Energy conservation is the practice of decreasing the quantity of energy used. It may be achieved through efficient energy use, in which case energy use is decreased while achieving a similar outcome, or by reduced consumption of energy services. Energy conservation may result in increase of financial capital, environmental value, national security, personal security, and human comfort. Individuals and organizations that are direct consumers of energy may want to conserve energy in order to reduce energy costs and promote economic security. Industrial and commercial users may want to increase efficiency and thus maximize profit.
Electrical energy conservation is an important element of energy policy. Energy conservation reduces the energy consumption and energy demand per capita, and thus offsets the growth in energy supply needed to keep up with population growth. This reduces the rise in energy costs, and can reduce the need for new power plants, and energy imports. The reduced energy demand can provide more flexibility in choosing the most preferred methods of energy production.
By reducing emissions, energy conservation is an important part of lessening climate change. Energy conservation facilitates the replacement of non-renewable resources with renewable energy. Energy conservation is often the most economical solution to energy shortages, and is a more environmentally benign alternative to increased energy production.
By country Edit
|The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article or discuss the issue on the talk page. (August 2008)|
The United States is currently the largest single consumer of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy categorizes national energy use in four broad sectors: transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial.
Energy usage in transportation and residential sectors (about half of U.S. energy consumption) is largely controlled by individual domestic consumers. Commercial and industrial energy expenditures are determined by businesses entities and other facility managers. National energy policy has a significant effect on energy usage across all four sectors.
The transportation includes all vehicles used for personal or freight transportation. Of the energy used in this sector, approximately 65% is consumed by gasoline-powered vehicles, primarily personally owned. Diesel-powered transport (trains, merchant ships, heavy trucks, etc.) consumes about 20%, and air traffic consumes most of the remaining 15%.
The two oil supply crisis of the 1970s spurred the creation, in 1975, of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, which required auto manufacturers to meet progressively higher fleet fuel economy targets. The next decade saw dramatic improvements in fuel economy, mostly the result of reductions in vehicle size and weight which originated in the late 1970s, along with the transition to front wheel drive. These gains eroded somewhat after 1990 due to the growing popularity of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans, which fall under the more lenient "light truck" CAFE standard.
In addition to the CAFE program, the U.S. government has tried to encourage better vehicle efficiency through tax policy. Since 2002, taxpayers have been eligible for income tax credits for gas/electric hybrid vehicles. A "gas-guzzler" tax has been assessed on manufacturers since 1978 for cars with exceptionally poor fuel economy. While this tax remains in effect, it currently generates very little revenue as overall fuel economy has improved. The gas-guzzler tax ended the reign of large cubic-inched engines from the musclecar era.
Another focus in gasoline conservation is reducing the number of miles driven. An estimated 40% of American automobile use is associated with daily commuting. Many urban areas offer subsidized public transportation to reduce commuting traffic, and encourage carpooling by providing designated high-occupancy vehicle lanes and lower tolls for cars with multiple riders. In recent years telecommuting has also become a viable alternative to commuting for some jobs, but in 2003 only 3.5% of workers were telecommuters. Ironically, hundreds of thousands of American and European workers have been replaced by workers in Asia who telecommute from thousands of miles away.
Fuel economy-maximizing behaviors also help reduce fuel consumption. Among the most effective are moderate (as opposed to aggressive) driving, driving at lower speeds, using cruise control, and turning off a vehicle's engine at stops rather than idling. A vehicle's gas mileage decreases rapidly highway speeds, normally above 55 miles per hour (though the exact number varies by vehicle). This is because aerodynamic forces are proportionally related to the square of an object's speed (when the speed is doubled, drag quadruples). According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as a rule of thumb, each Template:Convert/mi/h you drive over Template:Convert/mi/h is similar to paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas  The exact speed at which a vehicle achieves it's highest efficiency varies based on the vehicle's drag coefficient, frontal area, surrounding air speed, and the efficiency and gearing of a vehicle's drive train and transmission.
