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.