U.S. homes are more energy efficient than they were 40 years ago, but they’ve also much larger.

The result: The size of new homes offsets nearly all the efficiency gains of the past four decades. Technology and other advances enable us to use much less energy per square foot, but we build much bigger homes with many more square feet to cool and heat,

To illustrate the paradox, Pew Research Center cites preliminary figures from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:

“The average U.S. home used 101,800 British thermal units (Btu) of energy per square foot in 2012, the most recent year with available data. That’s 31 percent less than in 1970, after adjusting for weather effects and efficiency improvements in electricity generation.

“And while the total number of housing units rose by 80 percent over the past four decades, collectively they used just 45 percent more Btu than in 1970. (The government uses Btu – the amount of heat needed to raise a pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit – as a single common measure for electricity, heating fuel and other forms of household energy.)”

Yet the good news is dimmed by the growing size of Americans’ homes, which may be more energy efficient but ultimately use large amounts of power.

As Pew put it, “(L)ike Americans’ waistlines, U.S. homes have been expanding steadily over the years: The average home in 2012 was estimated at 1,864 square feet, 28 percent bigger than in 1970.

Today’s home not your father’s house

New construction drives most of the trend.

Pew said the Census Bureau found that the average new single-family house completed last year was 2,657 square feet. This makes it 57 percent larger than the average new home 40 years ago.

And the biggest new homes are being built in the South: An average of 2,711 square feet last year.

 

Read more at http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/09/as-american-homes-get-bigger-energy-efficiency-gains-are-wiped-out/

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