The residential sector refers to all private residences, including single-family homes, apartments, manufactured homes and dormitories. Energy use in this sector varies significantly across the country, due to regional climate differences and different regulation. On average, about half of the energy used in U.S. homes is expended on space conditioning (i.e. heating and cooling).
The efficiency of furnaces and air conditioners has increased steadily since the energy crises of the 1970s. The 1987 National Appliance Energy Conservation Act authorized the Department of Energy to set minimum efficiency standards for space conditioning equipment and other appliances each year, based on what is "technologically feasible and economically justified". Beyond these minimum standards, the Environmental Protection Agency awards the Energy Star designation to appliances that exceed industry efficiency averages by an EPA-specified percentage.
Despite technological improvements, many American lifestyle changes have put higher demands on heating and cooling resources. The average size of homes built in the United States has increased significantly, from Template:Convert/sqft in 1970 to Template:Convert/sqft in 2005. The single-person household has become more common, as has central air conditioning: 23% of households had central air conditioning in 1978, that figure rose to 55% by 2001.
As furnace efficiency gets higher, there is limited room for improvement--efficiencies above 85% are now common. However, improving the building envelope through better or more insulation, advanced windows, etc., can allow larger improvements. The passive house approach produces superinsulated buildings that approach zero net energy consumption. Improving the building envelope can also be cheaper than replacing a furnace or air conditioner.
Even lower cost improvements include weatherization, which is frequently subsidized by utilities or state/federal tax credits, as are programmable thermostats. Consumers have also been urged to adopt a wider indoor temperature range (e.g. 65 °F ( /</span> ) in the winter, 80 °F ( / ) in the summer).
One underutilized, but potentially very powerful means to reduce household energy consumption is to provide real-time feedback to homeowners so they can effectively alter their energy using behavior. Recently, low cost energy feedback displays, such as The Energy Detective or wattson , have become available. A study of a similar device deployed in 500 Ontario homes by Hydro One  showed an average 6.5% drop in total electricity use when compared with a similarly sized control group.
Standby power used by consumer electronics and appliances while they are turned off accounts for an estimated 5 to 10% of household electricity consumption, adding an estimated $3 billion to annual energy costs in the USA. "In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off." 
Home energy consumption averagesEdit
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Energy usage in some homes may vary widely from these averages. For example, milder regions such as the southern U.S. and Pacific coast of the USA need far less energy for space conditioning than New York City or Chicago. On the other hand, air conditioning energy use can be quite high in hot-arid regions (Southwest) and hot-humid zones (Southeast) In milder climates such as San Diego, lighting energy may easily consume up to 40% of total energy. Certain appliances such as a waterbed, hot tub, or pre-1990 refrigerator use significant amounts of electricity. However, recent trends in home entertainment equipment can make a large difference in household energy use. For instance a 50" LCD television (average on-time= 6 hours a day) may draw 300 Watts less than a similarly sized plasma system. In most residences no single appliance dominates, and any conservation efforts must be directed to numerous areas in order to achieve substantial energy savings. However, Ground, Air and Water Source Heat Pump systems are the more energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning and domestic hot water systems available (Environmental Protection Agency), and can achieve reductions in energy consumptions of up to 69%.
Best building practicesEdit
Current best practices in building design, construction and retrofitting result in homes that are profoundly more energy conserving than average new homes. This includes insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting . See Passive house, Superinsulation, Self-sufficient homes, Zero energy building, Earthship, MIT Design Advisor, Energy Conservation Code for Indian Commercial Buildings.
Smart ways to construct homes such that minimal resources are used to cooling and heating the house in summer and winter respectively can significantly reduce energy costs.
The commercial sector consists of retail stores, offices (business and government), restaurants, schools and other workplaces. Energy in this sector has the same basic end uses as the residential sector, in slightly different proportions. Space conditioning is again the single biggest consumption area, but it represents only about 30% of the energy use of commercial buildings. Lighting, at 25%, plays a much larger role than it does in the residential sector. Lighting is also generally the most wasteful component of commercial use. A number of case studies indicate that more efficient lighting and elimination of over-illumination can reduce lighting energy by approximately fifty percent in many commercial buildings.
