Energy Efficiency In The Modern Age

Houses and energy efficiency concept. 3d illustration

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Each year, the United States consumes a multitude of wasted energy in the form of transmission, outdated and inefficient technology, and excess heat. As this inefficiency mounts, it ends up costing U.S. citizens and businesses money—and leads to dangerous increases in carbon pollution.

The answer to this wastefulness? Energy efficiency. But to implement smarter uses of power and conservation, you must understand it. Energy efficiency defined are the means of creating cost-effective methods to save energy wherever possible.

These efforts can help prevent climate change, clean the atmosphere and purify our air, and create new industries designed to reduce consumer energy costs.

Read on to learn how the U.S. Department of Energy is collaborating with some of the smartest minds in education and business to develop high-tech, energy-efficient strategies to influence change for good.

The Latest Science and Trends of the Department of Energy

The Energy Department spearheads research to yield innovation and plays a pivotal role in enhancing our economy. As the science arm of the U.S. government, the Department encourages substantial growth in the primary and applied research fields.

It also plays an essential role in the discovery of new clean energy resources, the development of technologies to support that research, and sets the priority of scientific innovation as a pillar of the U.S. economy.

Here are some of the ways the Department sparks change and national growth:

  • Funding advanced research to deploy clean energy tools and technology, usually through the Loan Programs Office and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
  • Encourage, and participate in, the collaboration between academia, industry, and government bodies
  • Serve the communities across the United States with 17 National Laboratories each an influential driver of economic growth for its respective region
  • Abide by its mission to create a thriving scientific ecosystem

In this article, you will understand how the Department of Energy is using innovations to drive energy efficiency, which includes:

Energy efficient cars
Image via Slash Gear
  • Energy efficient cars
  • Clean energy
  • Energy sources
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Building supplies
  • Street lighting
  • Aircraft
  • Energy conservation
  • Sustainable energy

Energy Efficient Cars

Vehicles are an ever-present, essential part of the American experience. Our cars and trucks define us and compliment our character. And moving people—or goods—across the U.S. is a critical component of our infrastructure and national economy.

That’s why it’s imperative that this segment of the country’s financial lifeline is transformed into an energy-saving, technologically advanced commodity.

Enter electric cars. The Energy Department is currently funding research into new technologies designed to not only save US citizens money at gas pumps but to create fuel-efficient vehicle options like electric or alternative fuel vehicles. This effort would lead to three hopeful outcomes:

  • Provide customers a more extensive range of vehicle selections
  • Decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil
  • Reduce negative impacts on the environment

Clean Energy

Currently, clean energy is revolutionizing American life, all in part due to the constant innovation of organizations within the renewable energy industry.

The industry is experiencing tremendous growth: it generates billions in economic revenue and serves as an example that yes, clean energy can be accomplished and profitable. Clean energy has created immense opportunity for other countries seeking to invent, produce and export their technologies across the world.

The United States has ushered in the development of its energy resources, such as bioenergy, geothermal, nuclear, solar, water and wind, to drive global leadership for clean energy. That is all done with the goal of securing a healthier, happier energy future.

Energy Sources

other sources of energy
Image via Our Energy

Energy isn’t just a catch-all term—it comes in many different forms and subforms. However, primary energy sources can be grouped into four types:

  • Nuclear energy
  • Fossil energy (oil, coal, natural gas)
  • Renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric)

Each of these primary sources can be converted into electricity, which itself is a secondary source of energy. It flows through our power lines and throughout the country’s infrastructure, leading to homes, buildings, and businesses. In 2012, Americans spent more than $3,052 due to an over-reliance on fossil energy.

Renewable energy is free to use and convert. It can also create electricity in a safer, environmentally friendly way than the nuclear way, which can be dangerous to handle, or fossil fuels, which cannot return after its depleted.

Energy Efficient Appliances

As mentioned above, the clean energy revolution is spreading across the United States which has changed the way manufacturers design our freezers, stoves, ovens, dishwashers, washers and dryers. These days, modern appliances use less energy than predecessor models.

In contrast, older appliances use 40 percent more energy than current machines. In fact, replacing your older appliances can be one of the best methods to cut down your energy bill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by McKinsey & Company.

Another advantage that modern appliances have is that the technologies identify which appliance is idle, then its programmed to shut down or enter low-energy mode.

Check to see if your next appliance purchase has an energy input label. Or, if you are on a budget, another tip to decrease your energy consumption is to install a clothesline for drying clothes.

Building Supplies

Buildings do more than host businesses, residents, or take up city blocks. They serve as vital centers of possible energy efficiency improvement. Buildings consume a massive amount of energy. Solutions to conserve energy in buildings raise a few complex variables that have to be understood before efficiency can take place.

These variables include indoor conditions of the buildings and the measures that building administrators take to keep the structure well lit, heated, cooled, adequately ventilated and comfortable—all of which consume energy.

When a building operates, the indoor environment can vary even more due to overall usage, total occupancy of the building, or efficient use of space.

It’s standard procedure to also divide the energy consumption by the floor area of a building to get the specific energy consumption (SEC), also known as energy use intensity.

But then there are the actual building materials, which can contain stored energy within. This embodied energy is locked until the building is either dismantled and the energy is recovered and reused, or the material is burned to release its stored power. SEC has yet to address these vulnerabilities—which only increases the need of energy efficiency initiatives for buildings.

Street Lights

energy efficient street lights
Image via Milestone Solarcom

More than 317 million lights are lined up our city streets across the globe. That’s a lot of energy consumption. And some cities are trying to change the massive strain their energy use puts on our crumbling infrastructure.

City officials have resorted to dimming lights while in off-peak hours or adopting LED lamps as an alternative to reduce light power.


Reducing energy in air transportation has become easier with the advent of clean energy. Most planes are now modified to consume much differently than the models of yesteryear.

Also, air traffic control management has become more interconnected to save planes from spending more time in the air than need be. The industry has fuel-efficient methods such as technology that provides enhanced automation during takeoff and landing, as well as collision avoidance. Other features include HVACs, lighting, security and scanning.

Some planes are now outfitted with turbochargers to reduce energy. Turbochargers work by compression of air. At a higher altitude, the engine of an aircraft can compress the thinner air to manipulate the plane into operating as though it were in normal, sea-level pressure. The planes can also leverage the reduce drag caused by the change in the air.

Energy Conservation Starts With You

If energy efficiency is the first step towards building a better ecosystem, then energy conservation is the end goal. Maintenance includes all of the active initiatives to decrease energy consumption, such as behavior change by the population at large.

This behavior change would include efficiency improvements and non-efficiency, such as the following examples:

  • Heating rooms less during peak times in the winter
  • Managing your care usage and driving less to save gasoline and limit emissions
  • Using a clothesline to air dry your clothing instead of a dryer
  • Enabling your energy saving modes on your tablets, computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices

Energy conservation poses a challenge since there are no major policy decisions in place to ensure that technology and behavior are aligned. Especially with fossil fuels. However, non-government organizations at the local, regional, and national level, are developing programs to meet this challenge.

Additionally, psychologists have validated that behavior change and conservation is possible if technological and laws are considered to ensure energy efficiency.

We could all do more to ensure that we are aligning our lives with energy efficiency. Change cannot happen overnight, but our contributions can make an immediate impact on our daily lives. And even those of our neighbors.

If you are interested in energy conservation and efficiency but don’t know where to start, check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s list of apps for energy.

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