Home Energy Efficiency is Now About Curbing Electricity Use

March 18, 2013

Note to those reluctant to market home energy efficiency technologies because “it’s all about HVAC”: Heating and cooling combined no longer represents the majority of energy use in the home, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

EIA Home Energy Use

Estimates from the agency’s most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) indicate that appliances, electronics, lighting and water heating together now account for more than half a home’s energy consumption, while heating and cooling combines for 47.7 percent.

This, yes, means the electric load of the home should be prioritized when trying to save energy:

For decades, space heating and cooling (space conditioning) accounted for more than half of all residential energy consumption. Estimates from the most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), collected in 2010 and 2011 and released in 2011 and 2012, show that 48% of energy consumption in U.S. homes in 2009 was for heating and cooling, down from 58% in 1993. …

While energy used for space conditioning has declined, energy consumption for appliances and electronics continues to rise. … The majority of devices in the fastest growing category of residential end-uses are powered by electricity, increasing the total amount of primary energy needed to meet residential electricity demand.

The EIA says that while many appliances have become more efficient, the increased amount of devices in our homes that consume energy has increased, offsetting the efficiency gains.

The survey shows that homes actually use more natural gas (4.694 quadrillion BTUs), to electricity (4.388 quadrillion BTUs). But the increased electricity use has a disproportionate effect on the amount of total primary energy required for home energy use, because it takes on average nearly three units of energy from primary fuels such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel to generate one unit of electricity, as the EIA reports in another post.

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