Commercial buildings can greatly increase energy efficiency by thoughtful design, with today's building stock being very poor examples of the potential of systematic (not expensive) energy efficient design (Steffy, 1997). Commercial buildings often have professional management, allowing centralized control and coordination of energy conservation efforts. As a result, fluorescent lighting (about four times as efficient as incandescent) is the standard for most commercial space, although it may produce certain adverse health effects. Potential health concerns can be mitigated by using newer fixtures with electronic ballasts rather than older magenetic ballasts. As most buildings have consistent hours of operation, programmed thermostats and lighting controls are common. However, too many companies believe that merely having a computer controlled Building automation system guarantees energy efficiency. As an example one large company in Northern California boasted that it was confident its state of the art system had optimized space heating. A more careful analysis by Lumina Technologies showed the system had been given programming instructions to maintain constant 24 hour temperatures in the entire building complex. This instruction caused the injection of nighttime heat into vacant buildings when the daytime summer temperatures would often exceed 90 °F ( /</span> ). This mis-programming was costing the company over $130,000 per year in wasted energy (Lumina Technologies, 1997). Many corporations and governments also require the Energy Star rating for any new equipment purchased for their buildings.
Solar heat loading through standard window designs usually leads to high demand for air conditioning in summer months. An example of building design overcoming this excessive heat loading is the Dakin Building in Brisbane, California, where fenestration was designed to achieve an angle with respect to sun incidence to allow maximum reflection of solar heat; this design also assisted in reducing interior over-illumination to enhance worker efficiency and comfort.
Recent advances include use of occupancy sensors to turn off lights when spaces are unoccupied, and photosensors to dim or turn off electric lighting when natural light is available. In air conditioning systems, overall equipment efficiencies have increased as energy codes and consumer information have begun to emphasise year round performance rather than just efficiency ratings at maximum output. Controllers that automatically vary the speeds of fans, pumps, and compressors have radically improved part-load performance of those devices. For space or water heating, electric heat pumps consume roughly half the energy required by electric resistance heaters. Natural gas heating efficiencies have improved through use of condensing furnaces and boilers, in which the water vapor in the flue gas is cooled to liquid form before it is discharged, allowing the heat of condensation to be used. In buildings where high levels of outside air are required, heat exchangers can capture heat from the exhaust air to preheat incoming supply air.
The industrial sector represents all production and processing of goods, including manufacturing, construction, farming, water management and mining. Increasing costs have forced energy-intensive industries to make substantial efficiency improvements in the past 30 years. For example, the energy used to produce steel and paper products has been cut 40% in that time frame, while petroleum/aluminum refining and cement production have reduced their usage by about 25%. These reductions are largely the result of recycling waste material and the use of cogeneration equipment for electricity and heating.
Another example for efficiency improvements is the use of products made of High temperature insulation wool (HTIW) which enables predominantly industrial users to operate thermal treatment plants at temperatures between 800 and 1400°C. In these high-temperature applications, the consumption of primary energy and the associated CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 50% compared with old fashioned industrial installations. The application of products made of High temperature insulation Wool is becoming increasingly important against the background of the currently dramatic rising cost of energy.
The energy required for delivery and treatment of fresh water often constitutes a significant percentage of a region's electricity and natural gas usage (an estimated 20% of California's total energy use is water-related.) In light of this, some local governments have worked toward a more integrated approach to energy and water conservation efforts.
To conserve energy, some industries have begun using solar panels to heat their water.
Unlike the other sectors, total energy use in the industrial sector has declined in the last decade. While this is partly due to conservation efforts, it's also a reflection of the growing trend for U.S. companies to move manufacturing operations overseas.
Energy conservation in the United Kingdom has been receiving increased attention over recent years. Key factors behind this are the Government's commitment to reducing carbon emissions, the projected 'energy gap' in UK electricity generation, and the increasing reliance on imports to meet national energy needs. Domestic housing and road transport are currently the two biggest problem areas.
The UK Government has jointly funded the Energy Saving Trust to promote energy conservation at a consumer, business and community level since 1993.
Issues with energy conservationEdit
Critics and advocates of some forms of energy conservation make the following arguments: