3 minutes to read

When I first moved out on my own, I thought I knew everything I needed - and boy was I wrong. You get all sorts of advice when you first start shopping for a home - find something within your budget, see how close you are to bus lines, and so on. I knew to make sure the roof was in good condition, but not to feel by the ceilings to check the insulation. I knew I wanted a small yard, but not to check the length, age, and material of the water line.

There’s a lot of important stuff people don’t tell you about homes, even if a problem with one of them could cost you hundreds. That’s no exaggeration, by the way - according to the US Energy Information Administration, the average monthly bill for electricity was about $114 in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available), and roughly a third of that energy is wasted. That’s about $450 dollars wasted every year, by every household in the country.

When you realize that there are over a hundred million occupied homes in the US alone, you start to get a sense for just how much energy (and money) is being wasted.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that you can’t fix massive waste until you genuinely understand what’s causing it. Energy waste isn’t just about having inefficient light bulbs or setting the thermostat too high - it’s about faulty insulation, appliances that draw power even when it’s not needed, and dozens of other little issues that might be small on their own, but add up to tremendous energy loss over time.

Now, I’m not going to set an impossible standard - I don’t think we’ll ever be able to properly use 100% of all energy, since it’s almost certain that some way, somehow, we’ll end up wasting at least a little. On the other hand, recent news from MIT is that they’re busy inventing a drastically more efficient light bulb, so maybe I’m speaking too soon. That’s not the point, though.

What matters is that we, as a society, should be making a serious attempt to reduce energy waste - and this starts with understanding how energy is usually lost. The world is full of people who love solving problems, and the sooner we understand what to fix, the sooner we can actually do it. We can start now with little things like ways to save on electric bills, moving on to bigger, better solutions as we come up with them. Every small act helps, because the cumulative effects of millions of households acting together are enormous.

Check out this cool infographic about home energy use and waste. Have some thoughts on energy waste, or ideas for helping solve these kinds of problems? Let us know in the comments below - we’d love to hear what you think about this subject!