Consumer preferences have been changing, and now more than ever it appears that Americans are driving less, staying home more – and saving energy. This trend has had some major impacts, but one of the biggest is its effect on national energy usage.
Americans have been spending almost 8 more days at home per year than they did ten years ago. They have also spent about 1.2 fewer days traveling and almost 7 fewer days in buildings away from home, including workplaces, malls, and restaurants.
This trend has been especially prevalent in people aged 18 to 24, who have been spending an average of 14 more days at home per year than people were doing ten years ago. The opposite has been noted with Americans over age 64, who spend less time at home than they did ten years ago. This could partly be attributed to a rise in the Social Security retirement age during that period, meaning more people are remaining in the workplace to an older age.
Why are people spending more time at home? The short answer is the internet.
Digital technologies make it quick and simple to conduct our lives from home.
Instead of trekking to theaters, we can stream movies and TV from the sofa. Rather than meet in person, we can chat with friends online. No need to visit malls, restaurants, or grocery stores when we can so easily use e-commerce to order from home. In addition, Americans are spending more time working from home again leveraging the flexibility the internet offers.
When we do choose to leave the house, carpooling through companies like Uber means fewer car journeys overall.
More time at home saves energy
The reduced time Americans have spent traveling has saved 1,200 trillion BTU of energy in a single year compared with figures from ten years ago. Since each minute of car travel is 20 times more energy intensive than a minute at home, even small decreases in travel time save lots of energy. Spending less time in buildings outside the home reduced energy consumption by another 1,000 trillion BTU. Of course, this increases residential energy use since people are spending their time at home, but only by 480 trillion BTU in the same year. This equates to a net reduction in energy use of 1,700 trillion BTU, which is the same as around 14 billion gallons of gasoline.
Increased home internet use inevitably means that servers and IT infrastructure elsewhere consume more energy, but the increase in energy use by all servers in the US was only about one-seventh of the 1,700 trillion BTU savings. Additionally, shoppers making fewer trips to stores in favor of e-commerce orders delivered directly to them has resulted in additional savings.
Optimizing future energy efficiency
Energy savings are good news in their own right, but this data can also help us strategize to further improve energy efficiency.
For example, the US government currently focuses much effort on improving vehicle energy efficiency. But if the trend toward carpooling and less overall vehicle use continues, energy savings from better vehicle efficiency will have less impact than originally projected.
Instead, as indicated by these consumer trends, we should be placing more emphasis on improving energy efficiency at home.
Consumption by home appliances, electronics and lighting are steadily rising, especially as TVs are getting larger and 14% of Americans now watch TV for more than 7.7 hours per day. Thus, focusing on improved efficiencies here is likely to reap big rewards.
Changes in lifestyle are affecting energy consumption. By studying trends in energy use over time, we can focus research in the most beneficial areas to improve energy efficiency. If you're ready to work with a partner who stays at the forefront of energy efficiency innovations, schedule a meeting with an expert today to learn more.
Cary Brock leverages her leadership skills, 10 years of industry experience, and passion for sustainability in everything she does. Cary is currently responsible for the overall management of a multimillion-dollar residential audit program and oversees customer experience. Cary earned a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, San Bernardino.