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America’s Increasingly Large Homes Are Making Us Less Energy Efficient

The average American single-family home is nearly 60 percent bigger than it was in the early 1970s, and full of much more energy-sapping stuff.
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Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr

Thanks to new technologies in insulation, water use, heating and cooling, and household appliances, American homes are more energy efficient than ever.

There were a lot of improvements in energy efficiency between 1970 and 2012, Pew Research Center’s Drew DeSilver reports. Based on preliminary numbers from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. homes used just under 150,000 British thermal units (Btu) of energy per square foot in 1970; by 2012, that number had dropped to 101,800 Btu. That’s a pretty exciting 31 percent reduction in energy consumption per square foot, after adjusting for weather and improvements in generating electricity.