Efficiency vs. Conservation

As a student of Energy Efficiency, one of the first lessons we had to learn was that ability to separate ‘efficiency’ from ‘conservation’; while we have dictionary definitions which may or may not paint broad enough pictures, I love having the practical illustration to demonstrate the ‘what’ behind a word’s ‘how’.




noun, plural ef·fi·cien·cies.

1. the state or quality of being efficient; competency in performance.some-rolling-pins-are-less-efficient

2. accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort: The assembly line  increased industry’s efficiency.

3. the ratio of the work done or energy developed by a machine, engine, etc., to the energy supplied to it, usually expressed as a percentage.




1. the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation: conservation of wildlife; conservation of human rights.

2. official supervision of rivers, forests, and other natural resources in order to preserve and protect them through prudent management.

3. a district, river, forest, etc., under such supervision.

4. the careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion.

5. the restoration and preservation of works of art.

One of my best teachers explained that while efficiency means making our consumption and usage smaller, conservabout_n1623ation meant preventing using something in the first place.  I was bowled over by this explanation – it made sense, it was so simple, so perfect…  And it is, in terms of resources, so very true.  Efficiency would be the low flow water fixture that saves you a hundred gallons a month – conservation would be never withdrawing a hundred gallons of water from the local hydrological system.

When you consider it like that, it isn’t really a matter so much of efficiency versus conservation as one working hand in hand with the other; one method sustaining another.

We do not have to be Greenpeace activists to care that using a resource more effectively – so that we end up utilizing less of it – means good things.  From a consumer standpoint, it means we save money – the best kind of green, I’ve found.  Everything else is like a nice little bonus.


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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.

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