U.S. Home Energy Use As High as in 1970s, Despite Advances


The average American household uses the same amount of energy it did in the early 1970s, despite significant improvements in the efficiency of household appliances, according to a report in the Washington Post. Even though appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators now use half the amount of energy that they did several decades ago, average household energy use has remained the same because houses have been getting bigger and because they now contain more power-hungry devices, such as computers, flat-screen televisions, video games, and digital video recorders.

One sign of that growing demand from computers, TVs, and other gadgets is that while electricity accounted for 23 percent of an average household’s energy use in 1978, it now accounts for 42 percent, according to the Post. Even though household energy use has essentially remained flat for the past 40 years, the number of households has increased significantly as the U.S. population has grown from 203 million in 1970 to nearly 310 million today, pushing up overall energy use.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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