Home energy emissions make up nearly 40% of the average American's carbon footprint, which is why it's imperative that we mitigate our electricity and home energy use to both curb our CO2 emissions and save ourselves money.
Below are facts on home energy usage in the average American home, followed by a list of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your home energy footprint. For quicker activities, check out our post on easy eco tips to reduce your energy footprint.
Annual home energy consumption
The average American home consumes the following energy per year, according to the EPA:
- 11,764 kWh of electricity
- 37,517 cubic feet of natural gas
- 45.8 gallons of liquid petroleum
- 29.1 gallons of fuel oil
Annual home energy emissions
Based on the above, the average US home generates 16,700 pounds of CO2e from home energy per year.
Annual home energy usage
How energy is used in homes, according to Energy Information Administration:
- 5% of home energy usage goes toward refrigeration
- 26% of home energy usage goes toward lighting and appliances
- 20% goes toward water heating
- Nearly 50% goes toward heating and air conditioning
Annual cost savings from switching to renewable energy
The average American could save over $1,400 per year in electricity costs alone (assuming electricity costs $0.12/kWh on average) by switching to renewable energy.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce your Home Energy Footprint
#1 - Sign up for Arcadia Power (or another renewable energy provider)
By signing up for Arcadia Power and connecting it to your current energy provider account, you can source 50% renewable energy for free, and 100% renewable for a small monthly fee. This is much simpler than installing solar panels and generating your own renewable energy, plus requires a lower up-front investment. However, installing your own solar panels will save you money over time and allow you to go 'off the grid.' Signing up for Arcadia will either cost you nothing (for 50% renewable), or cost you a bit more than your monthly energy bill already costs (for 100% renewable). You reduce your footprint by 16,700 pounds of CO2e per year by sourcing 100% renewable, and 8,350 pounds CO2e by sourcing 50% renewable.
#2 - Install you own solar panels
Installing your own solar panels and generating your own renewable energy will allow you to go 'off the grid.' Although this usually requires a non-trivial upfront investment, most people make this money back within a few years since they're saving around $1,400 per year on energy costs. However, in some areas, electricity providers offer deals where you can install solar for free. Oftentimes people generate more power than they need with panels, thus enabling them to sell it back to the grid and make money immediately. You reduce your footprint by 16,700 pounds of CO2e per year by generating 100% renewable, and 8,350 pounds CO2e by generating 50% renewable.
#3 - Stop using fossil fuel-based heating and air conditioning
As stated above, nearly 50% of your home energy usage goes toward heating (41%) and air conditioning (8%). If you generate or source renewable energy for your home needs, then you've already made this lifestyle change! However, if you haven't, you could consider better insulating your home to reduce air leaks and the need for heating and AC (see #4 below), restructuring your home to better take advantage of natural heating and cooling, decentralizing heating and AC so you only heat/cool the rooms you're actually using, and relying on a less carbon-emitting source, such as wood, to heat your home. Below are stats on the reduction potential from reducing your dependence on fossil fuel-based heating and AC:
Using renewable heating saves 6680 pounds CO2e and $565 per year.
Using renewable AC saves 1336 pounds CO2e and $113 per year.
#4 - Improve home insulation and air leaks
One major step toward using your heat and air conditioning less (see #3 above) is to improve your home insulation so you have fewer air leaks. You can do this by utilizing your window shades, planting trees that provide shade to your windows, installing energy efficient windows, and installing door draft guards. This change is estimated to save you nearly 10% on your yearly energy bills, which equates to 1670 pounds CO2e and $141, on average.
#5 - Adjust your thermostat by three degrees
According to the National Park Service, turning your thermostat down 3 degrees in winter and up 3 degrees in summer can reduce your footprint by 1,050 pounds of CO2e per year, and save at least 10% ($141) on your yearly energy bill.
#6 - Buy Energy Star appliances and a WaterSense toilet
Energy Star Washer - By replacing your current washer with an Energy Star certified washer, you can reduce your footprint by 417 pounds of CO2e per year. The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. Energy Star certified washers use about 25% less energy and 45% less water than regular washers. If every clothes washer purchased in the US was Energy Star certified, we could save more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the emissions produced by more than 1.7 million vehicles.
Energy Star Dryer - By replacing your current dryer with an Energy Star certified dryer, you can reduce your footprint by 229 pounds of CO2e per year. Energy Star certified dryers use about 20% less energy than conventional models without sacrificing features or performance. They do this by using innovative energy-saving technologies, such as moisture sensors that detect when clothes are dry and automatically shut the dryer off. If all clothes dryers sold in the US were Energy Star certified, Americans could save more than $1.5 billion each year in utility costs and prevent the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of more than 2 million vehicles.
Energy Star Refrigerator - By replacing your current fridge with an Energy Star certified fridge, you can reduce your footprint by 80 pounds of CO2e per year. An estimated 170 million refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers are currently in use in the US. If all refrigerators sold in the US were Energy Star certified, we would save nearly $700 million each year, and 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, which is equivalent to the emissions generated by more than 870,000 vehicles.
WaterSense Toilet - According to the EPA, by replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce toilet water usage by 20% to 60%. This is nearly 13,000 gallons of water savings and 106 pounds of CO2e savings per home per year. You could also save more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilets.
#7 - Install a cool roof
If you have a flat or almost flat roof, consider installing a 'cool roof' to reduce your energy bills during the summer months and reduce your carbon footprint by 1,000 pounds of CO2e per year (per 1,000 square feet). If you live in an urban area, taking this step will also help mitigate the urban heat island effect. A white roof of 1,000 square feet will offset 10 tons of CO2 over its 20 year lifetime, when compared to a black roof. This will result in significant utility bill savings since heating and cooling account for 50% of the average American's utility bill, according to the Department of Energy.