Over the past 20 years, the average home has increased in size by 30 percent. Despite this fact, newer homes only consume 2 percent more energy, largely due to improved energy efficiency. More efficient appliances, better building materials and advances in residential technologies help homeowners save energy, and many of these technologies can trace their roots to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Here is a list of what the DOE says are the top four contributors to holding the line on home energy costs.
1. Loose-fill fiberglass insulation. Hidden in walls, attics and floors, insulation helps keep homes comfortable. Today, nearly 75 percent of homes use this type of improved loose-fill fiberglass insulation, and researchers estimate it has helped consumers in cold climates save 5–10 percent on heating costs.
The DOE is working on a project that uses nanotechnology to develop cost-effective, environmentally friendly and even more efficient foam insulation. If successful, the technology could save U.S. homeowners $8 billion a year in heating and cooling costs.
2. Electric heat pump water heaters. The growing demand for more efficient water heaters spurred by the Energy Star program laid the groundwork for the electric heat pump water heater market.
Electric heat pump water heaters can provide substantial savings for homeowners.
3. Energy-efficient refrigerator compressors. Over the years, refrigerators have changed dramatically—from a box cooled by an ice block to a Wi-Fi-connected smart appliance. But even though today’s fridges are bigger and pack more features, they use about 25 percent less energy than those built in 1975.
Today, more than 100 million refrigerators in homes across the country use an energy-saving advanced compressor.
4. Beyond double-pane windows. The creation of low-emissivity coatings—a technology applied to glazing layers that allows visible light to pass through a window while trapping heat—substantially increased the effectiveness of double-pane windows. Today, the majority of residential windows sold in the U.S. have low-e coatings, saving consumers billions of dollars in energy costs.
More efficient (and more costly) triple-pane windows are now available. They use an insulating gas between two window panes and an additional glazing layer with low-e coating. They provide added savings, reduce noise and add security.