While living "big" may have once been the standard – even a status symbol – among American homeowners, downsizing, particularly as it pertains to residential energy usage, has never been more vital as home appliances, electronics, lighting options and even HVAC systems are uniformly becoming sleeker, smarter and more efficient. The answer to the big question of why energy efficiency matters can be easily answered: Whether investing in an Energy Star-branded appliance or conducting a home energy audit to help locate and remedy areas of energy loss, minding one’s energy consumption and thinking small not only benefits the planet and conserves resources, but also can help lead to overall financial well-being, due in part to decreased monthly utility bills.
Although residential energy use represents only a small piece of overall U.S. energy consumption, the amount of energy people use – and often waste – at home cannot be understated. It’s particularly illuminating to zero in on where exactly in the home energy is being consumed: According to 2010 Department of Energy estimates, in the average American home, the largest portion of energy, 42 percent, is dedicated to space heating and cooling, with water heating (13 percent) and lighting (10 percent) also contributing significant amounts.
Paying attention to energy usage not only benefits the environment but also offers cost savings in the long term. Energy-efficient light bulbs, for instance, have a higher up-front cost than their incandescent predecessors but also have a remarkable return on investment. And the savings only increase exponentially with the addition of energy-efficient appliances such as water heaters and washing machines and weatherization fixes such as sealing cracks and leaks and replacing drafty windows or doors.
As a global leader in energy product testing and certification and the leading product certification company in the renewable and alternative energy testing field, UL works hard to ensure that energy efficiency-promoting consumer products meet the highest of performance standards. UL tests products labeled under a wide range of national and international certification programs, including Energy Star. Under the Energy Star label alone, UL is capable of testing products across 37 different categories in testing laboratories recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.