The Changing Landscape of Home Energy Use in the U.S.

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It's time to take a closer look at energy usage in the U.S. How much energy do we use? What do we use it for? Does it vary by region? Are there any significant trends?

For now let's focus on the residential sector, which makes up 21% of total energy consumed in the U.S. 

From 1993 to 2009, total energy consumption in homes went up from 10.01 to 10.18 quadrillion Btu--a modest 1.7% increase. While total home energy consumption has stayed relatively constant over the past two decades, space heating/cooling has decreased significantly as a share of total energy use. Space conditioning dropped from 58% of total energy use in 1993 to 48% in 2009. This has to do with a variety of factors including better insulation, more efficient technology, and population shifts to warmer climates. We have done a good job of coming up with more efficient ways to heat and cool our homes, but these gains in efficiency have been offset by a large increase in energy used for appliances, electronics, and lighting.

Energy usage of appliances and electronics jumped from 24% in 1993 to almost 35% in 2009. Americans are using more energy for their electronics and appliances than ever before. This may come as no surprise when we take a look at the widespread effects of the information age. The past twenty years has brought upon a dizzying amount of new technology, and as a population we have become increasingly involved in the digital, electronic world. Although much of this new technology is becoming more efficient, the sheer quantity and variety of these products have negated any efficiency gains. 

 Energy usage is not uniform across the country. Climate, population, and the economy can have a significant impact on the breakdown of home energy usage.

The South has the highest total energy use of any region largely due to recent economic growth. More people have been moving to the South and are building much bigger homes than before. Fortunately, the warm southern climate allows homeowners to use much less energy on heating than their northern counterparts. The Northeast and the Midwest still have the highest energy use per home of the four regions due to high heating costs during the winter.

Here is an example of how energy use varies from state to state.
Household Energy Use in Arizona - EIA
As you can see, homes in Arizona use just 15% of their total energy on space heating -- less than their air conditioning usage. This is very different than the breakdown we have here in Massachusetts. Space heating in Massachusetts uses a whopping 59% of our homes' total energy use, while air conditioning uses just 1%. This is a clear picture of how much our northeastern climate influences our home energy usage.

Energy is and will continue to be one of the most important issues for the U.S. and the world in general. It is crucial that we improve our understanding of how much energy we use, the type of energy we use, and the way we use it. Raising awareness about energy is the first step to becoming a more responsible and sustainable country.

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