Survey Shows a Shifting Residential Energy Landscape

Published On
Mar 15, 2017

The 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), released on Feb. 27 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), provides a breakdown of how residential energy use is changing in the United States. According to the findings, overall, Americans are taking measures to use less energy, and younger Americans are using energy differently than past generations.

For example, the average American household used 2.3 televisions in 2015, down from the 2.6 televisions per household seen in 2009. In addition, a drop was seen in the number of homes with three or more televisions, and more households reported not using a television at all. As one might expect, younger households have a lower concentration of televisions and desktop computers, but a higher concentration of smaller devices such as smartphones and laptop computers.

The 2015 RECS also examines other sources of energy use, including heating, ventilating and air conditioning; lighting; and other appliances. Findings show the various ways households are attempting to lower their energy use.

In terms of lighting, households are indeed migrating from incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs. Only 11 percent of households surveyed reported using only incandescent bulbs. Also, homeowners are more likely to use LED bulbs than renters.

The survey also found that 59 percent of homes have double- or triple-pane windows. There was a 23 percent decline from 2005 in the number of homes using fuel oil for heat, and a 17 percent increase in the number of households using central air conditioning. Also, only 1/3 of houses with a programmable thermostat use the programming feature to automatically set the heating temperature.

The 2015 RECS surveyed more than 5,600 households through in-person interviews, online questionnaires and mail-in paper surveys. This was the first of these surveys to include questions about LEDs, tablets and smart thermostats, illustrating how residential energy use continues to change.

The EIA has begun releasing data from the survey at www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/data/2015. Household-level data with more detailed analysis will be released in April, and RECS Consumption and Expenditures estimates—using data collected from energy utilities and suppliers—will be released in 2018.

About the Author
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Matthew Kraus

Matthew Kraus is director of communications at NECA and previously was senior editor of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR for five years. He can be reached at mkraus@necanet.org.

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