How Americans heat their homes: electricity now slightly more popular than natural gas

  • By Barry Fischer
  • August 31, 2012

Now more than ever, an increasing number of Americans homes are turning to electricity for heating, according to a new data release from the Energy Information Administration.

In homes built before 1970, natural gas was far and away the predominant heating fuel in new homes (installed in nearly 60% of them).  Since then, however, new homes are as likely to be heated via electricity (44%) as natural gas (43%). The remaining homes rely on heating sources such as fuel oil (especially in the Northeast), propane, wood, or kerosene.

Image Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey

Natural gas is still the key heating fuel across the entire US housing stock (a combined 50% of existing homes and new homes use it to keep warm). But what explains the increasing popularity of electric heating systems in new homes? The EIA report suggests that part of the trend can be traced to a general population shift toward warmer and drier climates such as the South, where electricity is the historically prevalent heating fuel.

Or perhaps electrification is just part of a broader trend in the way we use energy in our lives. As our home heating shifts toward electricity, so are carstrains, and even bikes.

You can learn more about trends in natural gas and electricity usage in American homes, from the US Energy Information Administration’s recently released Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

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Outlier explores trends in how people are using energy in the US and around the world. Pulling from an unprecedented (and still growing) amount of energy data—currently drawn from 50 million homes—Opower crunches energy-use information from more than 90 utility partners every day, and cross-references that with weather, household, and demographic information to produce compelling analyses in the Outlier series.