Week 20: Home Energy Use

According the the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average home in America consumes about 11,000 kWh (kilowatthours) per year, which accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

If considered a country, these emissions would be considered the world’s sixth largest GHG emitter, comparable to Brazil and larger than Germany.

The carbon footprint of household energy use in the United States

Unfortunately, this number is higher for households in the south, where the average single-family detached home consumes closer to 16,000 kWh per year.

The biggest users of energy in our homes are air conditioning, space heating, water heating, lighting, refrigerators, electronics, and clothes dryers. These seemingly necessary things are costing us a lot of money and emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gasses. This week we want to discuss how we can Reduce Our Home Energy Use which will not only save us money but will also decrease our carbon footprint.

The Impact of Home Energy Use on the Environment

Energy is essential for development and it would be wonderful if all of our energy came from clean sources (such as wind and solar), but we are not there yet and our consumption is still putting an enormous burden on the environment. Nearly all parts of the U.S. Electricity System can impact the environment. How much of an impact it has depends on how and where the energy is delivered. According to the EPA, the environmental effects can include:

Emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, especially when a fuel is burned.

Use of water resources to produce steam, provide cooling, and serve other functions.

Discharges of pollution into water bodies, including thermal pollution (water that is hotter than the original temperature of the water body).

Generation of solid waste, which may include hazardous waste.

Land use for fuel production, power generation, and transmission and distribution lines.

Effects on plants, animals, and ecosystems that result from the air, water, waste, and land impacts above.

About the U.S. Electricity System and its Impact on the Environment, EPA

Another potential impact we need to remember is the effects energy production and consumption can have on human health if someone is exposed to pollutants in the water, air, and soil.

But What Does It Really Mean?

Reading the above list of environmental impacts of home energy use and seeing the numbers of greenhouse gas emissions and the kilowatthours of energy consumption can seem rather abstract though. Is 16,000 kWh a lot or a little? Sometimes it is easier to understand these concepts if we can visualize what our consumption equates to.

The EPA has a great tool, the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that can help with this. If you are interested in getting a better understanding of just how much energy your home consumes, I would highly recommend trying this tool out.

A second tool to try out is their Carbon Footprint Calculator. This tool helps you calculate your emissions from home energy use, transportation, and waste. You can then explore ways to reduce your emissions and see how much money you can save in the process.

Learn More!

There are many tools out there (like the ones I mentioned above) to get a better understanding of just how much energy we are consuming on a daily basis. I encourage you to take a look at your most recent power bill and get an idea of the impact your consumption is having on the environment. Throughout the week we are going to share ways we can reduce our household energy consumption. Put some into practice and see what kind of impact you can have on your bill and on the world around you. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook to keep up with the discussion.

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