Thanks to advances in energy efficiency, American residential electricity consumption has fallen to levels last seen in 2001, when Palm pilots were the most advanced gadgets available. According to the Energy Information Administration, despite living in a technology-based era, power usage declined in 2013 for the third year in a row.
So, how is it possible that residential electricity consumption is at pre-iPod levels? Even though Americans are more engaged and connected than ever before, advances in technology have also improved efficiency, allowing for decreased energy consumption and strain on the electricity grid. Here are four keys to how U.S. residents were able to reach 2001 levels despite living in an increasingly technology-dependent world.
Better homes: Energy prices spiked in the early 2000s, leading to numerous changes to help residents cope with higher rates. Among these changes were new minimum insulation requirements on new homes to decrease energy spending due to heat transfer. In the last decade, the cost of high-quality insulation material and weather-resistant windows has dropped, making retrofitting older homes more affordable.
Smarter gadgets: Improved technology has not only improved the efficiency of appliances and gadgets, but increased individuals' ability to control and monitor their energy consumption. Programmable and smart thermostats make it easier to control home heating and cooling, and they allow residents to return to climate-conditioned homes without leaving the system on all day. Additionally, smartphones and tablet computers have allowed residents to rely less on their desktop computers, which consume far more energy than mobile devices.
More efficient appliances: Energy-efficient appliances have been a crucial component to the decrease in residential electricity consumption. A growing number of ENERGY STAR options are available for household and personal products, saving electricity on anything from refrigerators to televisions. Additionally, CFL and LED bulbs are slowly replacing incandescent bulbs, which are 75 percent less efficient than their high wattage counterparts.
Increased awareness: Concern over global climate change has dramatically increased since 2001. Though there have been almost no alterations to Americans' everyday lifestyles, people are making smarter purchases and considering energy efficiency as it relates to the environment and their budgets. Because of this, more and more retailers and engineers are working to improve the energy efficiency of their products as a selling point to customers. Thanks to the expansion of the Internet, Americans who are concerned with their own energy use now have access to extensive information that previously was unavailable.
Residential electricity consumption is expected to drop by another 1 percent in 2014. Despite this promising trend, there are still many opportunities to further decrease overall energy consumption, including the development of fuel-efficient vehicles and increased use of public transport