Three Ways to Save Energy Outdoors

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

The most common way to save energy during summer months is lowering your cooling costs indoors. If you find yourself spending a lot of time outdoors, you can certainly save energy and money by reducing your air conditioning use inside. Setting the thermostat just a few degrees higher can make quite a difference. But there are ways to save energy outdoors, too. Here are three:

1. Pumps and Maintenance

Doing annual maintenance on outdoor pumps, like the swimming pool pump shown here, can make it more energy efficient. Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan

Many of us have one or more pumps that service our yard or reside on our property. Pumps can supply water for a swimming pool, your lawn and garden, or your septic system or well. It’s easy to let maintenance slip, which cuts the pump’s efficiency and shortens its life.

Maintaining pumps involves cleaning the filters or checking oil and belts. If you have multiple pumps and need to hire a professional for assistance, try to do all the maintenance at once to reduce the overall cost. You may also want to consider replacing older pumps with energy efficient ENERGY STAR®-rated ones before they break down. While you’re at it, check for leaks in the water lines, which make your pumps work harder and longer.

2. Outdoor Lighting

If you have security lighting, there’s a good chance you can save a little energy. Some security lights can be 500 to 1000 watts, which is equivalent of 40 to 80 indoor LED bulbs — that’s quite a lot of energy. Adding timers, motion sensors and light sensors can reduce your bulb energy use. Plus, when you use your lights less often, your neighbors may appreciate a little less light pollution

Switching to LEDs is great strategy. Solar lights are also a good way to light walkways, a water feature or your deck without having to buy any electricity at all.

3. Grilling

Cooking all the courses on the grill eliminates the need to turn on the kitchen stove. Photo Source: Scott Van Osdol

Using your oven can raise your kitchen’s temperature up to 10 degrees, increasing the need for running your air conditioner, so grilling outdoors is a great way to save energy. If you like to barbecue or grill most of your meals, consider the fuel you use. If natural gas is available, it’s usually much less expensive than propane. Natural gas is also convenient because you don’t have to refill any tanks like you would with propane. On the downside, if you don’t already have gas lines running to your patio or deck, the cost of installing them can be prohibitive.

Other fuel types like charcoal briquettes or wood take more preparation and can be fussy to work with, and charcoal grills emit three times as much carbon as gas grills.

Whichever fuel type you choose for your grill, you can save energy by barbecuing (keeping the lid closed during cooking) rather than grilling (cooking with the lid off at higher heat).

Hopefully these ideas will help you enjoy your outdoor living space this summer — and help you save energy.

Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency write on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape. For additional energy tips and information on Collaborative Efficiency, visit