Homes with high energy consumption are likely to provide us more opportunities to save energy. If that’s true, then why don’t we see more programs and businesses geared toward the high users?

Regulatory authorities discourage utilities from creating programs targeting the high users. It is politically unpopular for utility programs funded by ratepayers to support the wealthy. High users, the logic goes, are probably wealthy and therefore able to save energy without assistance. The same attitudes prevail at the federal level, as evidenced by the low-income weatherization programs; caps on tax credits; and less emphasis on the frequent causes of high use, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, heaters for water beds, and well pumps. That view is understandable, but if that’s where the cheapest energy savings lie, should this benign neglect be reconsidered?

It’s also important to realize that high users are not necessarily rich. The city of Tallahassee compiled an impressive list of 101 explanations for high summer utility bills. Only a few of them are associated with high-wealth possessions or activities; most are linked to defective equipment or mismanagement. A separate Florida study of 172 representative homes found that the highest user—clocking in at 40,000 kWh/year—was definitely not wealthy; he had a defective air conditioner and a broken timer on the pool pump.

A few communities have already recognized the problem of high energy and water use. For example, Marin County in California, and some mountain towns in Colorado, have enacted stricter energy efficiency codes for McMansions and other oversize homes. These large homes are almost certain to become high users, so the codes effectively target high users. Some utilities have operated under the radar, using bill stuffers as a means of targeting the high users. But these are the exceptions that call attention to the absence of other approaches.

Household Energy Use Trends 


High users often pay more for electricity than average users, because a quarter of the nation’s utilities have increasing block tariffs. This gives high users a greater financial incentive to save.

At the same time, we know surprisingly little about the high users. Is their high energy use caused by more heating and cooling? More appliances? Unique appliances? Defective equipment? Less regard to energy costs? Is the low-hanging fruit just a mirage? It seems that some research could go a long way here. A recent survey conducted by Seattle City Light is full of intriguing results and hints at the strange habits of the high users. In Seattle, the longer people occupy a home, the more electricity they use (see Figure 1). Perhaps “appliance accretion” is one cause of higher energy use—that is, once a television gets plugged in, it never gets unplugged. Surely we need to learn more so that we can make energy conservation irresistible to this important group.

 

Figure 1. Annual electricity use, in kWh/year, by number of years Seattle City Light customer lived at same address. Source: “Residential Customer Characteristics Survey.” Seattle City Light, February 2010.

 

- Alan Meier

 

Views: 20

Tags: energy, high-end, trends

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Mst. Fatema Aktar is now a member of Home Energy Pros
2 hours ago
Robert Leone added a discussion to the group Energy Auditing Equipment for Sale, Trade or to Purchase
Thumbnail

Blower Door Package for Sale

Hi,I am selling my blower door with extras as a package or individually. These items are used but…See More
9 hours ago
Profile IconRobert Leone and Richard Vito joined allen p tanner's group
Thumbnail

Energy Auditing Equipment for Sale, Trade or to Purchase

Discuss the pros and cons of the equipment you are interested in prior to purchase. Post equipment…See More
9 hours ago
Richard Vito joined Sean Lintow Sr's group
Thumbnail

Best Practices (Residential)

Best Building, Retrofitting, or even Auditing Practices - what are they, what should change, what…See More
17 hours ago
Richard Vito joined James Sayers's group
Thumbnail

Marketing Energy Efficiency

Sharing ideas, tools and examples of promoting energy efficiency to consumersSee More
17 hours ago
Richard Vito joined Allison A. Bailes III's group
Thumbnail

HVAC

HVAC design, Manuals J, S, T, & D, Duct leakage, Air flow, ENERGY STAR new home requirements,…See More
17 hours ago
Richard Vito joined Kyle Brown's group
Thumbnail

Wrightsoft - Manual J / Manual D

If you use Wrightsoft to calculate loads or design ducts, you likely have questions.  Get answers…See More
17 hours ago
Jim Gunshinan commented on Jim Gunshinan's blog post Energy Upgrade California—Up Close and Personal
"I had a revelation while attending Bruce Manclark's session of duct leak testing at the Energy…"
yesterday
George J. Nesbitt commented on Jim Gunshinan's blog post Energy Upgrade California—Up Close and Personal
"Blower Door; the 2007 test was a depressurization test, and the 2014 a pressurization test, which…"
yesterday
George J. Nesbitt replied to Kaushal Bharath Raju's discussion Affordability & Deep Energy Upgrade/Passive House Retrofit in Berkeley, California.
"Plan, plan, plan, plan. The 1st step to is to understand the house, how it's built, the…"
yesterday
George J. Nesbitt posted an event

High Performance Windows - A Panel of Experts at Pyramid Alehouse`

April 26, 2014 from 3pm to 5pm
Join a lively panel discussion on high performance windows. We'll cover some basics, as well as…See More
yesterday
Kaushal Bharath Raju replied to Kaushal Bharath Raju's discussion Affordability & Deep Energy Upgrade/Passive House Retrofit in Berkeley, California.
"Hi David, Thanks for pointing out Martin Holiday's article. I do not wish to engage in the…"
yesterday

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service