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Home electricity use in US falling to 2001 levels

Man about to plug in

NEW YORK (AP) -- The average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago, back when the smartest device in people's pockets was a Palm pilot and anyone talking about a tablet was probably an archaeologist or a preacher.

Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances and gadgets, power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a row, to 10,819 kilowatt-hours per household, according to the Energy Information Administration.

That's the lowest level since 2001, when households averaged 10,535 kwh. And the drop has occurred even though our lives are more electrified.

Here's a look at what has changed since the last time consumption was so low.


In the early 2000s, as energy prices rose, more states adopted or toughened building codes to force builders to better seal homes so heat or air-conditioned air doesn't seep out so fast. That means newer homes waste less energy.

Also, insulated windows and other building technologies have dropped in price, making retrofits of existing homes more affordable. In the wake of the financial crisis, billions of dollars in Recovery Act funding was directed toward home-efficiency programs.


Big appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners have gotten more efficient thanks to federal energy standards that get stricter ever few years as technology evolves.

A typical room air conditioner - one of the biggest power hogs in the home - uses 20 percent less electricity per hour of full operation than it did in 2001, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

Central air conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines and dryers also have gotten more efficient.

Other devices are using less juice, too. Some 40-inch LED televisions bought today use 80 percent less power than the cathode ray tube televisions of the past. Some use just $8 worth of electricity over a year when used five hours a day - less than a 60-watt incandescent bulb would use.

Those incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs that use 70 to 80 percent less power. According to the Energy Department, widespread use of LED bulbs could save output equivalent to that of 44 large power plants by 2027.

The move to mobile also is helping. Desktop computers with big CRT monitors are being replaced with laptops, tablet computers and smart phones, and these mobile devices are specifically designed to sip power to prolong battery life.

It costs $1.36 to power an iPad for a year, compared with $28.21 for a desktop computer, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.


We are using more devices, and that is offsetting what would otherwise be a more dramatic reduction in power consumption.

DVRs spin at all hours of the day, often under more than one television in a home. Game consoles are getting more sophisticated to process better graphics and connect with other players, and therefore use more power.

More homes have central air conditioners instead of window units. They are more efficient, but people use them more often.

Still, Jennifer Amman, the buildings program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, says she is encouraged.

"It's great to see this movement, to see the shift in the national numbers," she says. "I expect we'll see greater improvement over time. There is so much more that can be done."

Back in 1990, before most homes had a personal computer and multiple other gadgets, average consumption totaled 9,447 kilowatt-hours per household. That slowly climbed to a peak of 11,504 in 2010. But since then, usage has been steadily dropping.

The Energy Department predicts average residential electricity use per customer will fall again in 2014, by 1 percent.

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Gailsunday December 31 2013 at 11:36 AM

Several comments he blame "regulations" as the reason for high prices on things,....whereas, the truth is just the opposite....after the dear departed trickle-down, deregulator got finished with all his shenanigans in the '80, THE PRICES OF EVERYTHING ROSE vastly, and have continued to do so and will because it removed the brakes for Unmitigated profiteering at the expense of the PUBLIC....we need to recognize this and put the genii back in the bottle, and RIGHT this topsy-turvy Economic ugliness this Country has become....

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falcon50c December 31 2013 at 12:21 PM

The highest inflation has occurred in the sectors with the most government interference, regulation, and subsidy. Those sectors would be education, housing, and health care. When the government steps in the free market can no longer lower the price. Unions, especially municipal workers, are also a major cause of inflation. And lastly, let's not forget that the Federal Government continues to print money at a suicidal rate, which drives up prices and destabilizes the economy in general.

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truthnews December 31 2013 at 10:18 PM

Since I moved into my ranch home, my electric is cut in half. Still, I do not want to support nukes so it's power will be from the sun soon.

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Hello Joe December 31 2013 at 11:03 AM

It seems to me that all we ever really mange to accomplish is gripeing about things. I really want to see action or hear nothing at this point.

