Is there romance in energy efficiency?

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By Elisa Wood

January 29, 2009

My mother told me many good reasons why I should get married. She appears to have forgotten one. It’s energy efficient.

Single people – at least those without roommates – appear to be gobbling up a lot of our energy supply. In fact, one person households are a main cause of consumer energy waste, according to a recent study “Consumer Energy Spending and the Demographics of Over-Consumption” by SMR Research.

One in four households contains just one person. Singleton households have grown at rate three times faster than the population since 1960. Singletons use 18.4% more energy per capita than two-person households and 52.8% more than three-person households.

And it is not just that these folks live alone. Like all of us they live in bigger and bigger houses. The average new home is 34% larger than one built in 1980. People in a house with ten or more rooms use 18.8% more energy than those in eight-room homes, and 31.3% more than people in seven-room homes. The age of the house doesn’t matter.

Reversing this trend could dramatically reduce U.S. energy use. Yet, household demographics and home building are seldom mentioned in the debate over global warming and energy independence, say the researchers.

“This study shows that energy conservationists need a new public message,” said SMR President Stuart A. Feldstein. “The old focus on things like home insulation and auto fleet mileage is incomplete. People who decide to live alone, now more than one of every four households, and people who buy the McMansions, are those who squander our energy resources.”

Is it fair of us to single out singletons? Probably not. We all are guilty of energy waste in our own ways. Still with ‘green’ so popular these days, has no one yet proposed marriage with: “Will you be mine? It’s energy efficient.”

Visit Elisa Wood at and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


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