We’ve talked about energy efficiency here on the Compass Heating and Air blog. You see that phrase pop up a lot when we’re talking about a VRV system that uses next to no electricity, for example. Or a conventional HVAC system that doesn’t need nearly as much natural gas as older ones.
And, lately, we’ve focussed on energy independence: the idea that you’re not relying on anyone else to power your home. On the local level, that usually means generating your own power or reducing your usage.
On a larger scale, it’s the idea that our country doesn’t rely on another nation for oil or other crucial energy supplies.
In the middle of this conversation then is “energy conservation.” We’ve used that term a few times recently but mostly in passing.
So, we’re digging in a little more on the idea of energy conservation. And, in particular, how it differs from energy efficiency — and where the two overlap.
And finally, since we’re an HVAC company and not a dictionary, we’ll explain what these terms all have to do with your heating and cooling system.
Ultimately, our goal is to help you use less energy in your Fox River Valley home without compromising your comfort. Knowing the sometimes subtle differences between these words won’t make that happen automatically.
But, that knowledge can help you get a clear view of how you want to shape your home’s energy management.
Energy conservation is the overall practice of cutting down the amount of energy you use. This gets as small as making sure you turn off the lights when you leave the room. Or, reducing your use of electronics and screens.
You can also make sure your dishwasher and washing machine have full loads before you turn them on. Or, air-dry your clothes instead of running the dryer.
If you’re a good cook, you can even experiment with baking using glass or ceramic pans. With those materials, you can usually reduce the temperature by 25 percent of what the recipe calls for.
It’s the decision to use less energy overall in your home and finding ways to practice that all the time.
You don’t need to upgrade your HVAC system as part of your energy conservation plan (although we’ll explore that option later). Instead, there’s a lot you can do with your existing setup and other parts of your home.
The idea here is to use as little energy as possible. With your HVAC system, that means optimizing your appliances and your home to require as little heating and cooling as possible.
Starting with your furnace or AC: Get a tune-up every year and change the filters. Keeping the machines in tip-top shape means they won’t need as much electricity, gas, or oil to do the job.
Next, get rid of drafts in your house! Anywhere that air escapes, you’re losing the warmth or cooling you’re using energy to create.
You can even go down as far as changing the direction of your fan blades with the seasons. Or opening and closing your blinds at different times of the day to keep heat in or out.
Those small and virtually cost-free practices can add up to have a significant impact on your energy usage.
Energy efficiency is more specific than energy conservation. It's the idea of using less energy to perform the same task that used to require more energy.
Energy conservation has to do with reducing the overall amount of power you use. Energy efficiency means eliminating waste: getting the same results by using less power.
If you look at the suggestions we made in the “conservation” section, those all indicate changes to your old behaviors or routines: Using electronics less, not having your lights on as much, and so on.
By contrast, energy efficiency is finding ways to use less energy to do the things you’ve been doing already.
So, invest in energy-efficient lighting fixtures that use less electricity even if you leave them on as long as incandescent bulbs.
Or, get a new dishwasher or washing machine that requires less water but cleans your kitchenware and clothes just as well (if not better!) than the old ones.
Now, let’s stress that this isn’t a one-or-the-other proposition! In our home, for instance, we’ve done both.
We haven’t used incandescent bulbs for years — and we also make sure the kids turn out the lights every time they’re done in a room. We’ve also got a newer front-loading washing machine that uses less water — but we don’t run it unless it’s full.
That said, it’s a personal choice as to how you and your family structure your conservation and efficiency strategies.
For us, it’s part of our business as well as our lifestyle. As a result, we’ve put a lot of work into it and hope others can pick and choose what works for them based on our experiences.
And, speaking of our business...
If your furnace or AC is getting old and you’re ready to replace it, congratulations! Your home is about to become more energy efficient.
Even if you got the same exact model, your new appliance will use less energy than an old one. That’s just the nature of any machinery: it gets older and less efficient.
From there, you can find various HVAC products that cut your energy usage by a whole lot more — especially if you’re coming from conventional gas-fired furnaces and central air conditioning.
There’s too much to cover here. But, you can read more about, say, two-stage furnaces or heat pump systems. We recently went into great detail about our combination of solar energy and VRV technology that brought our electric bill to almost nothing.
Buying energy-efficient products and practicing energy conservation are excellent ways to make your home energy independent and move our country as a whole toward a more realized energy independence model. And, of course, you’ll also save a lot of money in the process.
As you’re strategizing, remember: Your heating and cooling system is probably using the most resources out of anything in your home. It runs for most of the year, and there are months where you can’t do without it.
If you live in the Fox River Valley, call or email us for a free consultation! We’ll assess your current HVAC system’s resources and help you find ways to reduce that load.