by Michael Lowrey
Got a letter from Duke Energy the other day on how my energy usage compared to others in similar houses. The idea is to create a sort of peer pressure to reduce energy consumption. I get what Duke is after — reducing consumption may be cheaper and easier than building addition capacity. But there’s a line between sensible savings and the inane goal of reducing energy consumption at all costs.
As fate would have it, I use very little energy — some 45 percent less than what an “efficient home” of comparable age and size uses in “my area.” The Duke letter then goes on to state in large type “What can I do to save money and energy?” and offers two suggestions:
• “Use efficient bulbs for your outdoor lighting. Save up to $15 per year.”
Not sure why Duke Energy embraces such potentially planet-killing advice. I have long adopted what I feel is a much stricter standard — I rarely turn my outdoor lights on. I have always done this to save money. More importantly, I do this because I often don’t sleep well anyway and having outdoor lights on just makes my inability to sleep worse.
This also gets at the flip side of using a peer-pressure approach. The letter notes that “Outdoor lighting can be on for 12-14 hours of every day, so you’ll really save energy when you switch.” This suggests that most or at least many people have their outdoor lighting for many hours at night — and by implication you should too. Or at least that it’s OK to have your lights on all night, especially if you use energy-efficient bulbs. And people who might be thinking of reducing their energy consumption by not turning their lights on might read the letter and instead decide to keep them on, with or without more efficient bulbs.
• “Buy an ENERGY STAR television. Save up to $12 a year.”
Duke notes that ENERGY STAR (yes, they have it in all caps) TVs use about 30 percent less energy than standard models. Which is nice and all, but is there a return on that investment? $12 a year isn’t a lot of money to begin with, and Duke throws in a big qualifier of “up to.” Presumably, television size and usage will determine to what degree you’ll see those massive savings. And there’s a far easier way to save money and energy that Duke doesn’t mention — turn the TV off when you’re not actively watching it.
Bonus observation: I don’t have a programmable thermostat either. Wasn’t worth the extra money to me — not sure what I should program one to do as I work out of my house and my sleep pattern is pretty much random. Obviously that isn’t a barrier to being well beyond “efficient.”