Breaking Down Building Energy Use


We've all heard the numbers before, but here's a nice little chart with a helpful breakdown of information.  Buildings account for roughly 40% of all U.S. energy use.  Or stated with more particularity, residential buildings account for 22% of all U.S. energy use and commercial buildings account for 18% of all U.S. energy use.  When you parse the numbers out, here's where that energy is used:

Residential Energy Use:

  • 1%  – Computers
  • 5%  – Cooking
  • 5%  – Wet clean
  • 7%  – Electronics
  • 8%  – Refrigeration
  • 11% – Lights
  • 12% – Cooling
  • 12% – Water heat
  • 31% – Heating

Commercial Energy Use:

  • 2%  – Cooking
  • 3%  – Computers
  • 4%  – Refrigeration
  • 6%  – Office equipment
  • 6%  – Ventilation
  • 7%  – Water heat
  • 13% – Cooling
  • 14% – Heating
  • 26% – Lighting

Of course, there will be regional and building specific differences.  For example, in Texas, you might use a lot more energy running the air conditioning equipment and maybe a little less energy running the heating.  Also, it's interesting to see how much commercial energy is used on lighting, which is why the NY Times lighting experiment saved them some major cash on energy costs.  

Also, consider this graph in the light of new technological advances relating to electrical vehicles and the smart grid.  Ten years from now, is car charging going to be one of the major components of commercial and residential building energy use?  And how's that going to affect the other pieces of the energy pie?  Just thinking out loud, though …

Via Steven Chu's Facebook; noticed at Building Green.

  • MrSteve007

    As commercial buildings become more efficient, plug loads from computers and servers will begin to dominate energy usage. We’ve done almost everything under the sun when it comes to building efficiency, and now those two loads now account for 40% of our consumption. As you say, adding electric cars will only add to that.

    Our Office (a fairly typical 18 person Architecture Firm):
    Cooking – 1%
    Computers – 40%
    Refrigeration – 1%
    Office Equip – 15%
    Water heat – 7%
    Lighting – 7%
    HVAC – 28%

  • Portland Real Estate

    Now that we have it all mapped out we should use this as a list of things to improve upon on efficiency wise. Take the things that are using the most electricity and improve those first.


  • Anonymous


    Thanks for the breakdown and the reminder.


  • Fabiobollinger

    Your commercial building percentage only adds up to 94%

  • Ian

    Hi Preston, out of curiosity, where did you get this data from – it seems to be consistent with some other sources, but I’m looking to cite studies in a report and haven’t found any citable data yet. Thanks!

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  • Michaelhoffman1977

    This was very helpful but my question is how much (kw) or what ever electricity is measured in on average a year does an average home or farm use?

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