How can you make your home more efficient? Efficiency by definition is creating a desired effect while using or wasting the least amount of resources. When we think of home efficiency, we typically think of an energy efficient home such that we want the energy used in our home to cost the least. There are many different types of efficiencies in our home depending on the desired effect and resources used.
Energy efficiency: using the least amount of energy from outside our home given the amount of energy you use inside. Using the least amount of energy doesn’t always translate into the least cost of energy.
Financial efficiency: getting the most tangible benefit for the least expense
Pollution efficiency: wasting the least amount of material
Labor efficiency: getting the most out of your own labor so that you can relax more
Each of these efficiencies can contradict one another and there will usually be trade offs between each one depending on your overall goals for your home and lifestyle. If you simply want to reduce the money that you spend on your home and home energy, your goal would be financial efficiency. If you want to reduce your footprint on the planet and have more of a green or environmental goal, then energy efficiency and pollution efficiency would be your top priorities. Reducing your overall energy use is energy conservation which shouldn’t be confused with energy efficiency. Environmentalists typically call for saving energy or conserving energy so that we will have less of an impact on the world. On the other hand, labor efficiency is for those who want to worry the least and spend the least amount of time working in their home.
Energy efficiency is the ratio of productive work generated in a process to the total amount of energy used. An incandescent light bulb produces light and heat from electricity. The light efficiency is only 10% meaning that only 10% of the input electricity produces light, which is highly inefficient. If the bulb is indoors in the summer, the heat given off by the bulb will heat the room and may cause the air conditioning to run more which would be counter productive and reduce the bulb’s efficiency even more. However, if the bulbs are used in the winter, then the home heating system can run less and the bulbs’ efficiency is increased possibly up to 100%. For outdoor bulbs, the heat from the bulbs is irrelevant and the efficiency stays at 10%.
Financial Efficiency or cost savings is the amount of money saved by installing a device compared to the device cost. The amount of time required to get cost savings can vary. Replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent will show cost savings sooner than installing a complete solar panel system.
Pollution efficiency is the amount of productive work from a process compared to the amount of wasted material that must be discarded. Solar panels, while in use, are pollution free, but the manufacturing process of solar panels generates waste. The amount of desired pollution efficiency depends more on your values and the perceived cost to the environment of the pollution. Pollution efficiency often comes with a trade off with financial efficiency with many environmentalists willing to bear a greater cost for reducing pollution.
Labor efficiency is the amount of productive work from a device compared to the human labor needed to install and maintain it. For example a gas or electric stove requires much less effort to use compared to a wood burning stove since you only have to turn on an electric or gas stove to get heat.
When comparing the different efficiencies of different devices keep in mind that efficiencies can vary over time and be aware of the expected lifetime of each device. For example, if a solar panel system stops working before cost savings are achieved, then the system would be financially inefficient.