The Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. homes built since 2000 are only using 2 percent more energy than older homes despite being 30 percent larger on average. How is that possible?
The agency's Residential Energy Consumption Survey shows newer homes are using 21 percent less energy for heating than older homes thanks to more efficient heating systems and building codes that require better insulation.
However, newer homes used about 18 percent more energy on appliances, electronics and lighting than older homes in 2009.
The survey found that newer homes are more likely to have dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers and two or more refrigerators, as well as more computers, TVs and entertainment systems.
As I've reported in the past, research shows smaller homes have smaller carbon footprints than larger homes, not only because they use fewer building materials but also because they use less energy on heating and electricity over time. You can see the difference in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions in houses of different sizes in this graph.
So, if you're going to buy a newer home, you might be able to tap the best of both worlds by buying a smaller home.