Watt, Why & How e-Newsletter

Four Surprising Energy Users in Your Home

Heating and cooling remain the largest energy users in U.S. homes, but a growing number of devices are starting to make their presence felt on your energy bills. According to a recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) entitled Miscellaneous Energy Loads in Buildings, these random devices add up to 7.8 quadrillion British-thermal units (Btu) per year in energy use. If 7.8 quadrillion Btu seems like a lot; it is, almost as much as cooking, water heating and refrigeration combined. Miscellaneous energy loads may sound a little vague, but it includes some very specific devices that can have a big impact on your home energy use.


Televisions. Your TV may be getting slimmer, but it is taking a larger chunk out of your energy budget. With an estimated 320 million sets in use in American homes, TVs outnumber people; and more than half of U.S. homes have three or more sets. The average TV uses about 213 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, or $21 in energy costs, assuming an electric rate of 10 cents per kWh. Those costs can really add up if you are one of those households with three or more sets. The report finds that homeowners can save up to 80 percent or more on energy costs by switching to the most energy-efficient TVs.


Set-top boxes. While they may be easy to overlook, cable set-top boxes are used in more than 80 percent of U.S. homes. On average, set-top boxes use about 160 kWh; most of that energy is consumed when the box is not in use because few models are set to go into low-power mode. As pay-TV migrates toward digital video recording (DVR) and other features, box energy use has increased. Unlike other electronic devices, consumers cannot purchase high-efficiency set-top models. However, by migrating to energy-efficient set-top technologies, energy savings of up to 50 percent are possible.

Cordless phones. With the rise of cellular phones, cordless phones seem so 20th century. Rumors of the demise of cordless phones may be highly exaggerated, however. There are currently about 170 million still in use in U.S. homes and they make up about 50 percent of the total energy consumption of rechargeable products in homes. ENERGY STAR rated cordless phones and answering machines use about half the amount of energy as standard models.


Ceiling fan
Ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are often touted as an energy-saving technology, reducing the need for air conditioning by making room occupants feel cooler (or warmer in the winter if the fan is reversed). Despite this, ceiling fans can be an energy drain, especially if they are frequently left on in unoccupied rooms. To save energy, make sure to switch off ceiling fans when you leave a room, and install ENERGY STAR certified fans; they use about half the energy of standard products.


Take a look around your home; you may find other miscellaneous energy users that are costing you. Do you really need that light on over your stove 24 hours a day? How about your video game console or entertainment center? Smart plugs can save energy by shutting off energy-wasting standby power to these devices. By finding ways to save, you can reduce your energy bill and your impact on the environment.

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