Energy Efficiency as a Climate Solution (and Money saver)

One of the hardest things to write about with climate change solutions is energy efficiency. Yet in essence it is also the simplest. Like ‘demand response’ (being paid to turn off your power when the demand is high) energy efficiency is a demand tool. It can either reduce your power usage when performing the same task or it can substantially increase your productivity using the same amount of power. It can be applied on an industrial scale in large factories and warehouses down to your humble home. It has been described by some as one of the ‘low hanging fruit’ in the jargon of climate change solutions meaning that it is the easiest and frequently the cheapest of options.

One example rapidly becoming universal is the LED lighting which when installed gives massive savings in energy. As well, as the adoption proceeds, the price per unit continues to drop. At a government level an act to increase regulations on auto emissions should assist the rapid adoption of electric vehicles. Currently the Internal combustion engine is about 20% efficient when propelling a motor car – most of the energy is wasted, mainly in heat. An electric motor by comparison is 95% efficient and this is one of the many advantages the electric vehicle has over our fossil fuelled vehicles. Our future is looking increasingly ‘all electric’.

Recently Mike Hinchey of Bairnsdale has been running ‘energy efficiency’ classes at U3A. The lectures include basic electricity and how the home owner can get the ‘best bang for their buck’. They are about reducing our power bills as much as possible whilst still maintaining our comfort levels. Examples include increasing insulation of the house wherever possible to reduce the demands for heating and cooling in summer and winter. As with the motor vehicle in the home the future is also looking ‘all electric’ with the super-efficient air cons replacing bar heaters in the winter and providing comfort in the summer. One must be aware however of regular cleaning of filters and that the higher the air con is set in summer, or vice versa, the more energy it will use and the more it will cost.

Mike’s classes have looked at summer cooling of residences including insulation qualities of windows (virtually none), blinds, curtains, eaves, shaded windows, and uses the East Gippsland Shire Energy Smart Housing Manual as a guide. He emphasizes low cost options all reducing energy use, saving money and reducing each household’s carbon footprint. Mature-age members of our society will notice many changes in the architecture of the buildings around them – the loss of eaves in new constructions, for instance, increases the need for artificial cooling. This can be compared with the large verandas that inevitably surrounded our old country homesteads.

The proliferation of dark roofs is another example that compounds both the heat problem of individual houses and the heat island effect. Whereas in traditional warm climates the building and roofs are painted a reflective white some countries are now legislating that new roofs be either covered with solar panels or have a roof garden on them. All this means that by increasing your energy efficiency you are saving yourself money and in a small way helping to save humanity. It can start with you replacing each incandescent light with LEDs if you have not already done so.