The findings shows there's more than just ecological benefits associated with conserving energy—it may have a direct effect on our own health.
Credit: Kate Mathis

We know the benefits that comes with trying to make a home even just a little more green-actively conserving energy can help your budget while also reducing the strain put on resources in your community. But new research shows that you'll save more than just money if you try to cut down your energy use by any amount. Something as simple as unplugging unused appliances and turning off lights could drastically help, the research says.

The new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that, on average, you could help save more than 475 lives and prevent upwards of 130,000 asthma cases annually by simply unplugging and dimming. These projections are based on just a 12 percent increase in energy efficiency in areas like Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; all areas that are powered by plants that are using coal.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison noted that actively reducing the energy use in your home also could have a direct affect on the air quality around you. But, more importantly, they found there are major health benefits to cutting back as well-projecting that almost $4 billion could be saved annually on medical expenses, including missed work due to illnesses, in their study. The study notes that researchers used data from the Environmental Protection Agency to arrive at their conclusions.

While the 1970 Clean Air Act has helped to reduce some levels of power-plant emissions, the study suggests that many Americans are still breathing air that's below EPA standards.

"We know energy efficiency already offers cost savings," David Abel, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, told ScienceDaily. "But capturing the non-energy benefits makes it even clearer it's a win-win opportunity."

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average amount of electricity used in households or in commercial spaces could see a slight decline in the year 2050 as more efficient equipment enters the marketplace. Some states are also working to pass more energy-efficient policies, with 30 states and the District of Columbia already having some form of legislature in place by July 2017.

There are many ways consumers can reduce how much electricity they use in their homes beyond just unplugging appliances: You can invest in these eco-friendly electronics, like an LED light bulb that can both reduce your electric bill and your overall footprint.

If you're in the market for a new appliance, purchase one with the "Energy Star" Label, as these appliances are designed to be less energy-dependent as their precursors. An Energy Star washing machine, for example, can wash clothes using 25 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than a traditional model.


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