Understanding Energy

Energy Pyramid

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The E3A toolkit uses the Energy Action Pyramid for Home, Farm and Ranch to help you make informed energy decisions.


The foundation of the pyramid is assessment. Assessment is an essential element, not only at the beginning of an energy decision process, but throughout the process. Assessment helps to ensure that any actions taken are an appropriate solution to a problem. The E3A series recommends two types of assessment:

Cost and Complexity

The pyramid shows that cost and complexity of energy actions typically increase as you move from energy conservation activities, to energy efficiency measures, and finally to alternative energy projects.

Conservation and Efficiency

Conservation and efficiency measures have numerous benefits by themselves, but are especially important when considering an alternative energy system. Why? The size of an alternative energy system is based on your current energy consumption. Take steps to conserve and use energy resources more efficiently and you will likely be able to install a smaller system that costs less to purchase and operate.


Conservation entails simple, everyday actions. Find information that is more detailed in the Home and Ag Energy Efficiency folders of E3A. However, some quick examples include:


Efficiency measures entail the use of a material or technology to reduce energy use. Examples might include:

Alternative Energy

Consider alternative energy after completing conservation and efficiency measures. There are many factors to consider before purchasing and installing an alternative energy system. The materials in the E3A toolkit are designed to help you understand these factors so that you can be a more informed consumer. However, you should work with a qualified installer to design, site, and install alternative energy systems.