How to Achieve an Energy Efficient Home for Earth Day and Every Day
We chatted with Rhode Island Energy to learn more about energy efficiency and its many benefits for the environment and beyond.
When it comes to Earth Day and ways in which we can pitch in to help the environment, many of us are apt to think of ride shares and community cleanups (psst: you can find a whole list of those here). But the truth is, you can make a large impact right from the comfort of your home by taking a look at your energy habits. We chatted with Valerie Chase, an EE Consumer Advocate at Rhode Island Energy, to learn more about the benefits of energy efficiency and how Rhode Islanders can make their homes zero energy ready.
First things first, what is energy efficiency exactly and what does it mean to be energy efficient?
Energy efficiency is the use of less energy to achieve the same result or complete the same task. So, to be energy efficient is to eliminate energy waste — we must continually look for ways to do more with less and anywhere that energy is being used provides an opportunity for efficiency.
In what ways does energy efficiency benefit the earth/environment?
Energy efficiency protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions which are the largest contributors to global climate change. In the US, the largest source of greenhouse gas from human activity is produced by burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation. The less energy we use, the less harm we do to the environment. Other environmental impacts directly related to energy production and usage include air pollution, water pollution, thermal pollution and solid waste disposal, so improved efficiency also has positive impacts in these areas.
How else is energy efficiency beneficial?
There are many benefits of energy efficiency.
- Financially, energy efficiency reduces the energy user’s utility costs as every kilowatt or therm that is not used translates into money saved.
- Operationally, energy efficiency lowers the demand on our power system making for better power quality and minimizing the need to build new infrastructure which also has the financial benefit of lowering energy system costs.
- Economically, investing in energy efficiency creates jobs — more specifically jobs that pay higher than average wages. Clean energy is building a new American workforce: in a 2022 report, the Department of Energy found that energy jobs grew faster than the overall US employment in 2021. As employment increases and people have access to more well-paying jobs, the overall economy improves.
- From the perspective of health and wellness, there is a clear link between housing and health. Efficient buildings provide better air quality, leading to lower rates and reduced symptoms of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, while more controlled temperatures prevent heat- and cold-related illnesses and improve comfort. Additionally, as physical health and financial situations improve, so can mental health.
- Finally, energy efficiency can help achieve social goals, improve community resilience and address energy equity for those in traditionally underserved communities.
How can Rhode Islanders be more energy efficient, whether on a small or large scale?
As mentioned, anywhere electricity is being used provides an opportunity for efficiency, so there are many opportunities both big and small to be more efficient and make smart energy choices. Some quick easy ways to be more efficient include switching to LED lights, unplugging devices when not in use and/or using advanced power strips, turning down the thermostat when you are not home and/or using programmable or smart thermostats. Going a bit bigger, you can look at replacing appliances with more efficient, energy star rated models. This includes smaller appliances such as dishwashers, washer/dryers and air conditioners, as well as larger heating and cooling equipment like central air conditioning, furnaces, boilers, etc. Finally, going even bigger, you can look at weatherizing your home — insulating and air sealing allowing you to keep the energy you are using in the home in the home and make the most out of other efficiency upgrades.
What services/programs does Rhode Island Energy offer that can help Rhode Islanders to be more energy efficient?
Rhode Island energy suggests customers follow the path to a zero-energy home:
- Look at the outside of the home
- Look inside the home
- Look to power the future
And we have solutions that can help customers at every step of that process.
- Looking outside the home: we provide no cost home energy assessments for customers. This assessment includes a complete evaluation of the building’s envelope (doors, windows, walls, roof, basement/foundation, etc.) that aims to identify where energy is escaping from the house. The assessment will conclude with recommendations for insulating and air sealing the home for which we offer incentives and financing. Customers can call 1-888-633-7947 to schedule their assessments or visit our website for more information: rienergy.com/ri-home/energy-saving-programs/home-energy-assessments.
- Looking inside the home: the no cost home energy assessment will also include evaluation of the interior of the home including lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment. Recommendations for efficiency in these areas will also be provided along with no cost energy saving products which may include programable thermostats, advanced power strips, faucet aerators and low flow shower heads. We also offer rebates on many appliances and equipment which customers can learn more about at rienergy.com/ri-home/energy-saving-programs/rebate-programs and customers can even shop our marketplace for instant rebates energy efficient products. We currently have an earth day sale running on thermostats here.
- Looking to power the future: Our ConnectedSoultions program supports customers that are embracing clean energy with solar panels and battery storage and using advanced technology such as smart thermostats. Financial incentives are offered to these customers as they help us reduce demand on our system improve the reliability of the grid during periods of high demand. Learn more at rienergy.com/ri-home/connectedsolutions.
We also have the Greenup program which allows customers for whom we are their supplier to choose to have all or a portion of the electricity that we secure on their behalf to come from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, etc. You can find more information on the Greenup program at rienergy.com/ri-electric-faq/faqs-renewable-energy.