Introducing Save Watts at Home

Energy. I didn't have much this morning, so I drank a few cups of coffee.  Afterward, I had lots of energy, but later my energy ran low. I could've had more coffee but then I'd have too much energy to fall asleep and not enough coffee to last the week.

Sound familiar? Sound like America? Do we have too much energy? Do we use too much energy? What would happen if we had less energy to use? And what would happen if we had enough energy, but didn't use it all?

Just as I don't drink all my coffee on Monday morning, it makes sense for a large nation to carefully use its energy resources so they will last. Just as I don't want to pay $12.99/lb. for the artisanal coffee at my neighborhood coffee roaster, so too America doesn't want to pay high electricity bills or $4.00/gallon for gasoline.

It’s great if we have an alternative. I buy decent coffee at 2/3 the price of the artisanal, but America has few choices for cheaper fuel.  The result? The alternative energy movement with its emphasis on renewable resources and energy efficiency.

There’s a catch though: solar, wind, and biomass provide less than 10% of the nation's annual energy budget. They are projected to potentially contribute 15% or more by the year 2035 –given the right combination of public subsidies and political will. The good news is that renewables share of America’s energy consumption is growing rapidly – wind power use grew 28% from 2009 to 2010 and solar power consumption grew 11%. Total renewables consumption is poised to exceed nuclear consumption this year given current rates of growth.

Can Your Energy Efficiencies Help?

How then do we manage America's energy budget in the face of high oil prices and concerns about nuclear power, while waiting for the growth of efficient alternative energy? How would I deal with high coffee prices and no obvious alternative for that morning energy boost?  Two approaches: conservation and efficiency.

I can't get more bang for the buck out of a cup of coffee. To drink more is to spend more. The coffee's efficiency is fixed. My only alternative is to cut back, which I did,

US Energy Reporting Cutbacks Dismay Data Fans

You may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but if you are a builder seeking information about energy consumption by building type, or an energy specialist in search of data for future oil and gas reserves and supplies, you may be out of luck. After a $15.2 million budget cut, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) imposed “significant cuts in data, analysis and forecasting activities" according to EIA Administrator Richard Newell. The immediate cuts, which became effective April 26, include:

- Cancellation of the 2011 US oil and natural gas reserves report
- Ending its study of the links between energy markets and financial trading, including the effect of speculation on the price of oil
- Ending its annual report on solar thermal systems
- Ending auditing of information submitted by major oil and gas companies
- Ending work on its Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the main
source builders use for information on energy consumption in commercial buildings
- Ending analysis and reporting of planned refinery outage market impacts
- Cancelling the 2012 edition of the EIA International Energy Outlook
- Ceasing to publish its annual inventory of US greenhouse emissions
- Curtailing its ability to do special analyses for Congress
- Closed customer contact centers telephone support as of June 6.

The loss of CBECS data, to be issued every four years, affects users of all types of energy use information for the US commercial building stock. In addition to cancelling the 2011 report, the previous 2007 report was withheld due to insufficient statistical standards, leaving builders to rely on 2003 numbers.

The CBECS information supports a variety of energy efficiency standards including the green building LEEDs rating and Energy Star planning tools. "How are we going to know how well we're doing" without new data, said New Buildings Institute Technical Director Mark Frankel. "It's dismaying. There's more interest now in actual building performance than there has ever been before."

More Difficult to Address Energy Challenges

In response to the announced cuts, US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman said "Right now, Americans need that sort of objective information more than ever". He called the EIA one of few credible unprejudiced sources of oil

How to Save Watts at Home - Stay Cool in the Heat

Your home is a living breathing system. Just as you need food and shelter, your home uses inputs like electricity, water and natural solar warmth to produce a life-sustaining residence. You can do many things to increase your home’s energy efficiency and save you money.

According to Consumer Reports, most people are taking some steps towards energy efficiency. In their October 2010 issue they report that a study showed 81% of those surveyed bought energy-efficient light bulbs, 44% purchased an Energy Star appliance, and 43% caulked their windows and doors, A third to a quarter of those surveyed installed energy-efficient windows or doors, installed insulation, upgraded to an energy-efficient heating or cooling system or bought a high efficiency water heater. The report found that 77% of those surveyed took these actions to lower energy costs. Energy efficiency works.

Three actions drive energy efficiency

- Using less power, for example use a solar powered attic fan to cool your attic and relieve the demand on your air conditioner.

- Use power more efficiently; buy Energy Savers rated appliances to get the most bang for your electricity buck.

- Reduce the need for power - one important power saver is to improve your home's insulation, to eliminate drafts warming your cooled air during summer month and losing heat in winter months. The common wisdom among those working in the home energy efficiency field is to insulate first, then put in

Blogging for You

I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome