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Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 7, Texas Energy, Page 4


Energy efficiency means you get more work from the same amount of energy. For instance, one gallon of gasoline can take you 30 miles in one car, while another, less efficient car, will take you only half as far. Energy efficiency saves consumers money, requires no compromise in lifestyle, reduces air pollution and contributes to economic growth.

Over the past two decades, Texas' energy consumption per dollar of gross state product has declined. In 1970, the state consumed 40,000 Btu's per dollar of gross state product. It fell to 27,000 Btu's per dollar in 1990. By the year 2020, forecasters project it will fall to 15,000 Btu's per dollar of GSP.(91)

Federal regulations forced automobile manufacturers to increase the efficiency of the vehicles they produce. The result: between 1978 and 1990, the average vehicle increased fuel economy from 18 mpg to 27.5 mpg. Despite these increases in performance, the amount of energy used in Texas' transportation sector nearly doubled between 1970 and 1991 because there are more cars on the road and Texans are driving more miles per year.(92)

From 1982 to 1992, the 12 largest utilities in Texas spent about $408 million per year on energy efficiency programs. During the same time period, they spent nearly $1 billion a year on nuclear power alone.(93) One of the most serious efforts at conservation in the state has been undertaken by the City of Austin, which has spent about $60 million on projects like home insulation, providing rebates to customers who install energy retrofits and attend educational workshops. The effort is now saving the city 190 megawatts of generating capacity per year, or about one-tenth of the city's installed electrical capacity.(94) If other utilities in the state began implementing aggressive programs like the one used by the Austin utility, Texas ratepayers would save billions of dollars per year while reducing pollution.

Studies have shown that the state could avoid building any new electric generating plants over the next 15 years if Texas embraced conservation and a comprehensive set of energy efficiency technologies.(97)

Cooling units offer the greatest potential gains in efficiency. One third of all the electricity used by Texas residential customers is used for air conditioning. That is almost three times the national average.(98) Also, a study by the University of Texas Center for Energy Studies found that replacing old refrigerators with high efficiency models offers the greatest single savings in electrical consumption. The reason is simple: refrigerators run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Increasing the efficiency of air conditioners, heaters, motors and lighting units will also save vast amounts of energy. One study found that cooling, heating and lighting in buildings accounts for 73 percent of peak electric demand in Texas.(99) The same study discerned that almost half of the electricity consumed in Texas buildings could be saved if efficiency measures were employed.(100)

Air Conditioner
6,000 Btu/hr$208.00$124.60
9,000 Btu/hr$312.00$186.00
12,000 Btu/hr$416.00$242.00
18,000 Btu/hr$624.00$373.00
24,000 Btu/hr$832.00$498.00
36,000 Btu/hr$1,248.00$748.60
Heating Equipment$530.00$318.00
(10 kw elec. furnace)(36,000 Btu heat pump)
Clothes Dryer$85.87$83.53
Clothes Washer$126.80$85.53
Electric Cooktop$29.52$29.20
Electric Oven$29.87$29.84
Microwave Oven$7.92$7.84
Electric Water Heater$244.00$72.00
(standard 40-gallon)(40-gallon heat pump)
(assuming 36,000-Btu air conditioner)
Source: Central Power & Light, Appliance Efficiency: The Facts From CPL, n.d.


1. Make sure your air conditioner is efficient.It should have an SEER* rating of at least 11. If your unit is 10 or more years old, chances are it is inefficient (compared to today's high-efficiency models) and is costing you much more than it should.

2. Get a properly sized unit. If you replace your old air conditioner, buy one that is the correct size. If it is too small or too large for your house, you will have trouble staying comfortable, and it will cost more to operate.

3. Insulate walls and attic. Utilities recommend that insulation with an R-30** value be used in your attic. If you are building a home, walls should have insulation rated at R-15. In an existing home, wall insulation should be brought up at least to R-11 if feasible. If your house is on piers, floor insulation should be R-19. Good insulation can pay for itself in just a few years.

4. Close up those air leaks. You can save 10 to 30 percent on air conditioning costs with a well-sealed house. Weatherstrip or caulk around doors, windows, outlets, switch plates and plumbing outlets.

5. Raise your thermostat setting. By raising your thermostat setting just one degree, you can save as much as 14 percent on your cooling costs. A setting of 78 degrees is recommended.

A reminder: A dirty filter can cause your air conditioner to work harder and can lead to equipment breakdowns. Utilities suggest changing or cleaning your filters at least once a month. During the hottest part of summer, every two weeks is a good idea.

*Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rate.

**The "R" number indicates the degree of insulation; the higher the number, the higher the degree of insulation.

Source: Central Power & Light.


Saving water saves electricity. Water utilities spend millions of dollars per year on electricity which is used to treat and deliver water. A study by Southern California Edison found that fully 10 percent of the electricity it generates is used to treat, heat and pump water to homes and businesses.(95)

Utilities around the country have found that when customers save water, it reduces the amount of water a utility must pump, which in turn, saves electricity. To maximize these savings, many utilities are distributing faucet aerators, efficient shower heads, low-flow toilets and other water saving devices to customers at no charge.

Some cities pay residents to replace old fixtures. New York City pays rebates up to $240 for each toilet replaced with a new 1.6 gallon model. San Antonio, Austin and El Paso offer rebates to residential customers who install low-flow toilets. Utility officials in Austin estimate that 2 percent of the electricity generated by the city is used solely for pumping and treating water.

Efficient irrigation systems also offer substantial energy savings. In Oregon, rural utilities are offering low-interest loans to farmers who replace their old irrigation equipment with high-efficiency pumps and more efficient irrigation systems. Farmers in the region are now saving 20 to 25 percent on their water and electricity bills.(96)

Many Texas cities and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission are promoting drought-tolerant landscaping, called xeriscaping, to help conserve water. Use of this landscaping technique will help conserve electricity as well.

Waterbed heater$0.32/night
Ceiling fan$0.16/day
Steam iron$0.04/hour
Broiler, portable$0.48/month
Frying pan$0.04/hour
Toaster, 2-slice$0.24/month
Radio-record player$0.80/month
Television, b&w$0.80/month
Television, color$2.80/month
Swimming pool pump, 1hp$0.08/hour
Hair dryer, hand (5 min. per day)$0.32/month
Food waste disposer$0.24/month
10 - 100 watt light bulbs$0.08/hour
Source: Central Power & Light.


The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse offers free information on energy conservation and renewable energy. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the clearinghouse also offers technical assistance to those wanting to compare cooling systems, appliances and other energy related questions. Call them toll-free at (800) 523-2929.

Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 7, Texas Energy, Page 4

Almanac Table of Contents | Chapter Seven Table of Contents | TEC Home Page

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