Balancing Energy-Efficiency
With Our Lust for Electronics?

Most home appliances have become more efficient over the past 30 years, but those gains have been offset by the influx of personal computers, televisions and related devices, according to data released recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Over the past three decades, the share of residential electricity used by appliances and electronics in U.S. homes has nearly doubled from 17 percent to 31 percent.

In the latest update to its Residential Energy Consumption Survey, which is has updated periodically since 1979, EIA found that:

  • 58 percent of U.S. homes had energy-efficient, multi-pane windows, up from 36 percent in the 1993 survey.
  • 76 percent of the 114 million U.S. homes had at least one computer, 8 percent more than just four years prior; 35 percent had multiple computers. (Hewlett-Packard announced last week that it has reduced the energy its products need to operate by 50 percent over the past five years.)
  • 68 million homes have energy-efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) lights.
  • 44 percent of all U.S. homes had three or more televisions. Screen size and average energy consumption per television continue to grow.

The bottom line? Our “needs” for the latest gadgets elevate our energy consumption, even with the onslaught of energy-efficient appliances in recent years. Our behaviors and actions will make the most difference. Here are some simple tips for lowering your energy use:

  1. Buy Energy Star computers, appliances and power adapters, which can consume half the electricity of standard models.
  2. Fully shut down your printer and computer when not in use. (“Sleep” uses standby energy.) Plug them into an easy-to-reach power strip so you only have to do it once.
  3. Reduce. How many phones and remote controls do you need?
  4. Unplug stuff you don’t use.
  5. Unplug the charger. Remove battery-powered rechargeable devices from their docks when fully charged. A charger without a device attached still pulls electricity.