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Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Everyone uses energy

People use energy 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 people'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 light-emitting diode (LED) light bulb or a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb that requires less energy than an incandescent light 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: February 1, 2019

Energy efficiency and conservation

Energy efficiency means using less energy to provide the same level of energy services. Examples of energy-efficient practices include 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 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.

Did you know?

Since 1992, ENERGY STAR® and its partners have helped save American families and businesses about $450 billion and 3.5 trillion kilowatthours of electricity while also achieving broad emissions reductions—all through voluntary action.

Energy efficiency is different from energy conservation

Sometimes people confuse energy efficiency with energy conservation. When someone follows the advice on a sign that says, "Be energy efficient—use the stairs instead of the elevator," are they increasing energy efficiency? No. The elevator will operate less often, but it will still use the same amount of electricity when it does operate. Using the stairs instead of an elevator is energy conservation. Two or more people using the elevator at the same time is more efficient than just one person using it.

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 with 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 Renewables and Efficiency® is a comprehensive source of information on financial incentives for energy conservation efforts and energy-efficient product and equipment purchases.

The ENERGY STAR® program is the U.S. government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. The program is a source of information on energy-efficient products and on financial incentives for purchasing them.

Last updated: February 1, 2019