In the United States, we’re trending toward staying at home whether it’s for work, enjoying entertainment, or shopping online. That lifestyle may drive up our own electric bill, but a study suggests that actually puts a dent into total American energy usage. There’s some controversy involved in the findings, but we’re ultimately using less power by staying at home.
According to Joule, the average American citizen is spending eight more days at home in 2012 compared to 10 years before. That’s reduced the national energy consumption by 1,700 trillion BTUs, which stands for British Thermal Unit and measures heat energy. That’s nearly a full two percent less than what the United States uses.
Young people have been the biggest contribution to less energy use. On average, people between the age of 18 to 24 spend almost double the average time at home. Most of it is due to the sharp increase in telecommuting overall. Other reasons involve increased television usage, shopping online, eating meals, and sleeping.
Technological advancements in our daily activities and entertainment are the biggest aspects of these trends. People are opting to take college courses online or to find remote work instead of dealing with high tuitions and a daily commute. Rather than going to movie theaters or rental stores, it’s easier to load up a streaming service on demand.
Bob Simon, a former staff director for energy and natural resources for the United States Senate, added in the New York Times that more people are “adding more trips to their commute.” Workers are frequently stopping at cafes before a busy day at their job, or landing at stores to pick things up after they’re off the clock.
We’d think that more energy consumption at home means a tradeoff of what we’d use going out, or potentially even more usage since it’s not as shared. While the net average has obviously increased in our homes, the decrease in usage from travel and non-residential buildings is far bigger margin.
In a complete contrast, the study found that people at the age of 65 or higher are getting out of the house more these days than 10 years ago. It makes sense with less people retiring at what use to be the traditional age. According to Bloomberg last year, nearly 20 percent of people in this age range are at least working part time.
However, there is some skepticism in the energy usage findings. The study noted that primary activities were only recorded. For example, many of us operate mobile devices or cook while watching television. One also has to question the many stores, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues that are still in operation when people stay home, but there’s no question that less travel and more efficiency in non-residential buildings result in less energy usage.