Energy conservation may not be at the forefront of every homeowner’s agenda, but the nation’s housing supply is becoming more efficient whether you’re paying attention or not. It’s a good thing, too, because our homes are getting larger as well. A recent Pew report documented how much energy per square foot is consumed by modern homes compared to their predecessors, particularly in the operation of their heat and air conditioning systems. Unfortunately, many of the recent gains have been counteracted because new homes tend to be larger. Read on for more details.

Big Energy Savings in Heat and Air Conditioning

The new homes being built today are practically miracles of efficiency, realizing huge gains via insulation, smart technology and more advanced heat and air conditioning systems. According to the Pew report, our homes used 31 percent less energy per square foot on average in 2012 compared to homes in 1970.

So while our housing stock does consume 45 percent more energy in total than we did in 1970, that figure is actually quite small when you consider the nation has 80 percent more homes today. Many of the gains have come in the heat and air conditioning category; the average home used 53.1 percent of its energy on heat in 1993, compared to 41.5 percent in 2009. We make up the difference by using proportionately more energy on lights, electronic devices and appliances.

The Expanding Footprint of the American Home

For all that improvement, however, the average energy consumption of the American home has remained the same, hovering around 180 million or so British Thermal Units per year. How could that be, when our efficiency has improved so dramatically? The answer lies in the fact that homes have steadily grown bigger and bigger over the past four decades.

In fact, Pew notes, the average single-family home is 28 percent larger than it was in 1970, and newly constructed homes are about 57 percent larger than their aged cousins. That amounts to a lot more indoor space for your heat and air conditioning system to keep up with, not to mention more room for lights, computers and other electronics to run up your monthly electricity bill.

Weighing the Trade-offs of Space vs. Efficiency

The connection is clear -- the larger your home, the more you have to pay for heat and air conditioning bills. For some people, the trade-off may be worth it to have to extra space. For others who are on a tighter budget or are concerned about their environmental footprint, it may be a good idea to consider a smaller home.

Of course, no matter how large your home is, there are steps you can take to improve your efficiency and pocket a bit of extra spending money each month. For help identifying where you can realize the most savings, contact a heat and air conditioning expert today.