Home Energy Use: By the Numbers

It’s easy for people like us TreeHuggers to sit back and say, “Follow our advice; be greener; it’s better.” We have good reasons for saying so — things like using less energy, reducing greenhouse gas output and lowering our individual and collective ecological footprint — but those are sometimes difficult to contextualize and put into practice in a meaningful, everyday sort of way. Let’s take a look, then, at some context for what we’re talking about, as we look at home energy use, by the numbers.

It’s easy to forget that the appliances and systems in our homes have two price tags: one on display at the store, and one in our energy bill every month. It’s also easy to forget that the second one really adds up over time, and that buying the cheaper product (at the point of sale) may end up costing you more over its lifespan in utility bills (not to mention the increase carbon footprint it has from hogging all that extra energy). The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program and accompanying label is an easy, effective way to cut back on this phenomenon; in case you don’t believe us; here are some of the numbers.

$1,900 per year — the amount the average home spends in energy costs.
$110 per year — the amount that using an Energy Star clothes washer can save you.
18-25 gallons — the amount, in water, that most Energy Star clothes washers uses per cycle.
40 gallons — the amount, in water, that an average conventional washer uses per cycle.
$30 per year — the amount you can save by replacing a dishwasher manufactured before 1994 with an Energy Star qualified dishwasher.
$90 — the amount, over its lifetime, that using an Energy Star dishwasher will save you by using less hot water.
Four months — the amount of time you could light an average house with the energy saved by replacing a refrigerator bought in 1990. Check out Energy Star’s Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator [www.energystar.gov] to get more numbers.
$25 per year — the amount you can save by replacing a 10 year-old room air conditioner (those that go in the window, usually) with an Energy Star model.
40% — the amount of all electricity used to power home electronics that is consumed while the products are turned off (there’s that pesky phantom power [www.sundance.tv] again).
17 power plants[/url] — the equivalent output that this wasted energy equals each year across the US.
— the average number of home electronics — 2 TVs, a VCR, DVD player and 3 telephones — in US homes.
25 billion pounds — the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would be saved if these items were replaced by Energy Star models.
3 million cars — the equivalent, in greenhouse gas emissions, that the above action would take off the road.
1.7 million acres — the equivalent amount of new trees planted that would result from just one in 10 homes using Energy Star-qualified products.

We could go on and on, but we hope you’re starting to get the idea. Look for the yellow guide above to help you when shopping and doing the math for replacement costs (old ones will have much higher numbers than new ones, and remember: little changes really can make a really big difference, when you start adding a few of them up. And you don’t even have to do it because you care about the planet; you can do it because you’re tired of wasting money. Either way, you’ll be more (and have more) green.