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Energy Use in Homes

More than half of energy use in homes is for heating and air conditioning

U.S. households need energy to power numerous home devices and equipment, but on average, more than half (51% in 2015) of a household’s annual energy consumption is for just two energy end uses: space heating and air conditioning. These mostly seasonal and energy-intensive uses vary significantly by geographic location, home size and structure, and equipment and fuels used.

Water heating, lighting, and refrigeration are near-universal and year-round home energy uses. In 2015, these three end uses combined accounted for 27% of total annual home energy use. The remaining share—21%—of home energy use was for devices such as televisions, cooking appliances, clothes washers, and clothes dryers, as well as a growing list of consumer electronics including computers, tablets, smartphones, video game consoles, and internet streaming devices.

Many factors affect the amount of energy a household uses

A number of factors affect the amount of energy an individual household uses, including

  • Geographic location and climate
  • Type of home and its physical characteristics
  • Number, type, and efficiency of energy-consuming devices in the home and the amount of time they are used
  • Number of household members

Because of higher space-heating demand, households in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States consume more energy on average than households in the South and West regions. Larger homes and larger households tend to use more energy overall than smaller homes and smaller households.

Space heating and air conditioning account for a much smaller share of household energy use in apartments than in detached single-family homes. Apartments are generally smaller than single-family homes, and they are often partially insulated from weather by adjacent apartments. In 2015, the average household living in a single-family detached home consumed nearly three times more energy than a household living in an apartment building that has five or more apartments.

Electricity and natural gas are the most-used energy sources in homes

Electricity is used in almost all homes, and electricity accounted for 44% of household energy consumption in 2017. Natural gas, which is used in 58% of homes, accounted for 43% of residential sector energy use in 2017. Petroleum—fuel oil, kerosene, and propane (liquefied petroleum gas or LPG)—were the next most-consumed energy source in the residential sector. Natural gas, fuel oil, and propane are all primarily used for space heating and water heating, but electricity powers heating devices and many more end uses.

Overall, three-quarters of U.S. homes use two or more energy sources, but mobile homes and homes in the South are most likely to only use electricity to meet all of their household energy needs. Fuel oil use is more common in the Northeast, while use of propane is most common in rural homes.

Energy use per household has declined

The typical U.S. household now uses more air conditioning, appliances, and consumer electronics than ever before. However, average annual site energy use per home has declined. The reasons for this decline include

  • Improvements in building insulation and materials
  • Improved efficiencies of heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, refrigerators, lighting, and appliances
  • Population migration to regions with lower heating—and thus lower total energy—demand

The decline in average household site energy consumption has offset the increase in the number of homes overall, resulting in relatively flat residential sector energy consumption since the mid-1990s.


Last updated: April 8, 2019

Did You Know?

Over 50 million U.S. homes have three or more televisions.

Gains in Home Energy Efficiency Offset by More Electronics and Appliances

Total residential energy consumption has varied between 9.5 and 10.5 quadrillion Btu over the past 30 years. During the same period, U.S. population grew by 30% while the number of homes grew by about 40%. Energy consumption, however, grew at a slower rate, due to improvements in building insulation and efficiencies of heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, refrigerators, and other major appliances. However, these efficiency gains were offset by increases in the number of homes with cooling equipment, clothes washers and dryers, and dishwashers. Additionally, a growing number of U.S. households now have multiple televisions, computers, and refrigerators.

Use of Consumer Electronics Increasing

While most home appliances have become more efficient over the past 30 years, the average U.S. household uses many more consumer electronics — in particular, personal computers, televisions and related devices.

In 1978, personal computers were expensive and not typically used by U.S. households. In 2009, 76% of U.S. homes had at least one computer, 8% more than just four years prior, and 35% had multiple computers. Also, most households had only one television in 1978. In 2009, the average household had 2.5 televisions. Over 45% of homes have at least one television with a screen size of 37 inches or larger. Screen size and average energy consumption per television have continued to grow over time.

DVD players and Digital Video Recorders (DVR), which did not exist 15 years ago, are now widespread. As of 2009, 79% of homes had a DVD player, and 43% had a DVR. Nearly a third of all households also had at least four electronic devices, such as cell phones, plugged in and charging at home.

Air-Conditioning Equipment Becomes Increasingly Common

The percentage of homes with central air-conditioning has more than doubled since 1980, with more than 60% of homes having a central system. All areas of the United States show a significant increase in air-conditioning equipment and use in recent years. Cooling accounted for about 6% of total residential end use energy consumption in the United States in 2009, double its 1980 share. Except in the temperate climate regions along the West coast, air conditioners (AC) are now standard equipment in about 87% of U.S. homes.

Regional Differences in Type of Air Conditioning Used

Cooled homes have either central AC systems or room air conditioners, which are individual window or wall units (room conditioning). The type of AC equipment used differs across regions. Central air systems are most common in the South, Midwest, and West, while room conditioners are most common in the Northeast. Variation within regions can be dramatic: 69% of air conditioned homes in New Jersey use central equipment compared to 28% of homes in neighboring New York. This difference is largely due to the different mix of housing types and age of housing between the two states.

Last updated: February 5, 2013