How energy efficient are the homes you are building? The U.S. EIA (Energy Information Admin.), www.eia.gov, Washington, D.C., has an interesting take on this.

The U.S. EIA reports that although the average size of new homes has become larger in terms of square-footage, homes in the U.S. have become more energy efficient during the past few decades. This is in part due to the increasing availability and adoption of energy-efficient technologies.

The EIA, which provides energy statistics and analysis in an effort to inspire sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public education, has released an analysis of its most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The survey, which has been conducted since 1980 and most recently in 2009, demonstrates a surprising reality—improvements in energy efficiency have apparently reduced energy intensity enough to offset more than 70% of the growth in the number of households and the larger average size of homes.

The study suggests energy intensity in 2009 had declined/improved by about 37% compared to 1980, despite an obvious spike in the number of energy-consuming devices and appliances used in homes. In fact, EIA suggests the gains from energy intensity improvements would have been larger if it weren’t for the increased number of electronic devices such as computers, networking equipment, and home-entertainment devices.

EIA says energy intensity changes are influenced by factors such as energy prices, shifts in household energy fuel sources, consumer preferences for increased comfort and entertainment options, and increasingly energy-efficient technologies. Public education about energy use has also likely played a role in the decreased consumption since 1980.

Additionally, industry standards for appliance and electronics manufacturers have led to less-power-hungry devices. Government incentives, building codes, and consumer awareness and labeling programs such as ENERGY STAR have also helped.

Clearly, much has happened since 2009 in the world of energy-efficient technologies. Today, consumers and businesses can adopt connected devices and solutions that help them better understand and manage energy use in realtime. With the power to make more informed power-consumption decisions on a daily basis, the next EIA study will be very interesting to see.

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