Today’s work-from-home, on-demand culture means more days at home—and translates into greater energy savings, too. Karen Hopkin reports.
The rise in technology, particularly for information and communication, is radically transforming lifestyles. For example, many people can now work from home and still be in almost constant contact with the office. Or maybe you prefer your own couch for watching a recently released movie rather than trekking to the local theater.
“This technology induced lifestyle changes affect how people consume energy and ultimately affect the energy demand of the nation.”
Ashok Sekar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. To assess how our changing usage of technology might alter our energy consumption, Sekar and his colleagues first set out to determine how much more we’re in our homes than we were in the past.
For more than a decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has surveyed how Americans spend their time each day. More than 11,000 citizens respond to the survey each year.
Crunching the numbers from this survey, the researchers found that Americans are definitely logging more hours in their living rooms.
“When compared to 2003, in 2012, Americans spent eight days more at home.”
That’s seven fewer days spent in “nonresidential spaces” and one less day spent traveling per year. And that’s on average. The younger generation exhibited even stronger homebody tendencies.
“The population aged 18 to 24 spent two weeks more at home in 2012 compared to 2003. Which is 70 percent higher change than the average population.”
And that shift in location translates into surprisingly large energy savings. The researchers calculate that Americans are reducing energy use by 1,200 trillion Btus by not hopping in our cars. And we’re saving thousand trillion Btus by skipping public appearances at the mall, movie theaters, and the office. The study is in the journal Joule. That’s J-O-U-L-E, which like the Btu is a unit of energy. [Ashok Sekar, Eric Williams and Roger Chen, Changes in Time Use and Their Effect on Energy Consumption in the United States]
Now, obviously we still use energy while at home. But not all activities are equally draining when it comes to our dependence on the power grid.
“Activities at home on average takes less energy per minute compared to time spent in your car or commercial buildings.”
To save even more energy, Sekar suggests that we focus on improving the energy efficiency of home appliances and consumer electronics—the stuff we use more when we’re working from home. All day. In our pajamas. See, we even saved the energy we’d otherwise expend getting dressed.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]