How much electricity does an American home use?

One in three U.S. households faced challenges in paying energy bills in 2015

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Nearly one-third of U.S. households (31%) reported facing a challenge in paying energy bills or sustaining adequate heating and cooling in their home in 2015. According to the most recent results from EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), about one in five households reported reducing or forgoing basic necessities like food and medicine to pay an energy bill and 14% reported receiving a disconnection notice for energy service. Households may have also used less energy than they would prefer to: 11% of households surveyed reported keeping their home at an unhealthy or unsafe temperature.

The 2015 RECS asked about these and other challenges, including paying energy bills and repairing broken equipment in the home. Households experiencing these circumstances, often considered components of household energy insecurity, may be making difficult financial tradeoffs about which basic needs to fulfill.

The 2015 RECS questionnaire captured both the occurrence of household energy insecurity and the severity of household energy insecurity in 2015, measured by the frequency of energy insecure events lasting anywhere from a few weeks to most of the year. Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month. Of the 17 million households who reported receiving a disconnection notice, 2 million answered that this occurred nearly every month.

Occasionally, households may lose the use of heating or air-conditioning equipment entirely. This can occur when equipment breaks and a household cannot afford to fix it, as well as when a household cannot afford fuel for their equipment. The 2015 RECS results show that seven million households (6% of the national total) experienced the inability to use heating equipment at some point in 2015 and 6 million (5%) experienced the loss of air conditioning. These issues occurred during a year when overall energy-related expenditures were at their lowest point in over a decade.

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Only minor differences were found across geographic regions of the country and between urban and rural respondents. This suggests that a household’s ability to afford energy and maintain equipment is more related to structural features and demographic characteristics than to geography and associated climates. For instance, households that included children, who had residents that identified with a minority racial group or as Hispanic, or were low income experienced more energy insecurity. Households experiencing energy insecurity were also more likely to live in homes built before 1990.

Additional information on household energy insecurity and energy usage in all homes is available in 2015 RECS reports, tables, and a public-use microdata file.

Specific questions on this product may be directed to Chip Berry


According to the U.S. Energy Administration, “In 2016, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,766 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of 897 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption at 14,881 kWh per residential customer and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,061 kWh per residential customer.”

For more information on alternate forms of power your property CLICK HERE.

5 reasons you shouldn’t worry about the new solar tariffs

We’ve covered this extensively over the past few months, but it bears repeating: Homeowners have little to fear from the recently-announced tariffs that will increase the cost of newly-imported solar panels from certain foreign countries by 30% this year.

Here’s why it isn’t a big deal for homeowners:

1. The tariff increase amounts to a tiny percentage of the cost to install solar

recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), pegged the average costs of installing a home solar system at $2.80 per watt of generation capacity. Of that, just $.35 represents the cost of the solar panels that go into the installation. That’s a tiny fraction of the total cost.

2017 Q1 home solar costs of $2.80 per watt with module price representing $.35 per watt

Adding a 30% tariff to the cost of solar modules represents an increase of just 10.5 cents per watt, or just 3.75% of the $2.80/watt total cost. For a typical 5-kW home system, the extra 3.5% represents an additional cost of $490, which is about equal to half a year of energy savings from that system in places like CaliforniaNew YorkNew Jersey, and other good solar states.

2. Most companies aren’t going to increase costs by even that much

But that cost increase only happens if your installer decides to pass the full cost along to you, which might not be the case.

recent survey of solar installers conducted by EnergySage and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) asked whether the participants planned to raise their prices because of the tariff—and one-third of respondents said they’d either keep prices the same or lower prices to take market share from competitors.

An additional 35.6% said they’d increase prices to only partially cover the cost of the tariff.

A chart showing whether solar installers plan to increase prices ahead of the 2018 solar tariff

Image source: EnergySage

That means you’ve got a better than two-thirds chance of finding an installer with a price premium of less than 3.5% over what they’d been charging customers before the tariff. Maybe that’s because the whole industry knew the tariffs were coming and planned for it by buying up (literal) tons of cheap panels before 2018?

3. U.S. companies stockpiled solar modules ahead of the tariff

Well, you might say “China Flooded the U.S. with solar panels” ahead of the new tariff, but both statements are true.

The solar installation industry employs hundreds of thousands of people all over the country, with most of those dedicated to installing panels. The tariffs of 30% might not be high enough to affect residential solar much, but the utility sector, where cost per watt is close to $1, could see much bigger impacts.

So it’s no surprise that there are now something like 5 GW of solar panels sitting at U.S. ports, ready to be installed around the country. Those panels might last the industry a year or more, which should keep costs down for both utility-scale and residential installations. If you choose one of the largest installers like Vivint or Sunrun, chances are good that you’ll pay no more today than you would have last year.

4. The impact of the tariff is muted by solar tax credits

If you install solar panels on your home before the end of 2019, you’ll earn a federal tax credit worth 30% of the cost to install the system. The tax credit, known as the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC for short), is one of the major reasons that home solar makes sense around the country, and it’s another good reason to fear the tariff less.

So if your installer has raised prices by 3.5% because of the tariff, your cost for a 5-kW system might be $490 higher, but 30% of that increase gets wiped out by the tax credit. The difference in your cost after the credit is $367.50. That’s not so bad at all.

Considering that the tax credits will begin to sunset after 2019, the time to go solar is now, regardless of these tiny tariffs.

5. Solar has gotten cheaper since you started reading this article

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the pace of decreases in the costs to install solar is as rapid as ever.

Take a look back at the chart in point #1, above. It shows how (adjusted for inflation), home solar installations prices have fallen from $7.24/watt in 2010 to just $2.80/watt as of the first quarter of 2017. Module prices alone have fallen by 80% since then, and while it might seem like they don’t have much lower to go, that idea’s been proven wrong before. Take a look:

Chart showing the decline of solar module prices since 2010, from $1.80 to $.35/watt in 7 years

How much longer do you think it will take Chinese manufacturers to erase that $.105/watt increase added by the tariffs? Now remember that the tariff will step down to 25% in 2019, 20% in 2020, and end after spending 2021 at 15%. Within just 1 year, the price of panels will have dropped, the tariffs will be lower, and the overall cost of a solar system will continue to fall, as it has for the past 40 years.

Solar in the Southeast illuminates the critical role of utilities in the growing southeastern solar market.

Report by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Southeastern states, particularly Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, grant monopoly utilities, rather than a competitive marketplace, the responsibility and control over power supplies.

Consequently, the location of a home or business is the primary determinant not only of which utility will supply the electricity, but also the amount of solar within that portfolio. To provide an equitable, unbiased comparison of various-sized utilities throughout the Southeast, SACE has ranked utilities on the basis of watts per customer (W/C) of solar power sourced to the customer. SACE has also calculated and forecast total installed capacity of solar power (in megawatts, MW) particularly for state comparisons.

Click Here for the full report.