Best Kept Secrets about Wasting Energy: New Report Uncovers Cryptic Barriers

Aug. 31, 2013
A new ACEEE report identifies cryptic barriers to energy effciency. Shadowy they may be, but they still leak real energy and real money from our economy.

It turns out that we’re wasting energy in ways few of us could have imagined. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy details these “cryptic barriers to energy efficiency” in a new report.

By now we’re all aware of the obvious energy wasters, like the pre-Energy Star refrigerator in the basement used just for beer, or the window air conditioner oversized for the room.

Cryptic barriers are different and unlikely to be noticed except by those in the energy efficiency industry looking intently for waste. Shadowy they may be, but cryptic barriers still leak real energy and therefore real money from our economy.

Here are a few examples from the report by Alice Stover, Harvey Sachs and Amanda Lowenberger.

  • A home building contractor decides against installing new, more efficient technology because local code inspectors might not be familiar with it. This could require more paperwork for the builder, delay the project, and cost the builder money. Better to stick with the tried-and-true, in the builder’s mind, even if it is less energy efficient.
  • When a new technology is introduced, incumbent manufacturers lose market share, or at best gain no new market over competitors, since everyone adopts the same new technology. Therefore, manufacturers lack any good business reason to take up the mantle for building code changes that will lead to more efficient technologies. The report shows how this is true for ductwork in homes. Plastic ductwork is less leaky than conventional ductwork, but not allowed in homes because of fire concerns. Technology exists to overcome the fire risk, but few are taking up its cause.
  • The most highly efficient gas water heaters require an electric plug-in. No codes exist that require an electrical outlet be placed near a water heater.  If there is no electrical outlet, the homeowner is less likely to replace an old water heater with the most efficient new model because of the extra cost/hassle of adding a new outlet.

“Cryptic barriers inhibit investments that would provide a public good,” the ACEEE report says. “When this situation occurs, governments should intervene with policies – or revise existing policies that could be problematic – to ensure that actions that contribute to public interest are not impeded.”

The ACEEE report offers a compendium of cryptic barriers to energy efficiency. Got your own examples? Please post them in the comments section. Let’s get a discussion going.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.