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Energy Efficiency Industry Dragged Down by Our Own Stupid Selves

The Department of Energy will award nearly $120 million to organizations across the country as part of its Weatherization Assistance Program, money that will not only boost the efficiency of buildings and develop new technologies; but lead to jobs for construction workers and contractors and drive purchases of products like LED light bulbs.

There's just one hurdle standing between the government's energy efficiency push and the jobs and revenues that promise to follow: ourselves. A recent study by researchers Carnegie Mellon University, Colombia University and Ohio State University, who made a discovery that spells trouble for the burgeoning energy efficiency industry. In short, Americans don't know the first thing about how to save energy. Their misconceptions, if changed, could have a very real impact on bottom lines of appliance companies like GE, energy-efficient automakers and retrofit specialists.

Consider the researchers' findings:

  • Lighting: When asked to pick the single most effective thing they could do to conserve energy, the action cited by more respondents than any other method was to turn off the lights. In reality, this is insignificant. Replacing their incandescent bulbs with CFLs would result in actual savings.
  • Washers: Respondents said line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer's setting. In fact, the opposite is true.
  • Insulation: Insulating a home as the single most effective energy saver actually received the lowest score, behind the option "sleep/relax more," "buy an efficient car," and using efficient appliances or light bulbs.
The unfortunate theme for appliance and light bulb manufacturers, car makers and contractors is that Americans -- at least based on this survey -- equate savings with changing their behavior, such as turning off the lights, and not investing in new products. Which means companies like GE have to work harder to make their advertising and marketing into educational campaigns.

Photo by Flickr user caveman 92223, CC 2.0