Home Energy Efficiency Gains Eclipsed by Too Many Gadgets

gains are being canceled out by the proliferation of electronic devices now used in homes
Mar 29, 2011 GreenBiz
Americans are using energy more efficiently in their households with better windows, insulation and products that meet Energy Star standards, such refrigerators and clothes washers. Yet those gains are being canceled out by the proliferation of electronic devices now used in homes, including a growing number of personal computers, DVRs and rechargeable gadgets, according to new data released Monday by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

"You’ve got everything becoming more efficient, but there is just more of everything," said Bill McNary, a DOE statistician working on the Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

For example, nearly 60 percent of homes had energy efficient windows in 2009, compared to 36 percent in 1993. But the number of televisions per household has soared, with 50.5 percent of households in 2009 having three or more TVs. Forty-six percent of respondents to the survey indicated that their most-used TV is 37 inches or larger. Nearly 43 percent of households use their TVs for three to six hours a day.

Meanwhile, nearly 47 percent of households have one computer; 39.4 percent have two or more. Most households (57.9 percent) have between one and three rechargeable electronic devices; 44.3 percent have four or more.

Use of digital video recorders (DVRs) has soared. According to the EIA, DVRs first entered the market in 1999, but are now used in 43 percent of U.S. households.

"For something to go from not being on our survey in 2005, to being in 43 percent of households (in 2009) is pretty impressive," McNary said.

The EIA will release data on space heating, air conditioning and water heating use in next month or so, McNary said. Next year, the agency will also release information on residential energy consumption. Previous EIA surveys have shown that overall household energy consumption decreased slightly from 10.58 quads in 1978 to 10.55 quads in 2005, while energy use per household declined by 31 percent.

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