What does Energy Efficient Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Energy efficient is a simple term that is used to identify any appliance or tool that can be employed to reduce the amount of energy necessary to operate machinery or require less heating or cooling within a home or other building. Manufacturers and retailers often advertise energy efficient appliances that will save energy and, therefore, save the consumer a great deal of money in utility costs. This approach can appeal to consumers, since the reduced amount of energy consumption can be seen as helping to make the most of the world’s resources. A second benefit is that the savings on utility costs results in extra money in the budget that can be applied to other obligations or saved for an activity such as a family vacation.

An energy-efficient light bulb uses less electricity than a regular light bulb.
An energy-efficient light bulb uses less electricity than a regular light bulb.

The construction industry can also try to make products more energy efficient by using construction methods and materials that result in homes and public buildings that operate more efficiently. This often involves choosing the right heating and cooling system, as well as using proper insulation and making sure the construction around windows and doors is sealed properly, therefore requiring less energy to heat and cool the interior space.

Many kinds of modern dishwashers are energy efficient.
Many kinds of modern dishwashers are energy efficient.

Most countries have some type of criteria that must be met in order for a home or an appliance to be considered energy efficient. In the United States, appliances must generate at least a 10% reduction in energy usage compared to the current industry standard for a similar product. Other countries have similar guidelines or require a higher percentage of energy reduction before the appliance can truly be considered efficient. In addition to governmental criteria, many manufacturers also set standards that exceed the minimum requirements set by various nations.

Energy-efficient televisions require less electricity.
Energy-efficient televisions require less electricity.

The concept has gained a great deal of attention in recent decades. Many products, such as insulation, double paned windows, and even draperies, are sometimes touted as being helpful fools in making a home use energy more efficiently. Consumers often purchase kitchen appliances that require less electricity or natural gas while still providing the same level of performance as other appliances. Even household items, such as television sets and vacuum cleaners, are sometimes rated as requiring less electricity.

An energy efficient microwave.
An energy efficient microwave.

In the final analysis, energy efficient simply means any product that makes it possible to enjoy the same standard of living while consuming less energy. As people everywhere continue to take an interest in minimizing the drain on natural resources to produce energy, it is likely that there will be newer and more effective methods of producing goods that are use energy more efficiently.

Certain construction methods can make a home more energy efficient.
Certain construction methods can make a home more energy efficient.
Energy efficiency can include purchasing certain home appliances that use less gas while providing the same level of performance as other appliances.
Energy efficiency can include purchasing certain home appliances that use less gas while providing the same level of performance as other appliances.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@cloudel – It does take a long time to do a load of laundry in a high efficiency washer! However, the savings in both energy and water are awesome and worth the wait.

To save even more energy, I only wash with cold water. My clothes get just as clean as they would in warm water.


I was thrilled when my in-laws got my husband and I an energy efficient washer and dryer as a wedding gift. Together, they cost more than $1,000, so we never could have afforded them.

I watched the washer in action, and I was surprised by how little water it used. The motions would start and stop. This was very different from my parents' old washer, which would run continuously and make lots of noise.

The washer does take longer to complete a normal cycle than a regular washer does. I suppose this is because of the stopping and starting that it does to save energy.

I do know that it is supposed to save water. I was told that if I used regular laundry detergent in it instead of high efficiency detergent, I would have a flood of bubbles, because it would just be too much for the washer.


My house does not have energy efficient insulation, but there's nothing I can do about that. I rent the home, and it is fifty years old.

All I can do is use energy efficient appliances. This does help, and any little bit counts.


I think that solar power is the best of all energy efficient solutions. True, getting the solar panels set up is very costly at first, but the savings down the line are so worth it.

My friend spent about $10,000 on getting set up for solar energy, but her electric bill has gone down so much that it is paying for itself. Obviously, this is something you have to save up for, but you will be greatly rewarded if you do.


@chicada- When purely looking at energy, it might be useful to buy an energy-monitoring device like TED to view energy use in real time. These devices also have software programs that allow you to analyze the impact specific devices have on your energy loads.

An average analysis of energy consuming devices in a home show that central air conditioners, water heaters, clothes washers, and refrigerators all use well over 1000 kW/h per year; much more than all the lighting needs of an average home. With this analysis, you can decide if you need to install energy efficient light bulbs, heating, or appliances.

The best way to determine if your improvement is going to be cost effective is to do a cost analysis of the proposed improvement. Determine what the estimated payback for your investment would be based on the analysis of your energy efficiency or conservation improvement. Usually if it is less than five to seven years, people tend to think it is worthwhile.


@Chicada- I can give you a little advice on where to start. There are five target areas to examine when deciding on energy conservation and efficiency measures. They include the building envelope, equipment and appliances, secondary systems (HVAC), primary systems (Chillers and Boilers), and building operation. Each of these areas has specific systems and components that are vulnerable to heat and other energy losses.

As for analyzing what might be reducing efficiency in primary and secondary systems, you may want to have an energy audit to see where your home can use improvements. In a typical home, the majority of heat losses, almost 40%, are attributed to cracks in windows, doors, and walls.

Another 20% is lost through basement walls, approximately 15% through frame walls and windows, and only about 5% through the ceiling and roof. This means that caulking and sealing is often the best bang for the buck, while insulating an attic is the least. Insulating frame walls and installing energy efficient windows is also good for sealing the building envelope, but it can be the most costly.


How do you determine if an energy efficiency upgrade is worthwhile? My energy bills have been skyrocketing, but I am not sure if certain energy efficiency improvements would be worthwhile. I also do not know where to start when it comes to conserving energy and increasing efficiency. What are the most important places to look for energy savings in my home? What about my business?

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