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April 2020 | Home Energy & What You Can Do

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on April's topic: home energy. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

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What’s covered:

  • READ - basic facts about energy
  • LISTEN - mind games on how we can help others conserve energy
  • ACT - easy DIYs and more for an energy-efficient home
  • REFLECT - the power of individual actions

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"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
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"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google

Read:Β Positive energy only

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Here are some energy facts. It's the perfect month to think about your home energy consumption, since, like me, you're reading this at home! Quarantiny changes; huge outcomes.
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  • Energy, in the form of electricity and gas, is responsible for a third of total greenhouse gas emissions. You can definitely make a dent on the residential part of the pie by learning more about your energy use.
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  • The average person spends only 9 minutes per year thinking about their energy use. If you're tired of corona panic, here's something else to think about!
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  • The average U.S. home uses about 11,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) is equivalent to about 1 pound of coal.
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  • The reason energy use produces so many emissions is because the majority of electricity and heating is generated from fossil fuels like natural gas and coal instead of carbon neutral energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, or nuclear energy.
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  • Air pollution stemming from energy use is responsible for over 230,000 premature deaths per year in the US - it's over 4 million if you're looking worldwide.
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  • Energy efficiency means using less energy to perform the same task – that is, eliminating energy waste. Most people can reduce their energy consumption significantly by installing energy efficient equipment and developing energy efficient behaviors! We'll expand on this in our ACT module, but for now, use heating/cooling only when you need to, and keep your thermostat as close as you can to outdoor temperatures. This will go a long way during social isolation energy use.
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  • Did you know you can also be more energy efficient by changing when you use electricity? I always thought it's just cheaper to use electricity during daylight hours (specifically 9AM to 4PM), but it turns out it's cleaner too. Midday is when renewable energy sources (like solar) are at peak generation. When you use energy during the day vs. at night, less carbon emissions are generated because the carbon intensity of the grid is lower. The effect that renewable energy has on daily demand for utility electricity is called the Duck Curve - check it out if you're looking for another curve to flatten.



Now that we're all home during the day, let's do our laundry in the morning!

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Listen:Β Mind Games

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Natalie picked "The Big Turnoff", a really interesting fact-loaded 30-minute podcast on behavior change and energy, hosted by Lirio. I learned a lot about how behavioral science interventions drive huge energy savings. Listen to the podcast below, and you'll finally understand my sneaky experiment with today's subject line. As always, highlights are below!

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Play Episode: The Big Turnoff

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  • It turns out that understanding behavior is actually key to changing the way we think about energy. Before I met Natalie and learned about MeterLeader, I didn't care about energy. Turns out I wasn't alone: energy use is difficult to inspire action because it's non-tangible, non-sensory, and comprised of hundreds of discrete behaviors.
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  • It's super duper important to be part of the status quo, if you didn't already learn that from High School Musical. The podcast talks about a really cool hotel study aiming to change guest behaviors towards hanging their towels up for reuse. The control group was given messaging that it was the "good for the environment", and the experimental group was given messaging that "the other guests take this action". The second group was far more inclined to save energy, because apparently we love following social norms.
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  • Some residential energy feedback programs (including ones that use peer comparisons) resulted in energy savings up to 26%! Here's why that's important. If we even got up to 20% average energy savings for all households in America, we'd save as much energy as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark combined! Even less effective programs that demonstrate 1-3% savings go a long way compounded over millions of households - remember, residential energy alone totals up to five billion tons of CO2 emissions per year.

Act:Β I'll tell you exactly what to do to save energy!


Social impact and sustainability often comes with more questions than answers, but in this week's ACT module on Energy, I. Have. Answers.


I'm going to tell you how energy is used in your home and give you some super duper easy ways to reduce carbon emissions from the comfort of your too-comfy bed (confession: that's where I am now).

Easiest change ever.

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We can sit on our butts and get a lot done. Ever thought you'd hear that motto for change?


There are four main ways we can reduce carbon emissions that stem from our home’s energy use: being more energy efficient, going renewable, electrifying, and shifting when we use energy.


Natalie Zandt, founder of MeterLeader and co-creator of this month's Changeletter, has a longer version of the actions we cover below on her blog.



1) Become more energy efficient


Here are some tips organized by a rough breakdown of how much of your home energy it'll address.

  • A DIY project for heating and cooling (46%). Air sealing an old or drafty house can save more than 20% on bills for heating and cooling, which comprises almost half your home energy use. You can do this by DIY weatherstripping, which I'll be doing for fun this weekend. (Cue weatherstripper jokes)
  • Get swagged out with new appliances (39%). Water heating (14%), appliances (13%), and lighting (12%) are the next biggest uses of your home energy. If you're looking for something to fill your life with purpose, here's a quiz you can take to see if you should get a new electric pump water heater. Time to pester your landlord!
  • Unplug before you chug (4%). Heading over to the kitchen for happy hour and aren't using your phone charger? Unplug that charger and turn off that power strip! I learned that I waste $25.33 on what's called "phantom power".
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2) Go Renewable - Most utilities give you a "green energy rate" you can opt into - a much easier step than installing solar panels.


3) Electrify - Here's a 7-step guide to electrifying your home. #PandemicProjects


4) Change when you use energy - Do your laundry in the daytime when there's more renewable electricity on the grid. Catch up on what we covered two weeks ago!

When will my reflection show how much home energy I use?
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  1. Sign up for MeterLeader's Earth Day Home Energy Challenge if you're a PG&E customer! It starts TODAY and I'm waiting for you on the leaderboard. I'll be competing against you for the $100 prize. If you're reading this after April 2020, you can still sign up for other challenges on their website.

  2. Reflect on the power of individual actions. This newsletter has almost 700 subscribers at the time of this article. The average California home uses ~6,000 kWh of electricity per year. If each of us made small changes like turning off our thermostat when we don't need it, we could easily save a LOT of energy - enough to power a home for a year.

  3. Start a conversation. On our Instagram Live with Natalie Zandt, MeterLeader CEO, we talked about how we humans really care about what other people think - one simple way to make an impact is to just start a discussion on climate change. This Earth Day, ask your friends and family how they think about sustainability!


Finally, here's a little recap you can take with you on your home energy saving journey.

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Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

πŸ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google