For 30 years, Americans have invested their money into making their homes more energy efficient. For example, Energy Star has built an entire market of electricity-saving appliances and equipment. More recently, the push to weatherize residential units has been made to reduce the need for power. But a new survey from the Energy Information Agency, a statistical & analytical agency of the U.S. Dept of Energy, shows these measures are not doing enough to improved performance. Why? The short answer is electronics…the more correct and real answer is much more complex.
In the late 1970′s, homes in the US were using about 10.6 quadrillion BTUs every year. Today that number is practically the same. It shouldn’t be. If you look at different types of systems used in houses, you can easily find options that consume less natural gas, electricity and other fuels. Heating systems have greatly improved during the last three decades. The same can be said for air-conditioners, furnaces, boilers and other devices. But homes are bigger, meaning they have more interior space and thereby take more energy to run. Another contributing factor is that more people today have access to things such as central cooling and air-conditioning in general. According to the survey, energy consumed by air-conditioners has multiplied more than 250 percent. This is also because of where homes are being built – namely a huge jump in construction of residential units in the South where it is warmer more often throughout the year.
That’s not to say homes today use more energy. In fact, comparing the average residential units from the 1978 to 2005, you will find they use less. Though the overall amount of energy used is relatively the same, the actual number of homes has increased by many million during the same time period. In 1978, there were 76.6 million while in 2005 that number had grown to more than 111 million. For example, most people have installed such innovations as double or triple-pane energy-efficient windows – 80 percent of all new houses have them as the standard window type. Likewise, consumption of energy for heating has decline during the same period of time because of efficiencies in boilers, furnaces and heat pumps. This is a sign that measures to make residential units more energy efficient is working…to a point. For the same reason the amount of energy for cooling as increase has contributed to the decrease of heating – people are moving to warmer climates. That’s not the only reason for the stagnate levels of energy consumed.