CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Home energy use nationwide has dropped to the lowest levels since 2001, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And that comes despite the fact that we use more gadgets than ever.
In Southern Oregon, just like the rest of the country, much of that comes down to building and appliance technology, which, according to local home builders, starts with the very foundation.
“Homeowners are more and more aware of what it takes to make an energy efficient home,” said Karic Roberge, President of Whittle Construction. “So a builder has to stay ahead of that curve.”
An energy-efficient home can drop a monthly energy bill by half compared to a more typical home. They’re oriented to the land, maximizing sunlight in the winter and minimizing it in the summer. They use tighter spaces and better insulation.
And builders say demand for these homes continues to rise.
“It makes more sense in the long run, both for them and their energy costs, and the environment,” said Roberge. “So the demand increases over time, which is a good thing.”
That same rule also applies to things that go inside the home.
“Most appliances — in fact, all of them built today — have higher energy guidelines than they used to, so they all use less energy,” said West Coast Appliance Manager Carl Humphries.
Most refrigerators, for example, know when the door is open and cut power. Washing machines and dishwashers use a fraction of the water.
None of it is new technology, but it advances quickly.
“If you’re talking a few years ago, it would probably be 25-30 percent more efficient,” said Humphries. “If you’re talking 25 years ago, it could be 75 percent more efficient.”
And now there’s more incentive than ever for local homeowners to spend the money on efficiency. Last year, the Energy Trust of Oregon issued nearly $71 million in energy efficiency projects across the state. Over the past five years in Jackson County, it issued roughly $650,000.
Meanwhile, state standards for efficient housing get updated every other year, and every time those standards get more stringent. That leaves many home builders with a good idea of where things are headed.
“It’s the future of housing,” said Roberge.