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Residential and commercial energy consumption primarily occurs indoors. Buildings are home to many energy efficiency opportunities (e.g., improving the building envelope, sourcing of construction materials, water efficiency, energy management systems, smart buildings) as well as energy-consuming products (e.g., appliances, plug loads, HVAC systems)
Residential Building Energy Use
Residential energy use per household has fallen by roughly 16% from 2001 to 2021.
Energy Efficiency Gains for Appliances and Devices
The energy efficiency of appliances has increased dramatically since 1980, due to a combination of federal standards and the ENERGY STAR® product certification program. A typical household saves about $500 per year on utility bills due to minimum energy performance standards for appliances, and ENERGY STAR® has helped drive down energy use by refrigerators and clothes washers by 24% (since 1996) and 30% (since 2004), respectively.
Tools to Understand and Enhance Building Efficiency
Benchmarking; energy rating, such as through the Home Energy Rating System or Home Energy Score; and certification (including ENERGY STAR® and LEED) can drive efficiency in buildings. Zero net energy buildings and smart buildings are also growing rapidly.
Model Building Energy Codes
Model building energy codes are expected to save $138 billion in energy costs and 13.5 quads of primary energy over the 2010 to 2040 timeframe.
Benchmarking and Building Performance Standards
As of 2021, 14% of all commercial floorspace in the U.S. is subject to benchmarking requirements and over 30 jurisdictions have committed to adopting energy performance standards for existing buildings.
Energy Efficiency and Household Cost Reductions
Energy efficiency has driven down energy consumption per household by approximately 16%
Sources: EIA (2022), Monthly Energy Review; Census (2021)
Energy consumption in residential buildings is responsible for approximately 13% of total energy consumed in the U.S.1 Despite some variability, total residential energy use has remained largely constant, falling only 3% between 2005 and 2021. Due to energy efficiency, per-household energy consumption has fallen by roughly 16% over the same period. This is notable, given that the average U.S. resident lives in a larger, better-acclimated home with significantly more devices.
Appliance Energy Efficiency Improvements
Appliances and equipment have become more efficient across the board, using a fraction of the energy required in 1980
Source: AHAM data (2018)
The efficiency of appliances has increased significantly in the last decades. The chart shows the relative average energy consumption of new appliances sold over the 1980-2018 period. Clothes washers and refrigerators showed the greatest improvements (80% and 60% reductions in energy consumption, respectively) but have begun to plateau in recent years.2 Similarly, improvements in gas furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps have slowed after significant efficiency gains between 1980 and 2010. The overall gains were driven in large part by federal standards (indicator #26), ENERGY STAR® (indicator #27), tax credits, and utility rebates.
Policy Impact: Federal Appliance Standards
Policies for appliance efficiency are saving 14% of the total electricity generated in the U.S. and 6% of delivered natural gas
Source: ACEEE & ASAP (2022)
Source: ACEEE & ASAP (2022)
Federal appliance standards ensure a base-level efficiency for all appliances on the market and have led to large-scale energy savings of both electricity and natural gas since 1990. These savings add up to enormous benefits for U.S. households and businesses. A typical household saves about $500 per year on utility bills because new household appliances and heating, cooling, and lighting products comply with minimum standards.3 Estimates suggest the federal appliance standards program saved nearly 680 TWh in 2021 relative to efficiency levels without standards, which is over 16% of the total electricity that was generated in the U.S. in 2021 (4,115 TWh).4
Market Impact: ENERGY STAR®
The ENERGY STAR® voluntary certification program has enhanced the market value of efficiency and raised consumer awareness about its benefits
Source: EPA (2019)
Source: EPA (2019)
ENERGY STAR Products®, a part of the ENERGY STAR® program, has grown to cover more than 75 product categories and 60,000 product models, some of which have reached market penetrations as high as 90%.5, 6 For example, ENERGY STAR® specification for refrigerators was established in 1996 and has been revised and strengthened multiple times, helping to reduce the average energy consumption of refrigerators by 24% while the average volume increased 18% from 1996 to 2017. Established in 1997, ENERGY STAR® specifications for clothes washers were also strengthened multiple times, facilitating a 30% drop in energy consumption while the average capacity increased 34% from 2004 to 2017. Americans purchase more than 300 million ENERGY STAR®-certified light bulbs annually, with an overall annual market value of more than $100 billion.
Commercial Building Energy Intensity
Gains in lighting and space heating efficiency have decreased energy intensity in commercial buildings, but demand in other areas is driving increased commercial energy use overall
Gains in lighting and space heating efficiency have decreased energy intensity in commercial buildings, but demand in other areas is driving increased commercial energy use overall.
Total commercial building energy consumption per square foot has been declining, in large part due to significant savings in lighting and space cooling, which fell by roughly 600 and 1,000 trillion Btu, respectively, from 2007 to 2021.7
However, total energy consumption in this sector has been rising due to increased development – with square footage rising from 77 billion in 2007 to 94 billion in 2021 – and increases in certain areas, such as the energy consumed by office equipment and computing, cooling, ventilation, and other loads.
Market Impact: Efficient Lighting from 2001 to 2015
Rapid gains in more efficient lighting, including CFLs and LEDs, have reduced energy use in lighting by 16% in 14 years, while inventory grew 25%
Source: Navigant Consulting (2001, 2010, 2015), U.S. Lighting Market Characterization
A success story of bringing RD&D technologies to market, drastic efficiency gains in light bulbs have allowed the U.S. to decrease its energy use from lighting by 16% while increasing lamp inventory by 25% from 2001 to 2015.8 Compared to a traditional 60W incandescent bulb, an 8.5W light emitting diode (LED) consumes 85% less energy9 and lasts from 10 to 25 times as long.10 Furthermore, the price of LEDs per lumen has fallen by 75% from 2012 to 2016, and the market penetration has grown from less than one percent to 13.5% over that same time period. In contrast, energy use from high-intensity discharge lamps (HIDs) – a less efficient high-output lamp used in street lighting, warehouses, and sports arenas – continues to grow for outdoor uses.11 Nevertheless, DOE’s September 2019 rule that rolls back energy efficiency standards for light bulbs creates uncertainty in the future of the market.12, 13
Growth in LED Sales After 2015
LED light bulbs represent the largest share of the market since 2017
T5/T8/T12/T-LED Lamp Sales Indexes
(Avg. Qtr. 2015=100)
Source: NEMA (2022)
Market Penetration (in %)
Source: NEMA (2022)
Though they were only introduced in the 2000s, LED sales of A-line bulbs have grown quickly, resulting in a growth of market penetration from nearly zero to almost 50% within a span of five years (2012-2017), and has since grown to over 75%. The LED bulbs also last much longer. However, market growth has slowed in recent years. Since 2020, the market share of LEDs has hovered around 75%.
The market share of LEDs also showed rapid acceleration for tubular bulbs (primarily used in the commercial and industrial sectors), achieving more than 30% of the fluorescent lamp market share by 2022. As of the first quarter of 2022, T-LED shipments had an annual increase of 6.6%.14 Their adoption has also been driven by their greater controllability, which leads to additional energy savings in commercial buildings. For example, LEDs are more easily paired with digital control systems, can feature both dimmable and color-changing features, and expel less waste heat.15