If you want to save energy, it helps to know how you’re using it now. Your home may not match national averages, but the Average U.S. Household Energy Use pie chart can help you understand where home energy dollars tend to go.

As you can see, heating and cooling together account for over half (54%) of the energy used in the average U.S. home, with heating dominating. The next-biggest chunk (22%) goes to appliances. Then comes water heating at 18%.

Clearly, if you want to save energy, you might want to improve the efficiency of your heating-and-cooling system first, and then work on your water-heating efficiency.

Lighting and appliances together account for nearly one-third of the energy use in the average home. In fact, energy use for these items has nearly doubled since 1978, when most of us had fewer TVs and no personal computers or entertainment centers.

How Much Energy Is Your Home Using Now?

What you need to know next is how your home uses energy. You can find this out using an online tool, or by hiring a home energy professional to do a home performance assessment.

A home energy professional will interview you about your needs and then suggest the appropriate level of assessment. This assessment could include

  • inspecting the insulation and the air barrier;
  • inspecting the house for moisture problems;
  • pressure testing for air leakage and duct leakage;
  • thermal imaging to pinpoint air leakage, insulation, or moisture problems;
  • inspecting and testing for health and safety hazards, such as CO or gas leaks;
  • computerized energy modeling; and
  • providing a prioritized list of cost-effective improvements. 

No matter what level of remodeling you’re doing, a home performance assessment with energy modeling will probably be worth the price. For example, you may want to use less energy for heating and cooling—but where should you start? Would you know whether adding more attic insulation is better than replacing the windows? Should you insulate the walls? Do you know if your walls already have insulation?

An energy-modeling analysis of your home, using specialized software, can help you answer questions like these. Based on the energy pro’s inspections, measurements, and testing, the modeling software analyzes your home’s heat flows, equipment efficiencies, and other factors. Then it prints out a chart showing how much energy your home uses, and for what.

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