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Use of energy explained 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—52% in 2020—of a household’s annual energy consumption is for just two energy end uses: space heating and air conditioning.1 These uses are mostly seasonal; are energy-intensive; and vary significantly by geographic location, home size and structure, and equipment and fuels used.

Water heating, lighting, and refrigeration are year-round home energy uses. In 2020, these three end uses accounted for 25% of total annual home energy use. The remaining share—23%—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.1

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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 2020, 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.1

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

Electricity is used in almost all homes, and retail electricity purchases accounted for about 44% of total residential sector end-use energy consumption in 2020.2 Natural gas, which was used in 58% of homes in 2020, accounted for about 43% of residential sector end-use energy consumption in 2020. Petroleum was the next most-consumed energy source in the residential sector in 2020, accounting for about 8% of total residential sector energy end use. Petroleum includes heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is mostly propane. Renewable energy sources—geothermal, solar energy, and wood fuels—accounted for about 5% of residential sector energy end use in 2020.

The types and major end uses of energy by the U.S. residential sector include:

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Overall, three-quarters of U.S. homes use two or more energy sources, but mobile homes in all regions of the country and homes in the South are most likely to only use electricity to meet all of their household energy needs. Heating oil is primarily used in the Northeast. Many homes in rural areas use propane to meet most heating and cooking needs. Wood is used as a main heating fuel mostly in rural areas, but many homes throughout the country use it for supplemental heating. Approximately 13% of households in 2020 used a heat pump as the main heating equipment. Heat pumps are also used for cooling. The number of homes with small-scale solar photovoltaic systems has increased substantially in recent years.

Energy use per household has declined

The typical U.S. household today is more likely to use air-conditioning equipment, live in a larger home, and use more electronics than a typical household did 30 years ago. 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 demand

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1 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey 2020.
2 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, September 2023.

Last updated: December 18, 2023, with data available from the source reports as indicated.