For years at Planet Green we have been hammering away at what one should do first to green their house, how you should go after the low hanging fruit before you invest in solar panels and replacement windows. It is a difficult sell when the shiny new baubles are so much sexier. We based our posts on the Rocky Mountain Institute's guide, now eight years old and in need of a renovation itself.
The choice to be more energy efficient may be clear, but the starting point can be more difficult to determine. The Pyramid of Conservation is designed to help you prioritize steps and develop an action plan that's right for you. By establishing a foundation in energy efficiency and gaining a better understanding about how you use energy, you can more effectively work your way up the pyramid.
If you go to the Minnesota site, you can click on each of the layers of the pyramid and get a lot more information.
Martin Holladay wrote about it earlier and noted:
Like the food pyramid, it's read from the bottom up. Homeowners who are uncertain of the best way to lower their energy bills should start at the lowest level of the pyramid and work their way up. In general, one shouldn't proceed to a higher level until the actions below that level have been completed.
Actions near the bottom of the pyramid are much more cost-effective than actions near the top of the pyramid. At current energy prices, in fact, the actions listed on the top two layers are never cost-effective.
In fact, billions of dollars are being, if not wasted, at least not effectively used as the salesmen come around trying to sell windows and solar panels. Everyone wants the sexy stuff and governments are subsidizing it with tax credits, but as we said earlier, the people handing out tax credits should insist that you don't get money for fancy photovoltaics unless you do the cheap low hanging fruit first. Perhaps that is how a subsidy program should work: Start at the bottom of the pyramid.