Energy Efficiency 101: What is Energy Efficiency?

At its most basic, energy efficiency refers to a method of reducing energy consumption by using less energy to attain the same amount of useful output. For example, an energy-efficient 12-watt LED bulb uses 75-80% less energy than a 60-watt traditional bulb but provides the same level of light.

Efficient energy use has been a rising trend in the United States due to increasing energy costs and the environmental problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions. This green energy trend is evident in the products and appliances for sale to consumers, many of which become more energy-efficient from year to year. The trend also extends to homes: a growing number of prospective homeowners are starting to request energy ratings before deciding to purchase property.

On a national scale, residential energy consumption per housing unit has been falling over the years. This fall in consumption is attributable to increasing energy efficiency, and is happening in spite of the growing number of electronic devices an average household uses. However, the average size and total number of housing units within the United States has also risen over the same period. As a result, total residential energy consumption has remained relatively constant since 1993.

In 2014, residences were responsible for approximately 21 percent of national energy consumption, contributing an equal amount to national emissions. There is significant opportunity for emissions reductions in the residential sector; in fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you could reduce your energy use, and by extension your utility bills, by 25-30% by implementing energy efficient appliances and projects in your home. Because households are charged for electricity per kilowatt-hour (kWh), reducing your energy consumption results in proportionate utility savings.