Apartments often use less energy than other homes

Residential energy efficiency looks be one of the winners of the recent economic crisis.

Multi-unit residential buildings, the most energy efficient dwelling style, have increased in popularity since 2008 for new ownership. These units now make up nearly a fifth of all households but using less than 10 percent of home energy use, according to a study issued Tuesday by the Energy Information Administration.

And the trend is increasing.

The number of new home starts in apartment buildings with five or more units rose to 30 percent in 2012, up from 18 percent in 2010 – showing a deliberate move towards these more energy efficient dwellings.

“Lower energy use in apartments can be partially explained by their smaller living space,” the EIA said in the report. “Additionally, apartment units are bordered by other units or common areas on one or more sides and typically have fewer windows, limiting exposure to exterior temperatures.”

New construction for these buildings has made new units even more efficient than older units
, benefiting from the technologies integrated into new construction.

The declines in energy usage have also been the sharpest in large apartment buildings, falling by nearly 40 percent since 1980, resulting from efficiency improvements in major equipment and appliances. Average home size and use of electronics has increased in the same time period, resulting in declines between 15 to 32 percent for other home types.