The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Energy

Refrigeration

Refrigeration is an example of targeted energy efficiency research producing remarkable results: a reduction of more than two-thirds in the energy consumed by the household refrigerator during the past 30 years. In 1974, the average consumption per refrigerator was 1,800 kilowatt-hours per year, and average sizes were increasing as well. At that point, a joint government-industry R&D initiative began looking for more efficient compressors, as well as improvements in design, motors, insulation, and other features.

By the early 1980s, electricity consumption per refrigerator had dropped by one-third and new developments kept coming.

The effort began to pay off almost immediately. By the early 1980s, electricity consumption per refrigerator had dropped by one-third and new developments kept coming. Even the changeover from ozone-threatening chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) did not impede progress. Further design enhancements and tighter government standards since 1990 have saved the nation an estimated $15 billion in total electricity costs for home refrigerators over the entire life of the appliances.

Some of that benefit has been offset by an increase in the use of multiple refrigerators in homes and businesses, a common market response when new technologies reduce energy consumption, and therefore costs. But that does not diminish the value of the remarkable improvements in efficiency for this appliance.

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Energy Hands-on

What do you know about energy?

In 2008, of the four economic sectors, which used the most energy in the United States?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In 2008, industry used 31% of the total energy used; next was transportation at 28%, then residential at 22%, and commercial at 19%.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In 2008, industry used 31% of the total energy used; next was transportation at 28%, then residential at 22%, and commercial at 19%.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In 2008, industry used 31% of the total energy used; next was transportation at 28%, then residential at 22%, and commercial at 19%.

  • Correct!

    In 2008, industry used 31% of the total energy used; next was transportation at 28%, then residential at 22%, and commercial at 19%.

Energy Defined

Watt

A unit of measure for power, or how fast energy is used. One watt of power is equal to one ampere (a measure of electric current) moving at one volt (a measure of electrical force).

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