How Many Electronics Do You Own?


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The American dream used to be having a family and a roof over one’s head, but if recent government data is any indication, the roof isn’t enough anymore. The new American dream is to own a house with three TVs, at least one computer, central air conditioning, a washing machine and any number of other appliances.

More homes than ever before now have major household appliances like washer/dryers and are stocked with consumer electronics, according to two new reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2009, more than three quarters of all households had computers, 82% had washing machines and virtually every household in the country had a television. Even items that were once considered luxuries like central air are now commonplace, as the majority of homes (61%) are equipped with it.

In part, the EIA attributes the ubiquity of electronics and appliances to an overall improvement in living standards for Americans, coupled with technological advancements driving down the prices of many of these items. But the report might as well just say that Americans have increased their appetite for consuming goods, as evidenced by the fact that many households don’t just have one computer or television, they have several.

According to the EIA, which surveyed 12,000 households around the country, the average U.S. household had 2.5 televisions in 2009, compared to having just one in 1978, and nearly half of all households have a huge TV of 37 inches or larger. Likewise, three quarters of U.S. homes had at least one computer in 2009 and 35% had multiple computers, whereas almost no households had computers in 1978.

Despite all this new technology, the EIA found that the total energy use for the average American household is actually less now than it was 30 years ago. The overall energy consumed by U.S. households was 10.55 quads in 2005, compared to 10.58 quads in 1978, while the average energy used per household declined by a striking 31%. According to the report, this change is due to stricter energy standards on products, combined with the growing number of homes that have installed a wide range of energy efficient products in their homes, from multi-pane windows to Energy Star certified refrigerators.

Even so, the increasing number of consumer electronics and appliances in homes nationwide has taken its toll, as these products now account for a greater portion of the average household’s energy bill than ever before. In 2005, appliances and electronics made up 31% of the energy used in the home, compared to just 17% three decades prior, and it’s not hard to see why.

Nearly a third of all households now have at least four electronic devices, according to the report, each of which needs to be charged, and some, undoubtedly, are left plugged in longer than needed, sucking up energy. As MainStreet has reported, just leaving something on like your Xbox could add more than $100 to your energy bill each year.

For more examples of products that eat up electricity, check out this MainStreet article on tips for how to lower your energy bill.

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