Study: More Homes Using Less Electricity
Household consumption at 2001 levels
Wheeling Intelligencer - 31 December 2013
By Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer
NEW YORK - The average amount of electricity consumed in U.S.
homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago, back
when the smartest device in people's pockets was a Palm pilot and
anyone talking about a tablet was probably an archaeologist or a
Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances and gadgets,
power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a
row, to its lowest point since 2001, even though our lives are
Here's a look at what has changed since the last time consumption
was so low.
In the early 2000s, as energy prices rose, more states adopted
or toughened building codes to force builders to better seal homes
so heat or air-conditioned air doesn't seep out so fast. That
means newer homes waste less energy.
Also, insulated windows and other building technologies have
dropped in price, making retrofits of existing homes more
affordable. In the wake of the financial crisis, billions of
dollars in Recovery Act funding was directed toward
Big appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners have
gotten more efficient thanks to federal energy standards that get
stricter ever few years as technology evolves.
A typical room air conditioner - one of the biggest power hogs in
the home - uses 20 percent less electricity per hour of full
operation than it did in 2001, according to the Association of
Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Central air conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, water
heaters, washing machines and dryers also have gotten more
Other devices are using less juice, too. Some 40-inch LED
televisions bought today use 80 percent less power than the
cathode ray tube televisions of the past. Some use just $8 worth
of electricity over a year when used five hours a day - less than
a 60-watt incandescent bulb would use.
Those incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with compact
fluorescent bulbs and LEDs that use 70 to 80 percent less power.
According to the Energy Department, widespread use of LED bulbs
could save output equivalent to that of 44 large power plants by
The move to mobile also is helping.
Desktop computers with big CRT monitors are being replaced with
laptops, tablet computers and smart phones, and these mobile
devices are specifically designed to sip power to prolong battery
It costs $1.36 to power an iPad for a year, compared with $28.21
for a desktop computer, according to the Electric Power Research
On the other hand ...
We are using more devices, and that is offsetting what would
otherwise be a more dramatic reduction in power consumption.
DVRs spin at all hours of the day, often under more than one
television in a home. Game consoles are getting more sophisticated
to process better graphics and connect with other players, and
therefore use more power.
More homes have central air conditioners instead of window units.
They are more efficient, but people use them more often.
Still, Jennifer Amman, the buildings program director at the
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, says she is
"It's great to see this movement, to see the shift in the national
numbers," she says. "I expect we'll see greater improvement over
The Energy Department predicts average residential electricity use
per customer will fall again in 2014, by 1 percent.