Photo: Robert Clark
Over the last 100 years, the size of the average US home has grown 74 percent. But bigger isn’t better when it comes to the environment, according to a new report released earlier this week by the listing site PropertyShark.
Today, the average homeowners enjoys nearly 1,000 square feet more of personal space than a century ago.
While the average household size has decreased, personal living space skyrocketed 211 percent. In 1910, the average household size was 4.5 people per household, and homes were on average just below 1,400 square feet.
However, in 2010 the average household shrunk to 2.6 people per household whiles homes grew to just over 2,400 square feet on average.
CO2 emissions from homes greatly contribute to the US’s carbon footprint. Currently, the US ranks second in all the world for total CO2 emissions, and accounts for 18 percent of the world’s energy consumption.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the residential and commercial sectors contribute to 40 percent of US energy consumption. Additionally, part of the commercial sector’s energy consumption is to power streetlights and other neighborhood outdoor lighting, as well as water and sewage treatment.
The states with the highest levels of carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions resulting from home energy consumption are generally the most populous states — CO2 emissions are generally accepted by climate scientists to be one of the chief causes of global warming.
Texas, New York and Florida were the biggest polluters. California, the most populous state, ranked sixth overall in part due to its “moderate climate” and adoption of renewable energy sources, says PropertyShark.
Another reason that California is set apart from the other top polluters is the state’s average home size is the second lowest in the country. According to PropertyShark, only Washington, DC has smaller homes.
So while California may have the largest number of homes of all fifty states, they require a lot less energy to run. California has one of the lowest CO2 emissions per home of all the states. Other West Coast states like Oregon and Washington also have low levels of CO2 emissions per home thanks to their implementation of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.
Meanwhile, states in the New England area are the heaviest polluters. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire were the worst offenders, emitting the most CO2 per home.
Although climate certainly plays a role in energy consumption, in that homes in more moderate climates on average consume less energy, our super-sized homes play an even bigger role.
If the US built smaller houses, more on par with DC’s 1,200 square foot average, CO2 emissions caused by homes could be reduced by nearly 40 percent per year. This equates to a reduction of nearly 250 million tons of CO2 pollution per year.
In addition, the US could save an estimated $30 billion or more on energy costs — Florida and New York, two of the top polluters, each spend over $7 billion per year alone on energy costs.
It also remains to be seen how much further CO2 emissions might be reduced if more states followed the West Coast’s lead and adopted renewable energy sources.
Click here to read the entire report.