Did you caulk, weatherstrip or insulate your home recently? Do you set your thermostat below 70 degrees in winter? Are you looking more toward natural gas and wood as primary sources of heating and less toward electricity and fuel oil? If so, the Department of Energy says you have plenty of company.
Americans in large numbers still are seeking ways to conserve energy around the home, although with not nearly the same fervor as in 1980, the year following the country's second oil shock. Builders, meanwhile, are piling the insulation ever higher in new houses.
The Energy Information Administration of DOE has released the results of a new survey -- conducted through 4,475 personal interviews and 249 mail questionnaires -- indicating that homeowners continue to shift fuels, tighten up their residences and dial down the heat, especially when no one is at home or at night.
In 1982, generally the latest year for which survey figures are available, 56.7 percent of American households were heating primarily with natural gas, a gradual but uneven increase from the 54.6 percent doing so in 1978.
EIA said that the use of fuel oil and kerosene as main heating fuels continued to decline, although more slowly of late, dropping to 14.4 percent in 1982 from 22.1 percent four years earlier. Electricity, which had risen in popularity from 15.8 percent in 1978 to 17.5 percent in 1980, backed down again to 16.0 percent.
Despite the lack of headline-making energy scare stories, and even with the considerable efforts of past years already in place, Americans are improving the energy efficiency of their homes, the survey said.
Some 10.7 percent of single-family households caulked their homes, and 5.8 percent of the homes were weatherstripped in the survey year. Over three of the years since 1978 (figures for 1979 are not available), 48.5 percent of all single-family homeowners caulked their houses and 27.3 percent weatherstripped them.
Following similar patterns of higher activity in the past few years, other conservation steps undertaken in 1982 included installing closeable shutters, reflective window film and insulating drapes, 5 percent; roof or ceiling insulation, 2.6 percent; storm doors, 3.8 percent; storm windows, 3.0 percent; and wall insulation, 1.7 percent.
Down from 1980, but still as popular as in 1981, were such 1982 practices as insulating basements, crawl spaces, hot water pipes and water heaters, and installing setback thermostats and heat pumps, EIA said.
Even more impressive than the statistics for individual conservation actions is the finding that 30 percent of the country's 61.4 million single-family units and mobile homes put in some kind of conservation device in 1982.
EIA noted considerable regional variations in the conservation ethic. In the North Central States, 6.5 million, or 41.4 percent, of the 15.7 million homes took some steps. The Northeast was the second most conservation-conscious region, as 3.3 million, or 30.0 percent, of the 11 million homes tried to save energy.
The numbers were 5.9 million, or 25.9 percent, in the South and 2.7 million, or 22.5 percent, out of 12.0 million in the West.
Saving money remains the runaway most-often-cited reason for making energy conservation improvements, EIA said. In virtually every case, this was named in overwhelming numbers above other possible choices, such as comfort (clearly the second-most-frequent response). A need to replace broken equipment was cited by a majority in a few cases, but when a different fuel was selected for the new space and water heaters, the top reason remained the desire to save money, EIA said.
Of much less importance were other reasons such as making home improvements, tax credits, energy-audit results, low-cost government loans, recommendations by friends and media attention.
While existing houses are getting their energy efficiency upgraded, new houses are being built to conserve more from the start, the survey figures indicate. Fewer homes have no or only partial insulation, and thicker insulation is going in, EIA said. However, storm windows and doors have become noticeably less popular in the newest homes.
Roof or ceiling insulation has been included in more than 90 percent of all new homes since the 1970-1974 period, reaching 92.3 percent in the 1980s. In the 1950s, the rate was 80.9 percent; before 1939, it was only 62.4 percent. Fully 85 percent of new houses built from 1980 to 1982 had insulation throughout the roof or ceiling, the highest level of any survey period.
Roll-out batts and loose-fill insulation were about equally popular in houses built in the 1980-and-later period, following a clear preference for batts in previous years.
One gauge is particularly telling in the EIA survey -- the average depth of ceiling or roof insulation in homes built in 1980 or later was up sharply from any earlier period.
The newest houses using only batts had an average of 7.2 inches of insulation; the range for all earlier survey periods was a relatively thin 4.6 inches (in the 1950s) to 5.9 inches (1975-1979). Loose-fill insulation in new houses now averages 9.3 inches, and batts and loose-fill in combination reached an average of a surprising 18.0 inches, up from only 12.2 inches for the previous five years.
Wall insulation is now included in 95.6 percent of new homes, up from 85.9 percent in the 1975-1979 new homes and only 47.4 percent in homes built in 1939 or earlier.
Running contrary to a general move by builders toward increasing conservation, the use of storm doors and windows is becoming less popular. Only 23.9 percent of the homes built in 1980 or later had storm doors on all outside doors, and just over half had no storm doors at all, a significant shift.