It doesn’t take much muscle power to flip a switch and turn on a light, a refrigerator, an air conditioner or washing machine.

But that effortlessness is deceptive. Every electric appliance, especially those generating cold or heat, gobbles up a whole lot of energy.

Electricity prices are skyrocketing across the world, due in large part to the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That’s because Russia is the largest oil and gas exporter to global markets and supplies a lot of the coal as well. Fears of supply interruption, plus sanctions placed on Russia, have destabilized prices.

Indeed, the vast majority of electricity is still generated by those highly polluting fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal. According to the World Coal Association, coal fuels 37 percent of global electricity and in some countries as much as 70%.

So electricity isn’t just expensive. It’s also environmentally destructive.

Renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy, aren’t predicted to make much of a dent in that figure for the foreseeable future.

“Most people don’t really think about the connection to the environment when they turn on a light or an air conditioner, but it’s very direct,” says Hebrew University chemistry professor Lioz Etgar.

Prof. Lioz Etgar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Photo by Tehila Katz

Etgar, who researches new materials that can more efficiently and cheaply generate power from the sun, says using less electricity in our everyday lives isn’t only about lowering utility bills.

“Of course it’s nice to save money,” he says, “but conserving electricity is important for everybody mainly because of the environment. If we consume a lot of electricity, this consumes a lot of coal that we have to burn to generate this electricity. And that causes a lot of pollution and influences our weather and our life on the planet.”

Some of Etgar’s tips below may already be second nature for you (we hope!) and others could easily become part of your daily consciousness.

  1. Close the light when you leave a room at home.

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  1. Use thermo-solar energy to heat your water for a shower, rather than an electric boiler.
  2. Home appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners account for 20 percent of an average household’s electric bill. Choose appliances with a high energy efficiency rating. In some countries you’ll look for an appliance rated A (or even A+++), while in the United States you’ll look for the Energy Star certification. These appliances use 10% to 50% less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent.
  3. Run your washing machine or dryer only with a full load and only when necessary. Think twice before throwing clothes into the laundry hamper; consider handwashing or spot-cleaning small items.

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  1. On a hot day, set your air conditioner on a specific temperature, around 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit). 

    Consider an addon product such as Sensibo AirQ from Israel, which lets you control indoor climate from anywhere by setting temperature thresholds and schedules. Sensibo’s AI algorithms help lower energy usage while keeping your home the right temperature. Bonus: AirQ is the first smart AC controller with a built-in air quality sensor.

    Image courtesy of Sensibo
  2. Position your refrigerator away from ovens, radiators and direct sunlight. Keep it full for greater energy efficiency and well organized so that you can find items faster. Leave at least 2 inches (5 centimeters) of space around the sides, back and top of the fridge for ventilation because a refrigerator constantly emits heat to keep the temperature low. Without an air gap, the fridge works harder – and consumes more energy.

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  1. Don’t leave lights on when you are not home. If you prefer to have some lights on at night for security reasons, plug them into an inexpensive automatic timer to turn them off during the day.