News Brief

Efficiency Gains Nullified by Appliances and Electronics

By Paula Melton

Total Energy Use in Homes in 1978 and 2005

Despite major efficiency gains in appliances and heating equipment, total energy use in homes has remained virtually flat since the late 1970s. Increasing ownership of dishwashers, clothes washers, televisions, and computers is partly to blame.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
U.S. homes expend far less energy on home heating than they did in the 1970s, but overall residential energy consumption remains virtually the same, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). According to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey, home energy use from appliances and electronics has surged by nearly 84%—from 1.77 quadrillion Btu (quads) in 1978 to 3.25 quads in 2009—despite higher efficiency standards for appliances. Energy consumption per household actually dropped an average of 31%, and net stability is due in part to an increase in the number of households. EIA points to several other factors that contribute to stable overall energy consumption, including dramatically increased ownership of clothes washers, dishwashers, and central air conditioners. Additionally, according to EIA data, 72.6% of households have at least one computer (39.4% have two or more), 88.6% have one or more rechargeable electronic devices (44.3% have four or more), and 98.5% own a television (more than half of households have at least three televisions). “Screen size and average energy consumption per television have continued to grow over time,” says the EIA website. For more information on the survey, visit

Published April 29, 2011

Paula, M. (2011, April 29). Efficiency Gains Nullified by Appliances and Electronics. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.