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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions:

Energy Efficiency or Conservation?
We can be energy efficient and comfortable

Is it energy efficiency or conservation, and which should I do? Well, I can tell you that both are important as they relate to the comfort of your home and that monthly utility bill.

In the mid 1970s, our country experienced what we called an oil embargo. I was a young architect working for a government agency that helped provide homes for low- and moderate-income families. I remember watching television and seeing long lines at service stations as drivers waited to get their allotment of gasoline. I remember seeing the president of the United States on prime time television wearing a heavy sweater with a presidential seal telling Americans that energy resources could no longer be taken for granted. In fact, his exact quote was: “The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly. We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.”

After President Carter’s address, most folks I knew were quite nervous and concerned about energy availability. Families started purchasing automobiles that had good fuel economy. People added insulation to their attics and some even weather-stripped their exterior doors.

This was, in fact, the time when I started trying to help find a way to help families have lower utility bills. And, you know what? Americans were totally serious about this matter for almost a year. Yes, almost a whole year! It was over just about as fast as it started. As soon as the price of gasoline dropped and there were no longer shortages, Americans, for the most part, went back to their old wasteful ways.

Some of us realized, however, that even if there were no shortages of energy supplies, energy efficiency and conservation still made good sense. As our parents often said, “Waste not, want not.”

While our nation seems to be split on just about every decision, I’ll bet you that 100 percent of the people would say they would like more comfortable homes and lower utility bills. And, of course,

that is the reason you read this column. What do you remember about the president’s energy speech? Most of you would answer that he said turn your thermostat down to 68 degrees and wear warmer clothes. When he said that, I knew I didn’t like the idea of not being comfortable. But, at the same time, I realized that for many families, this might be their only solution. In short, being energy efficient and conserving was the real answer.

What is the difference between energy efficiency and conservation? Putting on a sweater would be considered being energy efficient while lowering the thermostat setting in the winter or raising it in the summer would be considered conservation. Purchasing an automobile with better gas mileage is an example of energy efficiency, while traveling less would be conservation. Changing the thermostat setting would be conservation while adding insulation, etc., would be energy efficiency. Installing a more efficient water heater would be an example of energy efficiency while using less hot water would be conservation. Buying compact fluorescent light bulbs would be energy efficient while turning the lights off when not in use would be conservation. There are many other examples of these two principles.

I have always thought that practicing both energy efficiency and conservation is how to make a really big difference. So why not take action and do both – be energy efficient and conserve. It’ll pay off for you and our country.


More Information:

Doug Rye, a licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show, works as a consultant for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to promote energy efficiency to cooperative members statewide. To order Doug's video, call Doug at 1-888-Doug-Rye. More energy-efficiency tips can also be found at


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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