Is Your Smartphone Sabotaging Your Electric Bill?

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

You probably paid a spectacularly large bill for home heating this winter and are now wondering how much gasoline prices will rise before you start on the family vacation.

Instead, you should probably be putting your phone, tablet, computer and television on a diet.

The chart from the Energy Information Administration shows that total home energy use has increased very little–per-household energy consumption is not shown but is down. But the share consumed by appliances, electronics and lighting has ballooned. A side note: the 2009 graph does not reflect the impact of energy-efficient light bulbs that were mandated starting in 2012.

EIA’s data on energy use for electronics may also be badly out of date: EIA data are from 2009, when their home energy survey found that the average American home had 2.5 televisions; 79 percent of homes had a DVD and 43 percent of homes had a DVR; and nearly a third of homes had four electronic devices such as cell phones charging at home.

A more recent survey by Pew Research shows that as of January 2014:

  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone
  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone
  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Getting back to home heating and gasoline, EIA projects:

  • The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. will be $3.48 in 2014, down from $3.63 in 2012 and $3.51 in 2013.
  • In the short term,regular gasoline retail prices for the summer driving season are forecast to average $3.61/gallon, 3 cents higher than last summer.
  • Natural gas, the dominant home heating energy, will average $11.17 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in 2014, up from $10.31/mcf.

These trends look rather benign. Looking back at the worst of the winter energy prices: peak prices for electricity in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were over $200 per megawatt hour (MWh). The prices were under $50/MWh in October and November. The electricity price spike reflected record-high spot natural gas prices.

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