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Why Energy Efficiency isn’t Just Solar Panels

Solar panels are often seen as the first step toward energy efficiency, but there is a big difference between energy production and efficiency that is often ignored. The true definition of energy efficiency is related to the amount of energy spent rather than the supplementation of energy usage via renewable energy. Both solutions can save money, but energy production acts as a band-aid for wasteful energy usage, while efficiency works to only use the minimum energy necessary. Efficiency improvements like lighting, HVAC zone controls, building management systems, smart thermostats, plug-load controls, windows, and window shading can reduce energy usage by up to 50%. These energy savings can be worth more than $700 billion per year in the United States.

For building owners, 40% of operational expense budgets are allocated to utility spend. Implementing energy efficient retrofits to buildings reduce the utility spend by $63,000 to $73,500 per year on average for a 100,000 sq ft building. Lower operational costs can help to combat inflation and rising energy prices. Once these costs are reduced, solar panels can be introduced to cover a higher percentage of the now lowered energy consumption.

As of 2018, the United States’ energy use is around the same as it was in 2000 due to energy efficiency efforts. This massive adoption of smarter energy use has done more for meeting America’s energy needs than oil, gas, and nuclear power over the past 40 years. In a race to carbon neutrality and concern for the power grid, every kilowatt hour counts. It may be time to assess your contribution toward energy efficiency.

1. Ungar, L. & Nadal, S. (September 18, 2019). Halfway there: Energy efficiency can cut energy use and greenhouse gas. ACEEE. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from

2. Shinn, Lora. (August 14, 2018). Energy Efficiency: The Clean Facts. NRDC. Retrieved May 31. 2022, from


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