What Parts of Your Home Use the Most Electricity?

Updated: Oct. 28, 2023

Do you often wonder where in the world all of that electricity goes when you open your monthly energy bill? This guide will explain it all.

Have you ever opened your utility bill, stared at the totals, and wondered where all that electricity goes? Even with the increased focus on energy efficiency, homes today consume more electricity than they did 50 years ago.

While it’s certainly frustrating to see costs rise, this guide will help explain where that energy goes, and which common household items do the most damage to your bank account.

How Much Energy Does the Average House Consume?

According to the University of Michigan Residential Buildings Fact Sheet, the average U.S. home consumes 147-kilowatt hours of electricity per square meter each year. This is a significant increase from the 1970s, but there are reasons for this.

First, today’s homes are larger. The average new home exceeds 2,500 square feet, while homes 50 years ago averaged less than 1,800 square feet. More space requires more energy for heating and cooling, along with more appliances, devices and other items that draw electricity.

Plus, the average person today owns more electronics than folks from years ago. Today we have laptops and phones to plug in, plus multiple video game consoles and TVs. This increase in devices plays a role in energy consumption, for sure.

What Part of a House Uses the Most Electricity?

If we’re looking for one specific function or system that uses the most electricity, it’s space heating and cooling. Keeping spaces comfortable can contribute to around 43 percent of the electricity usage in the average American home. Space heating makes up 31.9 percent, and cooling the other 11.1 percent.

How does heating and cooling become such a significant source of energy consumption? There are a few things to consider.

First, thermostats are often set too warm in the winter and too cool in the summer (aka over-setting). Also, heating or cooling unoccupied rooms or zones drives up energy consumption. But, in general, it just takes a lot of electricity to heat and cool a home, regardless of the thermostat setting.

But a few other items in the home consume huge chunks of energy as well. Water heating takes up about 13.3 percent of the energy bill. Other uses, a miscellaneous category consisting of small kitchen appliances, electronics and similar devices, make up 25.4 percent.

Biggest Energy Wasters in the House

The following are some of the biggest and most common energy wasters in the average house, many contributing heavily to carbon waste created during energy production:

  • HVAC: Heating and cooling unoccupied spaces, or over-setting the thermostat.

  • Standby power loss: Devices with standby modes use energy constantly.

  • Miscellaneous plug loads: Devices other than the home’s core utilities. This includes computers, fitness equipment, computers, TVs, phone chargers and security systems.

  • Inefficient appliances: This includes older refrigerators, washers, dryers, electrical ranges and ovens, dishwashers, and other devices.

How To Reduce Energy Consumption

Luckily, there are alternatives to simply living with an ever-growing energy bill. The following are some ideas home builders and owners can try to reduce energy consumption.

Smart thermostats

This might be a good idea for folks who habitually over-set their thermostat. These devices can be programmed according to schedules to ensure they aren’t running when no one is home. They also let users control the thermostat from a mobile device, raising or lowering the temperature as needed.

Unplugging standby devices

Devices with standby modes leech electricity when we aren’t looking. Unplugging these devices when not in use might be a pain, but the energy savings can be significant.

Energy efficient lighting

Lighting might not be a huge draw on the energy bill (around 2.7 percent, according to the University of Michigan), but it’s one of the easiest to upgrade. Moving to compact fluorescent bulbs can save about $12 per bulb. LED fixtures can impact the bill even more.

Appliance upgrades

This won’t come as a shock to most electricity-misers, but old appliances can sap your energy budget. Refrigeration takes up about four percent of an electric bill, or around $9.90 to $16.50 each month. Upgrading to a more energy-efficient option can reduce energy consumption by almost two-thirds.

It Pays to Know Which Devices Consume the Most Electricity

By knowing which devices are responsible, consumers can make smarter choices about usage, replace them with energy-efficient alternatives, and save money each month while also reducing wasted energy. It’s a great opportunity to lower carbon waste and make eco-friendly choices.