We’ve all seen the ads and promotions for energy efficiency products and programs.
Lower your monthly bills by turning down the thermostat a bit. Buy a programmable thermostat to better control your energy use. Replace your old water heater with a more efficient model. Restore your old leaky windows with new ones that insulate better.
We always wonder if those little things are really that important or will make that big of a difference. The answer is a resounding YES!
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), through its Building Technologies Office (BTO), residential and commercial buildings used 40% of all energy and 70% of all electricity produced in 2014. That’s a total of $430 billion.
Over the past few decades many new technologies have been developed with help of the DOE and through private innovations. Things like solid state lighting systems, high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units, super-insulating window units and more precise temperature controls have all made it easier for consumers and businesses to control their energy usage.
If these energy efficient technologies and systems were used in all of the current and future buildings, the U.S. would save a total of $1 trillion in savings by 2020!
Over that same period there have been significant changes made through energy codes and standards that have helped our homes and workplaces become more energy efficient. Implementation of energy conservation standards for more than 60 categories of appliances and equipment, and establishing energy efficiency building codes is leading to more and more efficient buildings.
Efficiency gains from these codes and standards will result in nearly another $1 trillion in utility savings for all U.S. consumers by 2020. That’s a grand total of $2 trillion in potential savings simply by using the energy efficiency technologies and standards we have right now.
The BTO is leading efforts to help build a strong, clean energy economy, while also reducing our reliance on foreign oil while saving families and businesses money.
How do we realize all of those incredible savings? By innovation in technologies for both existing buildings and new construction as well as public and private sector efforts to develop solutions greatly reduce energy use, improve building comfort, and make using the building’s electricity easier.
Here are some of the hard numbers:
- Today’s dishwashers consume almost 40% less energy, washing machines use 70% less, air conditioners use more than 50% less, and furnaces use 10% less compared to models from the 1990s. Currently, a typical U.S. household saves about $216 per year on energy bills as a result of appliance standards. That may sound like a small number on its own, but considering there are around 114 million households in the U.S., it adds up to a tidy annual savings of $24.6 billion.
- The energy performance of most windows has more than doubled since the 1980s. Double panes, low-E glass coatings, insulated frames, and standardized testing and labeling have transformed the window market. Even more advanced window systems with triple panes, dynamic glazing, and other technologies, are poised for market growth.
- Research & development in water heating solutions has led to the new electric heat pump water heater (HPWH), which does not require new or additional plumbing and electrical connections in homes. One new HPWH uses less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon water heater and could save a typical U.S. household $320 each year on its own. With 114 million households that’s another $36.5 billion in annual savings.
- LED bulbs now use 85% less energy than incandescent. Their cost has dropped 90% since 2008. Total LED installations have saved consumers $1.4 billion in energy costs, and are projected to reach over 80% of all lighting sales by 2030. That will save Americans $26 billion per year in electricity costs, while cutting America’s lighting use by nearly half.
- Appliance and equipment energy conservation standards issued over the last 30 years are projected to save consumers $1.9 trillion in utility costs and over 37,000 Terawatts of primary energy by 2030.
- Building energy codes implemented since the early 1990s are expected to save U.S. businesses and consumers a combined total of 13,500 Terawatts of primary energy by 2040.
- DOE’s Building America has produced more than 100 energy efficient housing innovations and accelerated the adoption of energy saving technologies. Since 1995, this work has helped households across the nation save up to $54 billion.
As you can see, every little change in our daily habits or decisions we make about replacing that next appliance can have a very big impact on the overall efforts towards more energy efficient homes and workplaces. As efficiency technologies advance in the equipment and materials used to build the next neighborhood or office complex, the costs will continue to go down while the savings for everyone will go up.
It’s abundantly clear that what we have done over the past few decades has gone a long way to reducing the electricity bills of homeowners and businesses of all sizes. And although it may seem like a small amount of savings for a minor change in our everyday lives, it all adds up to really big numbers in really big dollars and cents.
(All facts and figures courtesy of Building Technologies Office, Multi-year Program Plan, February, 2016)