Headshots of Therese Peffer, Miriam Aczel, and Kate Ringness. Text above reads: Happy Energy Efficiency Day!

Celebrating Energy Efficiency Day

Eunice Chung

October 5 marks Energy Efficiency Day, a nationwide campaign that celebrates the benefits of sustainable energy use. Since its launch in 1991, the annual event continues to receive support from a growing network of stakeholders, including the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Advanced Energy Economy, and Alliance to Save Energy.

Working alongside key partners such as the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and U.S. Department of Energy, CIEE is driven to conduct the innovative work needed to meet California’s pace-setting energy goals. Our team of dedicated experts is certainly no stranger to efficiency–in fact, here are some of the ways they conserve energy in their daily lives.

The team has broken down the decision into a few simple considerations: 

A solar oven
Quiche made by Dr. Peffer late in the day with the sun oven. Credit: Therese Peffer

Cooking with Sunshine

One of Dr. Therese Peffer’s favorite energy efficiency solutions is solar cooking, especially in the summer when she doesn’t want to heat up the kitchen. “This year, my son wanted shepherd’s pie for his birthday dinner, but it was 98 degrees Fahrenheit out—not ideal for having your oven on for an hour!” shared the EcoBlock Principal Investigator. “So out came the sun oven I purchased years ago. Unless the weather is cloudy (or there’s too much smoke from wildfires), the temperature regularly gets to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. You do have to move the oven to track the sun. I have cooked banana bread, apple crisp, beans, quiche, ribs, and other items. You can build your own solar oven—as simple as a cardboard cylinder canister plus aluminum foil for a quick kids project to cook hot dogs or a more complicated insulated cardboard box with a glass cover and foil reflectors. Happy cooking!”

Honeycomb blackout shades
Honeycomb blackout shades offer aesthetics and energy efficiency. Credit: Kate Ringness

Drafty Windows Begone!

Kate Ringness, principal at SmartBlock Consulting and senior advisor for the Oakland EcoBlock project, has honeycomb blackout shades installed on her windows. Noted for their unique hexagonal cells, honeycomb shades have large, open channels that trap air in distinct pockets, allowing for effective sound and thermal insulation. Available in a wide variety of colors and sizes, these shades also offer better privacy and light filtration. “When it is sunny, they help keep the house cool and when it is cold outside, they help keep it warm,” said Kate of her shades. “They are also great for keeping out the urban light pollution at night!”

An inactive power strip with two cords attached
Unplugging “energy vampires” that drain power when not in use can help lower your electric bill. Credit: Miriam Aczel

Unplugging to Save

Unplugging inactive appliances and electronics can go a long way. In fact, CIEE postdoctoral scholar Dr. Miriam Aczel uses power strips to help reduce sneaky energy use from things like her monitor—she turns off the whole power strip when it’s not in use (and smart power strips automatically do that for you!).

A top freezer refrigerator
Did you know: When the U.S. energy crisis struck in the 1970s, California was the first state to establish efficiency standards for refrigerators! Credit: Miriam Aczel

Efficient Refrigerators

Miriam also plans to tackle her next energy efficiency target: her refrigerator! A 20-year-old model, Miriam’s refrigerator is excessively loud and not very efficient. “From looking up the serial number, it looks like the yearly energy consumption is roughly 470 kWh,” she noted, “so I’m saving up to buy a smaller, quieter, more efficient one—and hopefully save on my electricity bills. The U.S. Department of Energy has some great resources on calculating appliance energy usage and potential costs/savings.”

Learn about Energy Efficiency Day

How to Make a Solar Oven

DOE Appliance Energy Calculator

A version of this article originally appeared on the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE)’s website and has been published here with permission.

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