NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Power, and More Power, to the People

August 16, 2001

It should come as no shock that Americans are using more electricity than ever before. But did you know that only a century ago most utility companies didn't offer energy to residences during daylight hours -- since electricity was dedicated almost solely to lighting?

  • Today, a typical large home may consume well over 4,000 watts of electricity at a peak time -- such as a summer afternoon.
  • Since 1949, Americans have increased their annual use of household electricity 17-fold -- from 67 billion kilowatt hours to 1.1 trillion.
  • The amount of electricity consumed for heating, air conditioning, hot-water heating and refrigeration has remained fairly steady over the past 15 years -- because of 1987 federal regulations mandating energy efficiency in large home appliances.
  • But the real growth in consumption has been to power the ever-increasing multitude of small home appliances -- everything from swimming pool pumps and smoke detectors to humidifiers, snow blowers and bun warmers.

Such small appliances are lumped together in an energy-consumption category called "miscellaneous." And miscellaneous appliances is now one of the largest and fastest growing categories of energy use. Between 1975 and 1996, miscellaneous energy use in U.S. homes more than doubled -- and it accounts for some 20 percent of electricity used in U.S. homes.

Source: Cynthia Crossen, "How Much Power Do You Use?" Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2001.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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