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Report: Energy Efficiency Up, But Energy Consumption Unchanged

Report: Energy Efficiency Up, But Energy Consumption Unchanged

The share of residential electricity used by appliances and electronics in U.S. homes nearly doubled over the past three decades, but overall residential energy usage remained nearly static due to federal energy efficiency standards implemented for appliances and electronics, according to a new report.

The report, “Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS),” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), found that while the amount of electricity used by home appliances and electronics increased from 1.77 quadrillion Btu (quads) to 3.25 quads from 1978 to 2005, the amount of electricity that energy companies provided households decreased from 10.58 quads to 10.55 quads over the same period, indicating overall energy consumption remained static in spite of the proliferation of electronic devices.

One big reason for energy consumption remaining steady is the substantial improvement in home energy efficiency, particularly in heating. Energy efficiency standards enacted between 1988 and 1994 were found to have provided energy efficiency gains in home heating technologies and major home appliances, such as refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers resulting in a 31 percent reduction in energy usage per household. However, the proliferation of home appliances and electronics largely offset these efficiency gains.

There were several notable trends found by the first release of 2009 data from RECS:

– 76 percent of all U.S. households had at least one computer — 8 percent more than four years earlier — while 35 percent of households had more than one computer
– While the average U.S. household had just one television in 1978, the average U.S. home had 2.5 televisions in 2009, with 44 percent of all U.S. homes containing three or more televisions as of 2009
– 45 percent of all U.S. households had at least one television with a screen size of 37 inches or greater, and the screen size and electricity consumption of the average television continued to grow over time
– 79 percent of all U.S. households had a DVD player, and 43 percent had a DVR
– Almost a third of all U.S. households had four or more rechargeable electronic devices, such as cell phones, plugged in at home

EIA has conducted RECS periodically since 1979 to gather information and report on household energy data for the United States, Census Regions and Divisions, and California, Texas, New York and Florida. For RECS 2009, EIA expanded its survey to include Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arizona, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Colorado.


U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Residential Energy Consumption Survey: Share Of Energy Used by Appliances and Consumer Electronics Increases in U.S. Homes,” March 28, 2011.

“Homes Have More Energy-Efficient Appliances, But the Efficiency Gains Are Partly Offset by More Consumer Electronics,” U.S. Energy Information Administration press release, March 28, 2011.

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