5 Steps for Making the US an Energy Efficiency Leader

5 Steps for Making the US an Energy Efficiency Leader

Consumer Reports is offering five tips on how to transform the U.S. from an energy hog to a global energy efficiency leader.

The advice along with seven ideas on how to decrease household energy consumption grew out of a nationwide survey the magazine conducted after recent data showed that U.S. per capita consumption of energy has hit the lowest level in 41 years in 2009, yet Americans still use more energy than people in most other countries.

Why? Because it "(t)urns out that it's harder than it should be" to be energy efficient," the magazine said in reporting on the outcome of its survey of 1,536 U.S. homeowners and crafting the tips from the responses.

Here are Consumer Reports' five recommendations for making the country a leader in energy efficiency and conservation:

  1. Strengthen Energy Star standards. The Environmental Protection Agency should focus on toughening Energy Star qualifications.
  2. Bring product testing into the 21st century. Saying it found that some appliances perform differently under Department of Energy test conditions than they would in a home, Consumer Reports urged that testing be continually updated and strengthened to keep pace with product changes.
  3. Take the hassle out of incentives. The survey found 91 percent homeowners made a purchase or improvement that qualified for a government rebate or tax credit, but only a quarter said took advantage of an incentive program. Reasons included belief that their purchase didn't qualify, confusion over rules and a perception that the amount of the incentive wasn't worth the trouble.
  4. Adopt what works abroad -- such as the European Union's standards for standby power consumption (the amount of energy an appliance consumes when it is not being used) and Australia's field testing of appliances.
  5. Turn up the heat on the industry. This would include stiffer fines against manufacturers that don't abide by rules for energy efficiency. More media scrutiny of violators.

The magazine's seven tips for saving energy at home are:

  1. Fix leaky ducts. The move could save $400 a year.
  2. Program the thermostat. Potential annual savings: $200.
  3. Jettison the lead foot. Obeying speed limits and avoiding jack-rabbit starts and stops could save $200 a year.
  4. Tame hidden energy use. Save about $125 a year by turning off appliances, such as video game players, when not in use.
  5. Stop rinsing dirty dishes before placing them in the dishwasher for a potential annual savings of $75.
  6. Wash clothes in cold water and save about $60 a year.
  7. Adjust TVs to "home mode," rather than in "retail mode," and save about $30 to $60 a year.

The Consumer Reports survey found that 81 percent of respondents had purchased energy efficient lightbulbs, 44 percent purchased an Energy Star appliance and 23 percent upgraded to a more energy efficient heating or cooling system. Seventy-seven percent said they did so to lower energy costs, and 36 percent said they acted in order to take advantage of a rebate or credit.

More information on the magazine's survey and other energy saving tips, such what to look for in a CFL, are available at www.consumerreports.org.

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