With Superstorm Sandy stirring up talk of climate change, here's one encouraging statistic: Americans used less energy in 2011 than in the previous year, according to the latest energy flow chart from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The decline was largely due to the transportation and residential sectors' embrace of higher-efficiency technologies, such as wind power and hydroelectricty.
Total energy use in the U.S. fell from 98 quads in 2010 to 97.3 quads in 2011, the flow chart shows. Wind power surged from .92 quads in 2010 to 1.17 quads in 2011, as more wind farms came online, and hydroelectricity rose from 2.51 quads in 2010 to 3.17 quads in 2011, mainly because heavy rainfall in the western U.S. helped power dams.
The latest LLNL flow chart does not break down residential energy use. But we know that ongoing efficiencies within the built environment have helped control total energy consumption. For example, in our Test your Energy IQ package, we reported that today's homes use the same amount of energy as those built in the 1970s, thanks to increased efficiency of appliances, lighting and other products.
As much of the country heads into the energy-intensive winter heating season, there are way to keep your consumption in check. Insulation and duct sealing are two energy retrofits that deliver significant return on the investment. For more tips, read our full report on energy efficiency. And if you're in the market for new kitchen, laundry, and heating appliances, be sure to check our Ratings for details on the most efficient models.