Household Energy Use: Where is your money going?

2009 Energy Use Pie Chart

2009 Energy Use Pie Chart

In order to start saving money on your energy bills and understand home energy consumption, you have to know where the best place to start is.  You could spend your whole life dedicated to cutting out all of your vampire loads, but that probably isn't going to be the best use of your time when going after heating and cooling would produce a much bigger bang for your buck (and time).

The pie chart above shows the percentage of energy consumed in regards to energy bills in the typical American household.  The chart was constructed from a Dept. of Energy survey and shown on the Energy Star website.

The majority of the  money you spend in your house is dedicated to heating and cooling.

This is followed by water heating and then lighting.  So your top three targets are as a percentage of your bill:

  1. Heating and Cooling (49%)
  2. Water Heating (13%)
  3. Lighting (10%)

The good news is that these are the three easiest areas to make an impact!


There are two ways to make an impact in heating/cooling.  You can either buy new systems, or use the systems you have smarter.  I touched on this in my Programmable Thermostat intro.  If there was one step you could take to make an impact on your energy bill, using your thermostat smarter is it.  The great part is that this is incredibly simple.  All you have to do is make a tiny effort to set your thermostat at a level you can live comfortably at.

Water Heating

I'll touch on this more in other articles, but the two ways to impact this are:


And finally you should target your lighting.  But I have a whole category dedicated to this, so this area is covered in detail.

***Update - 12/10/09 - Check out the lighting category, but if your short on time I'll give you two tips to saving money on lighting:

  1. Install CFL's or LEDs.  Do this now.  Use my lighting cost calculator if you don't believe how much money they will save.  And the light quality is just as good as incandescents.
  2. Install lighting timers and sensors to automatically turn lights off when not in use

Basically, find out where your big targets are, and knock them out first.  For instance, in the graph above, electronics (which makes up most of vampire loads) only represent 7% of most American's energy bill.  The majority of the energy they use is when the electronics are on: watching TV, working on your computer, listening to your stereo, etc.  The rest of the time they are in standby mode, but this standby (vampire) load only represents between 1-5% of your overall bill!  So if you were extremely dedicated and unplugged all your electronics when you weren't using them, then plugged them back in when you needed to use them, the most you could save would probably be 5% on your energy bill! Is this the best use of your energy saving time and effort?

I'm not saying you shouldn't cut out your vampire loads, but spend your time wisely and make sure you target the biggest energy consumers first, then start targeting other areas!  Knowing where to start is half the battle, and Mapawatt Blog is here to help.

***Update-9/22/09 - When I recently checked on this post I realized the picture had changed.  When I checked the Energy Star website they had updated the pie graph based on recent data (so I updated the graph at the beginning of the post as well), which changed the numbers around a tad.  The graph doesn't highlight vampire loads, but I'm guessing they are combined somewhere between Electronics (4%) and Other (11%), so I think the 7% number is still probably valid.

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Like a programmable thermostat, a tankless water heater will eliminate standby (or idling) energy when not needed:


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