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Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Everyone uses energy

People use energy each day for transportation, cooking, heating and cooling rooms, manufacturing, lighting, entertainment, and many other uses. The choices people make about how they use energy—turning machines off when they're not using them or choosing to buy fuel-efficient vehicles and energy-efficient appliances—affects the environment and everyone's lives.

Did you know?

Energy Star logo The ENERGY STAR® label on appliances and electronic equipment identifies energy-efficient products.

Efficiency and conservation are different but related

The terms energy efficiency and energy conservation have distinct meanings:

  • Energy efficiency is using technology that requires less energy to perform the same function. Using a compact fluorescent light bulb that requires less energy instead of using an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light is an example of energy efficiency.
  • Energy conservation is any behavior that results in the use of less energy. Turning the lights off when leaving the room and recycling aluminum cans are both ways of conserving energy.

Last updated: December 15, 2016

Energy energy efficiency and conservation

Did you know?

With the help of the ENERGY STAR® program, between 1992 and 2014, families and businesses saved $362 billion on utility bills and avoided emissions of 2.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses

Energy efficiency means using less energy to provide the same level of energy services. For example, replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and purchasing energy-efficient appliances and electronic equipment.

Energy conservation occurs when we reduce the amount of energy services we use, such as turning off lights when we leave a room or setting building thermostats lower in the winter and higher in the summer.

Energy efficiency is different from energy conservation

Sometimes people confuse energy effiency with energy conservation. If someone followed the advice on a sign that says, "Be energy efficient—use the stairs instead of the elevator," is he or she increasing energy efficiency? No. The elevator would operate less often, but it would still use the same amount of electricity when it did operate. Taking the stairs instead of an elevator is energy conservation.

The rebound effect complicates energy conservation efforts

If demand for energy services did not change, then improving energy efficiency would reduce energy consumption. However, some energy efficiency improvements might not reduce energy consumption overall. For example, although appliance efficiency standards and building codes have increased energy efficiency, consumers could offset these gains by buying larger homes or more and larger appliances. This offset is called the rebound effect.

Did you know?

People can do their own home energy audit. The ENERGY STAR® Home Energy Yardstick helps people compare their home's energy use to similar homes across the country. Home Energy Yardstick also provides recommendations for energy-saving home improvements.

We can conserve and use energy efficiently in many ways

The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is a comprehensive source of information on energy conservation and efficiency policies, programs, and energy education.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy and Efficiency (DSIRE) is a comprehensive source of information on financial incentives for energy conservation efforts and energy-efficient product and equipment purchases.

Last updated: February 1, 2017