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 retail electricity purchases accounted for 43% of total residential sector end-use energy consumption in 2020. Natural gas, which was used in 58% of homes in 2015, accounted for 42% 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 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 energy, solar energy, and wood fuels—accounted for about 7% of residential sector energy end use in 2020.
The types and major end uses of energy by the residential sector include:
- electricity—all types of energy end uses
- natural gas—space and water heating, clothes drying, cooking
- heating oil—space and water heating, clothes drying
- LPG/propane—space and water heating, clothes drying, cooking
- kerosene—space heating
- geothermal energy—space cooling, and space and water heating
- solar energy—space and water heating, electricity generation
- wood (cord wood and wood pellets)—space and water heating, cooking
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 use is most common in the Northeast. LPG use for grilling food outdoors is common throughout the country, while many homes in rural areas use LPG to meet the majority of 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 11% of all U.S. homes in 2015 had geothermal heat pump heating and cooling systems. 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 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: June 23, 2021