Here’s a surprise. Our houses are on track to use as much electricity as industrial facilities and more than transportation.
At the same time, many of us homeowners believe just the opposite. According to a recent survey, while “the majority of Americans view carbon emissions as a threat, they do not realize the role their homes play in energy usage and emissions.” In other words, Americans put more blame on industry, cars, buses, and trucks than they do on their own refrigerators, HVAC systems, and electrical outlets. In fact, less than 1-in-10 survey respondents rank residential buildings as what could become a top contributor of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the U.S. by 2050, even though, “The typical U.S. household now uses more air conditioning, appliances, and consumer electronics than ever before,” says the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA).
Why are we using so much electricity, why does it matter, and what can we do about it?
Residential electricity use is projected to more than double over the next 30 years as the number of homes increases along with how many appliances, lights, computers, and other devices that fill them grows. A significant increase in the number of people working at home is catalyzed by the Covid, but perhaps destined to remain a reality for many Americans. We’re simply on our computers at home using heating, cooling, and lighting maybe ten more hours a day than we once were.
Climate change probably plays a role as well. More than half of home energy use is for heating and air conditioning, says EIA. Though usage varies by season and geographic location, as a warming climate makes life more uncomfortable, people use more AC to stay cooler.
It matters because most electricity is still generated by the fossil fuels that cause climate change. Natural gas and coal are the largest energy sources for U.S. electricity generation at 61%. Though renewables like wind and solar are providing an increasing share of U.S. electricity, they only provided about 17% of total U.S electricity generation in 2019.
The good news is, there are many actions we can all take to reduce how much electricity we use without impacting our quality of life – actions the survey found most Boomers, Gen Z and Millennial consumers are willing to take.
Some of the easiest steps are to turn off unneeded lights and electronics, which around 75% of consumers say they’re already trying to do. Smart thermostats that automatically adjust the heat or AC when you’re not at home or asleep could cut overall energy use by 5-20%. An impressive 25% of Millennials say they have installed solar panels or another renewable energy source at home so they can minimize the fossil fuel-generated electricity they use, a trend that is already having an impact and could see renewables overtake fossil fuels as the dominant electricity source by 2050. Meanwhile, consumers in every age group support using “smart home” technology designed to lower electricity and energy consumption with ease. And of course, step #1 should be to use energy as efficiently as possible. Insulate and weatherize your home, replace old light bulbs with efficient LEDs, and keep your HVAC system in top working order.
“As a country, we do not realize the impact our own individual actions have on emissions,” said Richard Korthauer, Vice President, Home & Distribution US, Schneider Electric, the company that conducted the survey. “Our homes are top CO2 contributors, and we must all work together to take steps to reduce our energy consumption at home through energy efficient investments and smart tech. We believe the home of the future must be fully sustainable.”
Want more ways to save energy and use less electricity? Here are 18.
TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE: IT’S BEYOND TIME FOR CLIMATE SAFETY