on energy efficient lighting options. Energy-efficient LEDs and CFLs use 75-85% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, and LEDs at least 50 times longer. Both ComEd and Ameren offer in-store discounts at select retailers.
  • Refrigerator and freezer recycling programs.  Old fridges or freezers in your home could be costing you up to $100 a year to run.  ComEd and Ameren both offer programs that haul away an old second refrigerator or freezer–and actually pay you for them.
  • Appliance and thermostat rebates.   The utilities offer many rebates to help ease the upfront cost of purchasing efficient appliances and products. Consumers who replace their appliances with newer models can save nearly $250 a year, and those savings are expected to grow to $360 annually by 2030, according to the Department of Energy.  Find out more by checking out CUB’s energy efficiency fact sheets.
  • Home Energy Audits.  The Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Home Energy Jumpstart Program, for example, offers a free personalized home energy assessment to identify areas where you can cut energy costs. It also includes the installation of free energy-saving products, such as smart power strips, efficient light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, and programmable thermostats. You can also choose to have a smart thermostat and LEDs installed, which are available to purchase at a discount. Call 1-844-367-5867 to get started.
  • Weatherization rebates.  You can help your home get ready for the colder weather with heating and weatherization rebates.  Many utilities offer rebates for efficiency improvements and products—such as attic and wall insulation, high efficiency furnaces and boilers, and duct sealing—which reduce the amount of work your heating system has to do to keep warm air in and cold air out. Check your utility’s website or call for more information.

Where do I get more information?

  • CUB’s Energy Efficiency page
  • Energy Efficiency Tips for all seasons
  • CUB Energy Saver, CUB’s free online tool that builds a customized money-saving plan for your home and rewards you for cutting energy use.
  • U.S. Department of Energy 
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR website.