US Residential Energy Use Shifts: From HVAC to Electronics

Space heating and cooling now makes up less than 50% of all residential energy consumption, down from 58% two decade ago, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey from the Energy Information Administration.

Among the reasons for the shift: More energy efficient equipment, better insulation, more energy efficient windows, and population shifts to warmer climates.

Data were collected in 2010 and 2011 and released in 2011 and 2012.

Appliances, Electronics and Lighting Are a Larger Share of Home Energy Consumption

Appliances, electronics and lighting make up a much larger share of energy consumption – up from 24 percent in 1993 to 34.6 percent in 2009. This is due not just to decreased use of energy for space conditioning, but also to increasing energy consumption for appliances and electronics.

For the first time, non-weather related energy uses for appliances, electronics, water heating and lighting accounts for a majority of total home energy use – 52 percent.

Here’s an alarming stat: Increases in the number of televisions, computers and similar devices per household have offset efficiency gains in residential electricity use.

According to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS):

…in 1993, only 22% of households had three or more televisions, and less than 45% used central air-conditioning. By 2009, nearly half of all homes contain three or more televisions, and more than 60% use central air-conditioning.

Newer Homes Aren’t Necessarily More Energy Efficient

A common belief is that a newer home is more energy efficient than an older home, but data from EIA reveal newer homes use more energy. On average, residents living in homes built in the 1980s consumed 77 million Btu of total energy. Those living in newer homes (built between 2000 and 2009) consumed 92 million Btu per household — 19% more than those in older homes.

Part of that could be explained by demographic data: Newer homes tend to be inhabited by younger residents, who are more likely to have multiple televisions, computers, and electronics.

Article by Ryan McNeill is president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Maryland solar installer and energy efficiency firm. He has written for Renewable Energy World, the American Solar Energy Society and Sustainablog, among others.

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