Your energy bills will tell you how much you consume and how much you need to pay, but they won’t tell you what’s actually using the energy in your home. This depends on many factors, but most likely there are a few appliances that make up the majority of your consumption. Understanding what those appliances are, why they consume so much and how you can cut back on them will ensure you don't waste energy (and money) unnecessarily.
Table of Contents
- What Appliances Use The Most Energy Overall?
- What Appliances Use The Most Electricity? (Average Consumption & Cost)
- What Appliances Use The Most Gas? (Average Consumption & Cost)
- Why Some Appliances Consume More Energy Than Others
- Heating Consumption
- Cooling Consumption
- Water Heater Consumption
- Lighting Consumption
- Washer & Dryer Consumption
- Refrigerator Consumption
- Stove & Oven Consumption
- Microwave Consumption
- Dishwasher Consumption
- Save On Energy-Efficient Services, Appliances And More
What Appliances Use The Most Energy Overall?
Whether your appliances use electricity or gas, there are likely three appliances that use the vast majority of energy in your home:
- Your Heating System
- Your Cooling System
- Your Water Heating System
Heating, cooling and water heating make up 70% of the average home's energy consumption. What makes the top spot for you depends on the size of your home, your region's climate and your personal habits.
What Appliances Use The Most Electricity? (Average Consumption & Cost)
Source: EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey
Average Cost Based On National Average Residential Electricity Rate
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What Appliances Use The Most Gas? (Average Consumption & Cost)
Source: EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey
Average Cost Based On National Average Residential Natural Gas Prices
Why Some Appliances Consume More Energy Than Others
There are two factors that influence how much energy an appliance consumes:
- The Appliance's Wattage/Consumption Rate – The rate of energy the appliance needs to operate. For electricity, this is measured in watts. For natural gas, this is usually measured in BTU per hour.
- How Long The Appliance Runs To calculate the energy consumption of an appliance and get the total kilowatt-hours (kWh) or CCFs consumed, this is usually measured in hours.
The biggest energy consumersheating, cooling, and water heatinghave high consumption rates and run for extended periods of time.
- Electric Heating Average Annual Cost: $426.32
- Gas Heating Average Annual Cost: $472.62
- Electric Heating Average Annual Consumption: 3,242 kWh
- Gas Heating Average Annual Consumption: 449.687 CCF
- Electric Central Heating Wattage: 10,000 20,000 watts
- Gas Central Heating Consumption Rate: 30,000 90,000 BTU/hour
How much heat you consume will largely depend on your climate and the size of your home. The colder the climate and the bigger the house, the longer your heater will need to run, and therefore, the more your will spend.
How To Reduce Your Heating Consumption
Decrease Thermostat Temp
By decreasing your thermostat temperature in the winter, your heating equipment won't need to run as long. So instead of instantly reaching for the thermostat when the temp drops, try to put on a few extra layers or a blanket to stay warm instead.
Check Your Home's Insulation
The better insulated your home, the less your heater will need to run. Properly insulating your home can cut heating and cooling costs by 15% on average. Of course, this depends on where you live and whether your home was properly insulated beforehand. Your savings could be substantially more or less than 15%.
To see if your home needs insulation, it's a good idea to have a professional come out and conduct a home energy audit. They can help you find any and all weak spots in your home, then tell you what to do to improve them.
Get Energy-Efficient Equipment
If you need/want to upgrade your equipment, look for ENERGY STAR-certified heating equipment. This equipment is tested and certified by ENERGY STAR to be more efficient. While it's usually more expensive upfront, it can help you save in the long run.
Purchase A Smart Thermostat
Purchasing smart products like a smart thermostat can help you save by scheduling and automating your energy consumption. For example, your smart thermostat can learn when you leave for work and turn down your thermostat for you so you don't waste energy when you're not home.
Set Your Thermostat To 55F When Nobody Is Home
If nobody is home (don't forget about pets), set your thermostat to 55F. This maximizes savings while ensuring your water pipes don't freeze.
Use A Space Heater
If you're in one area of your home for most of the day, there's no need to warm up the entire home. Use a space heater and turn back your thermostat a few degrees.
- Cooling Average Annual Cost: $274.05
- Cooling Average Annual Consumption: 2,084 kWh
- Central A/C Wattage: 3,000-3,500 watts
As with heating, your air conditioning consumption depends on the size of your home and your climate. The bigger your home and the hotter it gets, the more you will need to use it.
Reduce Cooling Consumption
Because the root of heating and cooling consumption is similar, many of the rules to cut back on your heating also apply to cooling. It's just often reversed.
Increase Thermostat Temp
Increase your thermostat temperature to keep your A/C from working too hard. Try to use fans to keep cool instead.
If it's possible, cool down your home by opening windows instead of running the A/C. This can often be helpful when temperatures drop at night.
Check Your Home's Insulation
Proper insulation also helps with cooling costs. Follow the instructions from the heating section above to see if you could benefit from home insulation.
Get A Smart Thermostat
Get a smart thermostat to optimize your A/C consumption.
Purchase ENERGY STAR-Certified Appliances
Whether you need a window unit, a central unit, or want to try out a ductless model, you can save on your bills by purchasing the ENERGY STAR-certified version of it.
Turn Thermostat Up To 80F When Nobody Is Home
If no people or animals are home, you can turn it completely off as well. However, depending on your environment, it's not a bad idea to keep it at 80F to combat humidity and mold growth. This is especially the case if you're gone for long periods of time.
Consider Purchasing A Window A/C Unit
If you're in one part of your home for the majority of the day, purchasing a window A/C unit may help you save. That way, you can keep the area you spend your time in cool, and turn back the thermostat for the rest of your home.
