It seems like the more electronic devices we bring into our homes, the more power we should be using. But why are we seeing the opposite start to happen?
From 1980 to 2000, residential electricity consumption grew around 2.5% annually. In the last decade that growth fell to 2%. And now experts expect it to defy both expectation and tradition, and actually drop 0.5% each year for the next decade. That's not what you'd expect in a nation filled with giant home entertainment systems, computer set-ups in every room, and pockets packed with gizmos that need constant charging.
So watt's up? In a word, we're getting smart. You can check out all the details here, but the gist is we've gotten serious about swapping out wasteful incandescent light bulbs for power-saving CFLs and LEDs. We're weatherizing our homes and buying more efficient appliances. And in a bum economy, we're eschewing bigger houses and looking for ways to lower our monthly bills, strategies that favor energy conservation.
That's a whole lot of awesome, and it's making a huge difference. Because the cheapest, easiest, and cleanest possible new source of energy is simply using less. Conservation frees up existing power for other uses and "creates" new energy resources without burning a single lump of coal or building a new power plant.
When EnergySavvy crunched the numbers, they found that retrofitting 1.6 million homes for energy-efficiency would save as much power each year as a new nuclear power plant would produce but for half the cost of building that plant. It would also create 220,000 new jobs, 90 times more than the nuclear facility. In fact, the International Energy Agency finds
that by 2020 energy efficiency could have nearly double the impact of nuclear power, renewable energy, and clean coal put together.
Makes you question why some among us still insist on defending the wasteful, polluting, costly status quo. And it makes you wonder what else we can do to save energy after we've switched light bulbs, bought better appliances, and insulated our homes.
My advice is to go after the phantom or vampire loads in your home. These hidden power drains are created by devices that stay a little bit on even when they're turned off in order to provide remote-control service, keep time, illuminate displays, etc. The trickle of power they use adds up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vampire loads account for 10-15% of the average monthly electric bill.
One solution I've mentioned before is the GreenSwitch, which replaces the wall outlets your phantom load devices use with outlets that communicate wirelessly with a master wall switch. Hit that switch and power to every GreenSwitch is cut to kill vampire loads. Or get a smart power strip that senses devices in vampire mode and automatically pulls their plug.
In the end, it doesn't matter what energy inefficiencies we look for at home or how we go after them. It only matters that we all stay on the case and don't let up. It's a strategy that's working -- for our wallets and our world. And that's something to get energized about.