The United States uses approximately 23% of the world’s energy despite only containing about 5% of the world’s population. Decreasing this figure is a high priority, and many are often wondering what they can do to minimize their energy use and consumption. The first step to reducing this figure is educating yourself on how you consume energy and determining ways to reduce and minimize it. Not only does this help decrease the energy consumption of the U.S. as a whole, it also has a variety of other more individualized benefits such as savings on your energy bill. There are a variety of ways you can operate your home and use energy efficiently or conserve and limit energy use entirely. Read below to learn more about energy efficiency, use, and conservation.

Consumption, Conservation, and Efficiency

Despite their phonetic similarities, consumption and conservation are not similar by definition. Consumption is, quite simply, the use of power or energy. This happens much more than you realize, as just about everything you do consumes some sort of energy. Even when you read this article on your phone, tablet, or computer, you are consuming energy. Conversely, conservation is the process of eliminating your energy consumption. This is accomplished by eliminating certain energy-consuming tasks entirely or altering your habits. For example, driving your car to work consumes energy. To conserve energy, you could walk or use public transportation.

Many people often use “efficiency” and “conservation” interchangeably, but there is an important difference between the two. Efficiency is performing the task using less energy, but conservation is eliminating the use of energy entirely. For example, drying your clothes with a top of the line dryer is considered efficient. Air drying your clothes is an example of conservation because the use of energy is eliminated entirely.

Energy Audit and Energy Star Appliances 

If you want to take the first step of increasing your home’s energy efficiency, perform an energy audit. Energy audits provide an in-depth examination of your home’s energy consumption. These audits show you how much energy you use and any inefficient or problematic areas—specifically, where your home loses energy. With the information from the energy audit, you can make any necessary changes to reduce your energy consumption. Energy audits can be performed by homeowners, but professional audits provide a much more in-depth analysis because they utilize equipment such as infrared cameras and tracer gas.

After performing an energy audit, you will know if any appliances are detrimental to your home’s efficiency. You should replace any inefficient or poorly functioning appliances with Energy Star approved models. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program designed to help homeowners and businesses save money and help the environment by reducing their energy consumption. Therefore, Energy Star approved appliances have a variety of benefits. For example, they operate so efficiently that they end up directly reducing your home’s energy bill. They also minimize your carbon footprint.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation in Your Home

There are many ways to reduce and conserve energy in your home. As we already discussed, you could air dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. Dryers consume electricity and eliminating their use, even sporadically, is an excellent form of conservation. This same logic is applied to your dishwasher. Washing and drying dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher conserves a significant amount of energy.

You could also switch to LED light bulbs. They are the most energy-efficient form of in-home lighting, and they last approximately 40 times as their fluorescent counterparts. Since they last so long, you do not have to purchase new light bulbs as much. Coupled with the savings on your energy bill, they quickly pay for themselves!

Another way to conserve energy in your home is by unplugging electronics when they are not in use. Even though they are “off” or in standby mode, appliances still consume energy if they remain plugged in. This is often referred to as a “phantom load,” and this plays a major factor in your home consuming more energy than necessary. To simplify this process, you can purchase power strips for your home. This allows you to simply unplug the entire strip instead of each appliance individually.

Heating and cooling make up approximately 50% of the average home energy bill. Even though HVAC technology consumes a large amount of energy, there are ways to conserve and efficiently use energy. First, you should check on the status of your HVAC system annually or biannually, depending on its usage level. If it is not working at maximum capacity, it uses much more energy than necessary, which causes your energy bill to skyrocket.

If you are considering an HVAC upgrade, ductless air conditioners are an option for those considering to reduce their energy usage. They operate very efficiently and have a litany of other benefits as well. Their simple installation process, minimized environmental impact, and durability make them a very appealing option for homeowners.

There are also various ways to naturally keep your home cool while conserving energy. For example, you can install curtains and blinds on the windows from the inside and awnings from the outside. These naturally keep sunlight out, which will keep your home cool. They also significantly decrease the stress on your HVAC system because it does not have to work as hard, or at all, to keep the temperature low. There are curtains and blinds of varying strengths, such as blackout curtains.

These do an excellent job of keeping all sunlight out of the room while also keeping the room cool, and they are therefore recommended in bedrooms. Ceiling fans are another excellent non-HVAC way to cool your home. They are reasonably priced with a simple installation process, and they also contribute to increased energy efficiency or conservation. 30% of energy in most buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

Now that you’re familiar with energy use and efficiency, you’re ready to take the necessary steps and start practicing energy conservation habits! You’ll notice savings on your energy bill almost immediately, and you’re doing your part to help the environment.

Author Bio: Emily Hodges is a Marketing Communications Specialist for Comfort Up, a provider of indoor and outdoor heating and cooling systems. Emily oversees all marketing-related functions from their Miami, FL office. In her spare time, she loves all things interior design and has helped many friends completely renovate their homes.