Water Heater Consumption
- Electric Water Heater Annual Cost: $412.91
- Gas Water Heater Annual Cost: $190.16
- Electric Water Heating Consumption: 3,140 kWh
- Gas Water Heater Consumption: 180.934 CCF
- Electric Water Heater Wattage: 3,500-4,500 watts
- Gas Water Heater Consumption Rate: 30,000-100,000 BTU/hour
Most homes have ready access to hot water because a tank in their home keeps a set number of gallons warm. Whenever the water in that tank falls below a specific temperature, the water heater turns on to heat that water back up. The more you use hot water to shower, wash clothes, do dishes or anything else, the longer your water heater must operate.
How To Reduce Your Water Heating Consumption
Purchase An Energy-Efficient Water Heating System
As with heating and cooling, you can save by purchasing ENERGY STAR-certified water heaters.
If you have an electric water heater, consider upgrading to a heat pump water heater. These systems are four times as efficient as a regular tank.
For those that have gas, consider a tankless water heater. These systems only heat up the water when you need it, so you don't need to waste energy keeping a full tank warm. Plus, they generally last longer than hot water tanks.
More Ways To Lower Your Water Heating Consumption
- Insulate Your Tank – As with your home, you can insulate your hot water tank to keep your water warm. If your water heater is warm to the touch, you can likely benefit from further insulation
- Lower The Water Temperature – Many water heaters are installed to keep the water at 140F, but this is overkill. You can likely lower it to 120F without noticing a difference.
- Use Cold Water – Use cold water whenever possible. You can even consider cold showers, which have unique health benefits for those brave enough to try.
- Lighting Annual Cost: $145.31
- Lighting Annual Consumption: 1,105 kWh
- Average Wattage Per Light: 9-60 watts
Lighting costs will vary depending on how many you have, how often you use them and what type of lights you use.
How To Reduce Your Lighting Consumption
Switch To LED Lights
For many, switching to LED lights is one of the easiest ways they can cut back on their energy consumption. According to a report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 82% of homes in the US still have at least one traditional incandescent light bulb, even though LED light bulbs are better in every way:
- LED Light Bulbs Are 6 Times More Efficient
- LED Light Bulbs Last 10 Times As Long
- LED Light Bulbs Are Just As Affordable
To put this in perspective, if you mostly used incandescent light bulbs and spent $143 a year lighting your home, a switch to LED bulbs could save you $120 a year or more on your electric expenses.
Buy Timers Or Smart Light Bulbs
To ensure you don't leave lights on when you don't need to, purchase timers or smart bulbs that you can schedule to turn on and off. With a smart bulb, you can turn your lights on and off from your phone.
Washer & Dryer Consumption
- Washer & Dryer Annual Cost: $109.80
- Washer & Dryer Annual Consumption: 835 kWh
- Washer Wattage: 250-500 Watts
- Dryer Wattage: 2,000-6,000 watts
As you can see from comparing the wattages of washers and dryers, dryers consume electricity at a much higher rate than washers. Between the two appliances, 90% of the electricity is consumed by the dryer, even though washers and dryers usually run the same amount of time.
However, it's important to understand how appliances are connected. While the washer doesn't directly use a lot of electricity, washing clothes with hot water will increase your water heater's electric consumption.
How To Reduce Washer & Dryer Consumption
- Wash with cold water whenever possible
- Air dry clothes on a clothesline or drying rack
- Use lower temperature settings on your dryer
- Try dryer balls, which can increase air circulation in the dryer and cut drying time
- Refrigerators Annual Cost: $99.41
- Refrigerators Annual Consumption: 756 kWh
- Refrigerator Wattage: 100-700 watts
How much electricity refrigerators use depends on how old they are and how many you have.
How To Reduce Refrigerator Consumption
- Don't leave doors open longer than you need to
- Purchase ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators
- Get rid of old refrigerators you don't use. You may even be able to recycle it for payment.
Stove & Oven Consumption
- Stove & Oven Annual Cost: $31.69
- Stove & Oven Annual Consumption: 241 kWh
- Oven Wattage: 2,000 – 5,000 watts
- Stove Wattage: 3,000 watts
While these appliances have high wattages, the limited amount of time they are used keeps overall expenses and consumption lower. Besides cooking less, there's not much you can do to lower the consumption of these products
- Microwave Annual Cost: $16.17
- Microwave Annual Consumption: 123 kWh
- Microwave Wattage: 600 – 1500 watts
As with the stove and oven, limited usage keeps overall microwave consumption low. The only thing you can do to lower its already low consumption is use it less.
- Dishwasher Annual Cost: $14.86
- Dishwasher Annual Consumption: 113 kWh
- Dishwasher Wattage: 600-1500 watts
Dishwashers are lower on overall expenses, but it all depends on how often you use your dishwasher. This can not only increase your dishwasher expenses, but it could also increase your hot water consumption as well.
Reduce Dishwasher Consumption
- Purchase ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers. These appliances use less electricity and water.
- Avoid using "heavy" dishwasher cycles.
- Ensure the dishwasher is full when you run it.
Save On Energy-Efficient Services, Appliances And More
If you've read the full page, you can see that some of the best ways to save on your bills require an upfront investment. Many of them, like improving your home's insulation or purchasing an ENERGY STAR-certified water heater, can put costs in the thousands.
Fortunately, you may be able to save on these investments through utility programs in your area. These state-backed programs often offer discounts and rebates on energy services and upgrades. For example, Massachusetts and Connecticut have extensive programs through Mass Save and Energize CT. These programs both offer
- Free or discounted home energy audits
- $600+ discounts on hot water tanks
- $100 off smart thermostats
- And more!
You can learn more about similar programs by going to your electric or natural gas company’s website. Usually, these programs are in the section of the site titled "Ways to Save" or something similar.