Americans Are Spending More Time Indoors, Less Time Consuming Energy

It may be better for the environment to spend more time indoors. According to recent findings published in the journal Joule, Americans are spending a great amount of time indoors and are saving energy in the process.

In the study, lead authors Ashok Sekar from the University of Texas at Austin and Eric Williams from the Rochester Institute of Technology analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey between the years 2003 and 2012. Sekar and Williams found that Americans spent up to eight days more indoors in 2012 compared to 2003 and consumed less energy as a result.

“We had no idea that the energy savings were going to be so enormous,” said Sekar to Popular Science. “It shows the profound influence that technology has had on our lifestyles and how environment good can come out of it.”

The evolution of communication and information technology have transformed the American workplace. With much of today’s work done online and virtual interactions taking precedence over face-to-face communication, many Americans are working from home, in libraries, and coffee shops.

The choice to order food online and stream movies have also reduced the amount of time we spend outdoors. This doesn’t mean Americans are becoming couch potatoes so much as it means we’re using motor vehicles less and using less commercial energy.

Approximately 77% of American cars are in need of repairs, a statistic that points to the surprising amount of pollution motor vehicles give off when unmaintained. By driving less, Americans are producing less air pollution via tailgate emissions and tire particles.

What’s more, approximately 27% of American households use LED lighting. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption by up to 50%. Therefore, the more Americans work at home under LED lights rather than the average CFL, the more energy is being saved.

According to the study, the reduced time spent out and about increased the amount of energy spent in the home by 480 trillion British thermal units, or Btu. However, reduced time spent in commercial buildings and traveling decreased energy consumption by 2,200 trillion Btu. Ergo, while we’re producing more energy indoors than we did in 2003, we’re producing significantly less energy overall.

So what does this mean for the future of the American home?

Sekar and Williams suggest encouraging energy efficiency in the home. “It’s important that consumers also reduce energy consumption at home,” said Sekar. “[For example], getting a home energy audit [or] upgrading their old appliances, recycle the old freezer in the basement, and better insulate their homes.”

As much as 38% of heat is lost through windows and doors in the average American home. By insulating better, using energy efficient appliances that are EnergyStar certified, and increasing the number of LED bulbs used the American home can become that much more energy efficient and reduce energy consumption even more.

“Networked thermostats are a standout example,” said Williams. “We turn off our heating or A/C when going on a trip and turn it on remotely a few hours before we arrive back. IT also gives us tools to reduce energy use, but we need to buy and use them to get the benefits.”

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