The United States has been called out as one of the most consumption-crazed societies when it comes to the amount of gasoline and electricity used each year (and, indeed, according to the World Bank, our CO2 emissions per capita are around double what you’ll find in most European nations). But if a new Harris Poll is right, Americans are trying to do better, although they might want to recalibrate the focus of their efforts.
According to the poll, nearly all Americans have done something at home to conserve energy. An estimated 82 percent of Americans polled said they turn off lights, televisions and other appliances when they are not in use. More than half, a total of 58 percent, have replaced their incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones. And nearly the same amount use power strips. A total of 55 percent of folks say they look for Energy Star labels when shopping for new appliances.
But for all those small changes, there are large groups of American who haven’t yet adopted overarching energy efficiency standards in their homes. Those include doing things like installing programmable thermostats, adding insulation or using energy-efficient windows. Only one in 10 Americans has had a home energy audit performed on their home. And less than 30 percent have installed low-flow faucets, energy efficient windows or added insulation in their attics or crawl spaces.
According to the poll, there are large discrepancies in the amount of home energy efficiency projects undertaken by region. Nearly 60 percent of Westerners use low wattage light bulbs, compared to 49 percent of Easterners. About 40 percent of Westerners have installed low-flow faucets compared to just 25 percent in the East and only 23 percent of those living in the Midwest.
To help Americans reduce energy waste and save them money, many utilities have started providing their customers with smart meters, which provide detailed information on home energy consumption. But according to the poll, only one-fifth of Americans said they have been contacted by their utility about using such a device. A slim 16 percent of Midwesterners said they have been contacted about the technology, while in the West, the figure was twice as high.
Nearly half of the Americans polled, 48 percent, said they would be likely to install a smart meter in their home, while 35 percent said they were somewhat likely to do so. The majority of Americans said they would want to be in control of their energy consumption during peak periods of use. A total of 69 percent said that they would like to manage energy distribution themselves, while only 9 percent would prefer to have their utility manage their energy use.
The Harris Poll was done online from February 6-13 and included 2,056 adults over the age of 18 years old. No margin of error was given.