Straight Talk Articles
Three Ways to Save Energy Outdoors
Dear Pat and Brad:
In summer, the deck becomes our kitchen and we spend all our free time in the yard or the garden. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort making our home more energy efficient. Are there ways to cut our energy use outside the home? – Josh
The most common way to save energy in summer is lowering your cooling cost indoors. If you’re outdoors a lot, maybe you can get by doing a little less cooling inside. Setting the thermostat just a few degrees higher can make quite a difference. Maybe you can even turn off your indoor air conditioning in the evening, if you’re in a climate that enables you to open your windows and cool the house naturally before bedtime.
But back to your main question. Here are three ways to save energy on your outdoor living:
Many of us have one or more pumps that service our yard, or reside on our property serving our home. These pumps can supply a swimming pool, a water feature, water for your lawn and garden, or your septic system or well. It’s easy to let maintenance slip, which cuts the pump’s efficiency and may shorten its life.
Before summer is a good time to maintain pumps. Sometimes that involves cleaning the filters or checking oil and belts. If you need to hire a professional, see if getting them all maintained at once will reduce the overall cost. Consider replacing old and inefficient pumps with energy-efficient EnergyStar-rated(1) ones before they break down. While you’re at it, check for leaks in the water lines, which make your pumps work harder and longer.
If you have security lighting, there’s a good chance you can save a little energy. Some security lights can be 500 to 1000 watts. That’s the equivalent of 40 to 80 indoor LED bulbs – quite a lot of energy! Adding timers, motion sensors and light sensors can cut down how long your bulbs are used. Plus, when you use your lights less often, your neighbors may appreciate a little less light pollution!
Switching to LEDs is another great strategy. Solar lights are also a good way to light walkways, a water feature or your deck – without having to buy any electricity at all.
Grilling outside can save some energy, since using your oven can raise your kitchen’s temperature up to ten degrees, which increases the need for cooling(2). If you like to barbecue or grill a lot of your meals, you may want to consider the fuel you use. If natural gas is available it’s usually much less expensive than propane. Installing gas gives the convenience of not having to refill your propane tanks. On the downside, if you don’t already have gas lines running to your patio or deck, the cost of installing them can be prohibitive.
Other fuel types, like charcoal briquettes or wood, take more preparation and can be fussy to work with. Charcoal grills emit three times as much carbon as gas grills.(3)
That said, the fuel type may not be only consideration when choosing a barbecue. Some folks find one type of fuel produces tastier food.(4)
Whichever fuel type you choose, you can save energy by barbecuing (keeping the lid closed during cooking) rather than grilling (cooking with the lid off at higher heat). You can make the most of the energy you’re using by cooking extra for leftovers.
One more way to save energy outside is to use electricity for your lawn tools rather than gasoline. You can pull up the article we wrote about that in March, 2019, at https://www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you enjoy your outdoor living this summer!
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information about ways to save energy outdoors, go to the May 2021 more information page.
(4) See two opposing arguments for gas vs charcoal at https://www.wired.com/2013/07/charcoal-grilling-is-objectively-scientifically-better-than-gas-2/ and https://www.wired.com/2013/07/gas-grilling-is-objectively-scientifically-better-than-charcoal/
Cooking all the courses on the grill eliminates the need to turn on the kitchen stove. Source: creative commons, Flickr.com