Energy Efficiency at Home

21.4% of the U.S.’ energy consumption comes from residential uses.  U.S. household electricity consumption in 2001 shows the breakdown of electricity use at home by type and appliance.  With the advancement of technology, manufacturers have been able to produce more efficient appliances (ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances) to help reduce energy consumption at home .  To promote the adoption of these appliances into U.S. homes, the Department of Energy has initiated a state-by-state appliance rebate program which is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  This rebate program looks to promote the replacement of old appliances with new ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances to reduce the consumption of energy for appliances, refrigeration, space heating, cooling, and water heating.  The adoption of these appliances has been slow due to an estimated life span of 10-15 years for most of these major appliances.  The proposed rebates can help ease the financial burden that consumers take on when making these purchases.  Additionally, the increasing focus on energy use in the U.S. should help in the adoption of this technology.

An initiative to extend energy-efficiency tax credits to homeowners would be an additional step in increasing energy efficiency in households by promoting the adoption of many different building and insulation techniques to increase efficiency or decrease energy loss.  This initiative looks to entice owners to make changes to their homes, but I am skeptical that consumers will look to spend their money on their existing homes considering the current economic troubles.  The tax credits will make remodeling more attractive for those consumers who have the extra capital, but it seems to me that the focus should be on requirements for energy efficiency standards in new homes.  Indeed, England has granted an exemption from Stamp duty land tax for all new zero-carbon homes.  Additionally, each state has a governmental agency that sets standards for energy efficiencies in home building.  For example, California’s building efficiency standards have saved more than $56 billion in electricity and natural gas costs since 1978, and it is estimated that the standards will save an additional $23 billion by 2013.

In all, it seems as though the government has the initiatives and programs in place to promote the adoption of efficiency standards in building homes and the appliances used in those homes.  The obstacle at this point seems to be the existing home and appliance base that does not meet the new governmental standards.  Tax credits and rebates will help ease the financial burden that buying these appliances and paying for the remodeling bring on, but I am interested to see how the economic troubles affect the effectiveness of these programs.



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3 responses to “Energy Efficiency at Home

  1. Vince Tyler

    I agree that these programs to promote energy efficient appliances and home modifications are a good starting point. Although, I feel in order to reduce energy consumption, it might be easier and more effective to promote conservation. One simple way of doing this would be to unplug phone chargers, and other electronic devices when you are not using them. I was also wondering if everyone were to replace their appliances, what would happen with all of the old ones? Would they just go to landfills, or is there some way to recycle them?

  2. jpop31

    While I agree in theory that replacing inefficient home appliances with efficient ‘Energy Star certified appliances’ is an important program for the United States government to support. However, how reliable is this program? With the ‘cash for appliances’ program in full gear it is difficult to find some appliances that are not Energy Star certified. Specifically, as of 2008 79% of all TV sets and 67% of all dishwashers already were Energy Star qualified. Therefore, instead of promoting high-performing appliances, the program now certifies the majority of products in most categories.

    Furthermore, there has been speculation on how energy-efficient products that bear the Energy Star label really are. A November 2009 government audit report identified many non Energy Star products to be more energy-efficient than many appliances carrying the logo. While there is no doubt that this shift to energy-efficient appliances is certainly a good trend, even the Energy Protection Agency’s inspector general stated that the “EPA cannot be certain Energy Star products are the more energy-efficient and cost-effective choice for consumers.” Additionally, this audit found that the Energy Department doesn’t even properly track whether manufacturers have met the required specifications for efficiency. Therefore, many Americans are blindly purchasing appliances with the Energy Star logo believing that these products are the most efficient. When in fact, the Energy Star certification is becoming nothing more then a façade to help manufacturers ‘brand’ their products in the trendy green movement.

    As the market continues to be flooded with Energy Star products, and those appliances bearing the label become even more diluted in value, the DOE should reconsider if $300 million of taxpayer’s money is best spent in rebates for those buying Energy Star appliances. I would also agree that promoting conservation is a better route as well as investing the $300 million into research instead of gambling on products that the EPA isn’t even sure are the most efficient.

  3. mvpulido

    This is an interesting article and I agree that it seems unlikely that people would be willing to invest in more energy efficient appliances in their homes. However, I am hesitant to attribute this lack of investment merely to the economic downturn. Environmentalists and those with large amounts of disposable income aside, I feel that in general, the reason people buy new, energy efficient appliances, is due to the fact that either their current appliances have stopped working or they no longer meet the owner’s necessities. Because of this, I am doubtful as to whether increasing energy efficient tax credits would actually incentivize homeowners with properly working appliances to make the switch to energy star rated products. Granted, the tax credits would be highly motivational to new homeowners or people in the need of buying new appliances, but it seems that it would have little effect on anyone that does not fit this description.

    For the case of those that already own properly working appliances, it appears that the answer to saving energy and increasing energy efficiency at home lies in energy conservation. As stated in the EPA’s U.S. Household Electricity Report, around 31% of the electricity consumed by U.S. households in 2001 is attributed to heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC). There are many simple and cheap solutions, however, that can be adopted by homeowners to help decrease HVAC electricity usage. Some options proposed by the EPA are as effortless as turning off lights, setting the thermostat lower in winter, and increasing home insulation. The latter of these is a high energy saving option that can be achieved by “caulking all small holes where wires go through walls or floors or by sealing laundry vents, water faucets, electrical outlets, and other hookups.”

    Overall, while a switch to energy efficient devices might not be the most viable option for long-standing homeowners, there are several cost effective solutions that can have a great impact in reducing energy consumption in homes.


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