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Bebe December 31 2013 at 10:46 AM

We live in Louisiana where the heat is extreme. Our Utilities Commissioner is now BILLING A FLAT RATE OF $50 in addition to their usage bill, to all of those trying to tie in to the grid with solar. With tie in (Net Metering) you sell electricity to the city during peak hours and draw from it in the evenings. Their lame excuse is that solar tie in folks don't pay enough for infrastructure, what about the electricity they feed into the grid at peak hot time to prevent brown and black outs, which down here would be deadly? You sometimes think the government wants people to conserve but when they do something like that, it makes you wonder.

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Hello Joe December 31 2013 at 10:57 AM

In what way is it deadly? People were living there and doing just fine for centuries before electricity. I lived in Metarie as child without a/c and we handled ok, nobody died. There were some hard to sleep nights now and again but this was also a time when you could sleep with the windows open for a breeze.

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Hi Den December 31 2013 at 10:28 AM

Sothern California Edison screws their customers. I pay as much as $1000 per month in the summer to air condition my home which is about 3200 sq ft.at a temperature set at 80. We are in the desert, but not quite as hot as Vegas. I have friends their that pay less than half at keep their house around 70. The California Public Utilities Commision came out and audited my home and they said " no problem here",and it looks like you are doing everything right to keep your bill down. SCE is a big bloated beauracracy with huige salaries and lavish pensions for employees.

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waltercenelect December 31 2013 at 10:26 AM

I love my solar panels

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1 reply to waltercenelect's comment
Hello Joe December 31 2013 at 10:59 AM

You save nothing after you consider cost to install and then upkeep.

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infoear December 31 2013 at 10:13 AM

The goverment should put solar panels on our homes for free so we can power are homes for free and the power company can keep the rest

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waltercenelect December 31 2013 at 10:26 AM

I so agree !!!!!

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Hello Joe December 31 2013 at 11:00 AM

Do you have any idea what that would cost plus the jobs lost at power companies?

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Cindy December 31 2013 at 10:07 AM

Many people living in older homes are not saving on electricity.
These older homes are hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
And people on fixed incomes, the underemployed, people having roommates to survive, single parents can not afford to update the houses they live in.

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1 reply to Cindy's comment
sk1952 December 31 2013 at 10:28 AM

Your exactly right Cindy. Im on a fixed income of less than $1600 per month. I cant afford the bulbs! I also cant afford to buy a new air conditioner! Some of these people dont realize that seniors and low income people cant afford to save their environment!

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jgesselberty December 31 2013 at 9:59 AM

And we are rewarded with our conservation efforts with higher costs. The only green in going green is the money to be made. Thanks, Al.

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sk1952 December 31 2013 at 9:53 AM

Has anyone ever mentioned that none of the curly cue incandescent bulbs are made in the USA? They are all made in China. Another problem is that there isn't a safe way to dispose of them? Is the cost saving worth American jobs and more pollution in the environment?

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Alan - san December 31 2013 at 9:52 AM

Isn't that strange. Our usage goes down and our bills go up. Someone has to pay for the utiity companies loses. Looks like alternative energy off the net is the answer. Of course the local and state governments will figure out a way to tax you on that.

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MIKE December 31 2013 at 10:09 AM

ectric autos saVE A LOT OF FUEL, BUT HOW MUCH ELECTRICITY DOES IT TAke to keep these mostly ugly things chargedsSave at the

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jbakerjonathan December 31 2013 at 3:54 PM

It takes about 13 to 13.5 kWh to fully recharge a Chevy Volt battery. That takes about 4 hours at 240 volts or about 10 hours at 120 volts. The cost is about $1.60 using the national average of 12 cents per kWh. That will take you about 40 miles. Compare that to $5.46, using the national average of $3.318 for a gallon of regular and 24.9 mpg for the "average" car. That's a savings of $3.86 for every 40 miles driven! And I'll compare my "ugly" Volt to your "ugly" gas guzzler any day of the week 8^)

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waltercenelect December 31 2013 at 10:27 AM

only in America !

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