Bigger Homes, More Gadgets Crimp U.S. Energy Efficiency Gains
Home energy efficiency improvements since 1980 have offset more than 70% of the growth in the number of U.S. households, the size of the homes, and the flurry of new gadgets they can hold, the Energy Information Administration reports.
“The gains from energy intensity improvements would have been even larger if it were not for consumer preferences for larger homes and increased adoption of home appliances and electronics,” the agency reports. Between 1980 and 2009, “the average home size grew by about 20%. With increased square footage came adoption of more and larger devices such as more televisions with larger screens and new or expanding end uses such as computers, networking equipment, and home entertainment devices.”
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Residential energy use grew 0.3% per year over the three-decade span. After adjusting for other factors that influence energy use, “2009 energy intensity declined (improved) by about 37% compared with the level in 1980, meaning that without this change, households would have required another 3.6 quads [quadrillion BTUs] of delivered energy in 2009,” the agency notes.
The impact on primary energy production is even greater, since “nearly three units of energy from primary fuels such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel are used to generate one unit of electricity.”