Does House Size Decide Energy Efficiency?

May 1, 2018


When considering the energy efficiency of your home, there is one factor that you cannot influence: the size of your home.


It is well known that American homes have gotten a lot larger over the past few decades; in fact, some estimates put the size increase at nearly 60%. Given the size expansion that our homes have undergone, how much of a contributory factor is house size to energy efficiency?


The answer is… variable


Let’s think of two different houses.


One is a relatively small, simple home with three bedrooms, a standard layout, and the kind of living facilities and electronic appliances that you’d find in any home. The square footage of this home is average in size.


The other is more palatial; bordering on mansion level, and is complete with a variety of electronic gadgets, has undergone the standard home theater installation, and even has a consistently-heated pool. In terms of square footage, it is far above the average for US homes.


If asked, which of these two houses would you assume was the most energy efficient?


You’d probably answer the smaller house. With a smaller space and fewer appliances demanding electricity, surely it’s using the least power, and should thus be considered better for the environment?


Strangely enough, this isn’t a given. While a smaller house is more likely to use less power, a smaller house is not — by virtue of its smaller size alone — more energy efficient. If a smaller house is not energy efficient, and inhabited by people who aren’t cautious about their energy usage, then it’s more than possible for that small house to actually use more energy than a larger house. Though, of course, the larger house has to be practicing optimum energy efficiency.


What you can learn regarding your energy needs from your house size


If you have a larger-than-average house, then you need to…


  • Be aware of the fact your home is more liable to use a high level of energy than a smaller house.

  • However, also be aware that you can offset this by practicing positive energy efficiency behavior and implementing measures to improve your overall energy usage.

  • You should be particularly cautious when it comes to heating and cooling your home. If you heat or cool your entire home, this could be considered wasteful; consider heating or cooling only the rooms that are inhabited most frequently.


If you have an average or smaller-than-average house, you need to…


  • Ensure you don’t assume that your home is energy efficient due to its smaller size.

  • You should be particularly cautious to watch your electricity usage, as this is more likely to be problematic than your usage of heating and cooling.

  • Simple steps such as unplugging appliances and taking the time to turn off lights when a room is empty can make a surprisingly large difference to the energy you use.

When it comes to energy efficiency, size does matter— but it’s not the deciding factor in how efficient your house actually is.

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