Efficiencies Can Help Save Energy 'Negawatts'

by Paul Mazzerella
The solution to our energy needs? More negawatts!


Yes, you read that correctly. We don't need more megawatts; we need more negawatts.


A megawatt is a large unit of energy produced, often by a massive power plant. Our appetite for energy has led to the continuous growth of energy production through gas drilling, electricity generation and searches for alternative fuels. These activities are costly and can contribute greatly to the problems of environmental degradation and climate change.


A negawatt is the opposite of megawatt. It represents a large unit of energy saved. This clever term, coined by environmentalist Amory Lovins, is helpful in illustrating how energy conservation can be the cheapest and easiest way to address the disparity between energy supply and demand. Whenever we save energy, we reduce the need to burn fossil fuels. This not only saves money; it helps to protect the environment.


By adopting energy conservation techniques in your everyday life, you can reduce energy demand and create negawatts.


For most of us, our home is the biggest user of energy. Think of your refrigerator, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Or your furnace, which on a cold day in February continuously works to raise the temperature of your house by as much as 70 degrees. Most of the existing homes in Tompkins County waste tremendous energy due to poor design or obsolete heating systems. Even homes that were built fairly recently incorporate only modest measures to save energy.


We appreciate the comfort and convenience provided by appliances, gadgets and climate control systems, but these energy-users can be costly.
Luckily, making simple changes in our homes is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut energy consumption. A relatively small investment in energy efficiency measures such as insulation, air sealing, replacement windows or Energy Star appliances not only saves you money immediately, the savings go on forever. Plus, you'll feel much more comfortable than you did in your cold, drafty house.


INHS has been helping people throughout Tompkins County improve the energy performance of their homes for more than 30 years. INHS works closely with local energy contractors to offer high-quality services, low-interest loans and matching grants.


There has never been a better time to take advantage of low rates. Our Energy$ense loan program offers loans with rates as low as 3 percent, and they're available to a wide range of incomes. Many homeowners find their savings in energy costs more than offsets the costs of a loan. To learn more, contact INHS at info@ithacaNHS.org or 277-4500.


Paul Mazzarella is the executive director, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service and a member of Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative.

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Ithaca Journal 6-10-11