Energy suckers: what uses the most energy in your home? 

Energy prices are rising constantly, and energy use contributes to climate change, so what uses the most energy in your home and how can you make savings?  

It makes sense that heating or cooling your home (depending on where you live) uses the most energy. Heating and air conditioning are on for long periods of time and are used in every room of your home. 

There are a few other energy suckers; home appliances that use a lot of electricity. We’ll highlight those later. For now, let’s look at the one thing that uses the most energy in your home: HVAC or gas central heating. 

Table of Contents

What uses the most energy in your home? 

Most data sources we looked at agreed that HVAC for home heating and cooling uses the most energy in your home. 

In the USA in 2015 (new 2020 survey data will only be released in 2023), a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration revealed that space heating accounted for 15% of energy consumption, 14% for water heating and 17% for air conditioning.

In the UK in 2022, 78% of homes use gas central heating for their boiler and that supplies both space heating and water heating (Statista). 

How are most homes heated?

In the USA in 2020, the majority of homes still used natural gas (47.6%) for heating. This was followed by electricity at 39.3% and then by bottled gas & fuel oils at 9.4%, wood at 1.6% and solar energy at just 0.2% of surveyed homes by the US Census Bureau. 

A similar survey in the UK in 2022 showed that 78% of homes used natural gas for heating. 11% used electric heating, 6% used bottled gas & fuel oils. Only 5% use other options including renewables. This clearly shows how dependent the UK is on fossil fuels for heating homes. 

The Climate Change Committee reports that the UK cannot reach net zero without looking for an alternative to gas central heating. So what are the alternatives for home heating & cooling?

Ground source heat pumps are one solution. This is a longer term investment as payback typically takes 8-10 years but they are expected to last for twenty and will save on energy costs. 

Solar powered heating is another option. Despite an initial install cost, which can be offset with grants, solar panels can save an average family up to $20,250 over their lifespan. 

Is it cheaper to heat with gas or electricity?

In the Winter Fuels Outlook from the EIA in 2021, the expected average cost of electric heating was $1,000 and the average cost of natural gas heating half that at $500. 

In the UK, energy supplier EDF estimates that conventional electric heating costs twice as much as gas to run, which is reflected in the EIA outlook. 

EDF also points out that cost is just one of the factors to be considered – the environmental impact of natural gas use far outweighs that of electricity, which is why new gas boilers will no longer be installed by 2025.

What appliances use the most electricity in your home?

After you have accounted for heating & cooling, the next thing to look at is appliances. There are some appliances in the home that are energy suckers. The appliances that use the highest percentage of electricity in the home are:

  • Lighting – 10%
  • Refrigeration – 7%
  • Televisions – 7%
  • Clothes dryers – 5%

The stats are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration survey of 2015, so they are a bit out of date. 

Swapping your lighting for energy efficient LED lights can save as much as $225 per year according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And using LED lights helps save the planet too, reducing your carbon emissions by 5 kg of Co2 annually per lightbulb (halogen vs LED) and 63 kg of Co2 annually for upgrading your entire home (Energy Saving Trust).  

Given that the average refrigerator lasts 17 years, it is worth researching and buying the most efficient fridge/freezer that you can afford. Look for the Energy Star sticker and the cost comparison and energy consumption guidelines on the label or datasheet. Consider whether you need the ice maker & dispenser that can add up to 20% to your bill. Also look for R-600a and R-441a refrigerants, which are better for the environment. Remind the kids to keep the door closed! Opening and shutting the fridge door will add to your bills. 

Turn the TV off. Not while you are watching of course. Standby mode on older television models continues to use electricity. Newer energy efficient TVs have energy saving standby modes. 

Dry your clothes outdoors or in a laundry room rather than running the clothes dryer. If you can’t live without a dryer – large family, new baby in the house, we know how you feel – look for energy efficient models with an Energy Star badge. And consider a heat pump dryer that contains the warm air and circulates it rather than venting it out. This type of dryer can save 50% on energy use.

Other appliances to watch out for are cookers & ovens, hot tub heating, ceiling fans, clothes washers, dishwashers, pool pumps, humidifiers, laptops, etc. 

Energy suckers: what uses the most energy in your home?

Heating and cooling your home uses the most energy, as much as half of the total energy consumption of your home. There are ways to reduce this energy consumption and cost, for example installing ground source heat pumps or solar panels. 

Apart from heating and cooling, domestic appliances can use a lot of energy. The appliances that typically use the most electricity in your home are lighting, fridge, tv, and clothes dryers in that order. Halogen spotlights use significantly more energy than LED lights. Energy efficient fridges and TVs can reduce costs. Heat pump dryers can reduce costs where air drying clothes isn’t possible.