The Lights Are On When Nobody's Home

The Lights Are On When Nobody's Home
You can be a beacon of change to influence your friends, family, and coworkers.
The Lights Are On When Nobody's Home

In my house and at my workplace, renewable energy (RE), energy efficiency, and conservation are naturally part of my everyday conversations. As a Home Power reader, they are likely part of your life, too. So it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that they are also parts of everyone else’s life.

Unfortunately, they’re often not. Unless we live next door to a power plant, a fracking operation, or a mountaintop removal site, many of us still remain divorced from the sources of energy that power our lives. We rely on the electricity that flows to our sockets, but it remains largely invisible. Some count on the natural gas or propane that is piped to their ranges, but never think to trace it back to its origin. Tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide? Too nebulous. And what about conservation and negawatts—the amount of power that need not be produced as a result of efficiency and conservation?

As part of his work for a local solar installation company, my husband Shawn routinely performs residential solar site surveys. His daily work gives him an inside look at people’s energy consumption habits, and it’s shocking for me to hear his stories. Monthly energy bills in the $300 to $400 range are common, and folks just “don’t know what to do” to reduce their bills. They want to “go solar,” and then are shocked when they are presented with the size (and high price!) of a PV system required to offset excessive electricity use—while banks of lights blaze, two big-screen TVs chatter, and a stereo blares in the background.

Renewable energy is exciting to people—and somehow it’s easier to understand how to produce electricity than to reduce our consumption of it. So what can we do to make sure the other “big two”—efficiency and conservation—work their way into our collective consciousness?

You can be a beacon of change to influence your friends, family, and coworkers. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Shine some light on the impacts of energy use. Enter a ZIP code, and the U.S. EPA’s Power Profiler ( shows where the region’s grid electricity comes from, how it’s generated, and how much pollution it produces.
  • Share information on practical ways to improve household energy-efficiency and conservation strategies. Share Home Power and direct folks to the wealth of free information on our website. Visit the Energy Star and Enervee websites (see “Media” in this issue) to find more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Join the solar revolution. Have a solar home? Volunteer to host tours through your local Green Drinks group or Tour of Solar Homes. Have kids? Let them participate in making their own solar ovens or set up a home energy monitoring system.
  • Shed some light on the Joneses. A healthy dose of competition can provide a powerful motivation for change. Promote a neighborhood greening to see “how low you can go.”

Claire Anderson, for the Home Power crew

Think About It...

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”

Mahatma Gandhi

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