Households invest in energy-efficient lights, larger TVs amid pandemic, EIA survey shows

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 446 views 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. households had more efficient lighting, larger TVs and multiple refrigerators, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA released Wednesday (March 30) the 2020 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) showing that households have been changing the types and number of electricity-consuming devices used in homes. The survey, which includes data from the first year of the pandemic, provides insights into how homes used traditional devices such as lights and dishwashers along with information on smart home devices and electric vehicles.

“Our most recent RECS data give an amazing insight into how and where energy was used in the typical U.S. household in 2020,” said EIA Acting Administrator Steve Nalley. “Looking at the 2020 RECS data in comparison to earlier surveys shows changes in what devices we used, what energy sources powered those devices and even how we turned those devices on and controlled them.”

Survey data was collected in late 2020 and early 2021 at a time when more people were spending more time at home than usual because of the pandemic. The data shows that 36 million households (29%) had at least one person working from home at least one day a week, and 27.5 million (22%) of those households had someone working from home five days a week. Still, residential energy consumption fell by 4% in 2020, from 2019. The warmer winter months in 2020 reduced heating demand, which typically accounts for about 40% of energy use in homes.

Following are highlights of the survey analysis of the nearly 123.5 million homes in the United States:

  • The share of U.S. households that reported challenges in paying energy bills was 27% in 2020, down from 31% in 2015. Of the 25 million households that reduced or refrained from basic necessities to pay energy bills, 7 million households had to do so every month.
  • More than 75% of electric vehicle owners charge their electric vehicle at home.
  • Nearly half of U.S. households used LED lights in 2020 for all or most of their indoor lighting, up from 4% of households in 2015.
  • About 40 million households had smart speakers in 2020, and almost 18 million were used to control at least one home setting, such as lighting, temperature or security.
  • Nearly three-quarters of households reported their most-used TV was at least 40 inches, up from 58% in 2015. More than 60% of households had an LED TV as the most-used TV, up from one-third in 2015.
  • The percentage of homes with more than one refrigerator rose to 34% in 2020, from 30% in 2015. The percentage of households using a dishwasher at least four times weekly increased to 26% in 2020, from 21% in 2015.

Link here for the RECS data. Later this spring, data will be released on space heating, air conditioning, water heating and fuels used along with housing characteristics. In spring 2023, data estimates will be released on energy consumption and expenditures for electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and propane.