30 percent solution

Energy Efficiency: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Energy efficiency is something our nonprofit knows well. A relatively modest investment can net impressive yields. Local governments and businesses can reap big rewards, but many homeowners see good returns too.

But energy efficiency outreach can be a tough sell. My wife says it is because efficiency comes with a price tag. The initial expenditure (insulation, new lights and air conditioners and the like) turns people off. "People want it for free," Mary Lou says, even though there can be an associated tax deduction.

I think of energy efficiency as an investment. I could pay a relatively modest amount to reap greater returns in the future. But, the whole efficiency thing is difficult for some to grasp. People ask, "How can changing lights and similar measures possibly make a significant difference in my future?"

By reducing your power bill. That means you are spending less, which means you have more money in your pocket. Money you can sock away for college or retirement, or spend on something else - thus stimulating our moribund economy. By some estimates, a nationwide cut of 30% would save $40 billion ANNUALLY by 2030, and could be a bright spot in the jobs market. Home builders are adopting guidelines and buying into the idea, as are schools and others.

Consider University of California at Santa Cruz. Officials there are spending, after rebates, $104,000 to change out lights in the library. The project will pay off in three years.

Still, more than one person has called energy efficiency "intangible," although it is anything but. In this post, Sara Hayes of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), explores that myth, and others.

The end of the year is approaching, and people are starting to make plans for 2012. When you make that resolution or get that tax return, take a few moments to consider making your home or office more energy efficient. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo of an air conditioner