In a study that could warm the hearts of couch potatoes everywhere, researchers say it appears that an increase in people working from home, online shopping, and streaming videos could be reducing energy usage.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Rochester Institute of Technology studied data from 2003 to 2012 from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. Their study was published Monday in the journal Joule.
Americans spent eight more days at home in 2012 versus 2003, with the additional time being taken away from being in office buildings or retail stores, the study found.
“Technological advancements and socio-economic trends are enabling rapid changes in lifestyle that influence energy use,” the study said.
“We find that Americans are spending more time at home and correspondingly less time traveling and in offices and stores. We find that more time at home implies lower energy consumption due to reduced automobile travel and energy use in non-residential buildings,” the study said.
The net energy savings was 1,700 trillion BTUs in 2012, or 1.8 percent of the national total, researchers said in a statement.
“We did expect to see net energy decrease, but we had no idea of the magnitude,” first author Ashok Sekar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement. “This work raises awareness of the connection between lifestyle and energy.”
The researchers suggested their work has interesting policy implications. While the government has been focused on increasing automobile energy efficiency, if people are spending less time in their cars and more time at home with their devices, “additional emphasis on improving the efficiency of consumer electronics and home appliances might be warranted,” the study said.