it's getting hotter...



Understanding the residential energy consumption patterns in the US

From the visualization above, we see that the Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.14°F per decade since 1880, but the rate of warming since 1981 is more than twice that: 0.32°F per decade. 2021 was the sixth-warmest year on record based on NOAA’s temperature data. The latest climate data tells us that reducing carbon emissions is not enough. To make the biggest impact, we must all commit to net-zero emissions by 2030 — a path that requires strong, immediate action.

The built environment contributes to a staggering 40% of these emissions. Therefore, this project aims to make the audience aware of where these emissions come from.

The Built Environment

Breakdown of Residential and Commercial Buildings in the US

In the US, there are 4.8 million commercial buildings, there are over 128 million residential buildings.

Residential buildings consume ~15% more energy than the commercial buildings, as demonstrated below.

(Click on the card below to study the energy consumption of both residential and commercial buildings)
Residential Buildings
Commercial Buildings
Residential vs. Commercial

Energy Consumption by Climate Zone

Compare how Energy Consumption differs by Climate Zone

However, the energy consumption for each residence varies a lot based on the different climate zones across the US. Therefore, before diving deeper into that, we must understand the climate zones that exist and their characteristics. Below is a map broken down by county level, and their corresponding climate type. More information on these can be found HERE.


Region with between 5,400-9,000 heating degree days (65°F basis)


Region that receives less than 20 inches (50 cm) of annual precipitation


Region where the average outdoor temperature remains >45°F throughout the year


Region that receives >20 inches (50 cm) of annual precipitation


Region that has a coldest month with mean temperature between 27-65°F, a warmest month with <72°F and min. 4 months with >50°F


Region with both annual precipitation, and where the average outdoor temperature drops below 45°F during winter


Region with >12,600 heating degree days (65° basis)

Very Cold

Region with between 9,000-12,600 heating degree days (65°F basis)

US Climate Zones 1 - 8 and sub-zones A,B,C
(Hover over a county to see which zone is falls under)

We can even see what climate zone consumes what 'SOURCE' of energy! What do we mean by that? This means that the 'TOTAL SITE ENERGY' that your house or residence uses comes from Natural Gas, Propane, Fuel Oil and finally, Electricity.

So, we still rely heavily on NON-RENEWABLE sources for the daily energy usage in our homes.

Energy consumption change throughout different climate zones in a 24-hour time period
(Select the energy source using the buttons below)

Energy by Residential Building Types

Compare how Energy Consumption differs based on the Climate Zone + Residential Building Type

We now know the different climate zones. But even within each climate zone, there are different types of residential buildings. A brief description of all the different types in provided below. Then, we selected three climate zones that consume a significant amount of energy for residential buildings: Climate Zones 4, 5 and 6, which can be studied further based on the energy consumed by residential building type.

Mobile Home

A prefabricated structure, also known as a trailer) that can be moved. In the US, in the 1950s, these homes began to be marketed primarily as an inexpensive form of housing

Multi Family 2-4

This is a rental apartment building where the entire building (with 2-4 apartments) is under the same ownership

Multi Family 5+

This is a rental apartment building where the entire building (with more than 5 apartments) is under the same ownership

Single Attached

An element of the residence's construction (such as a wall, ceiling, or floor) is shared with another property

Single Detached

A stand-alone residence, excluding manufactured homes, for which the sale includes the land on which the residence is located


Energy Consumption based on Climate Zone and Residential Building Type
(Click on the circular nodes to study the branches under each Climate Zone)

Climate Zone

Sub-Climate Zone

Residential Type

Structural Material

Construction Year

Site Energy

Energy Consumption by Building Attributes

Compare different elements and how they can reduce consuming different types of energy

We now know the energy consumption by climate and residential building types. Now, let's dive deeper inside each building and see what appliances consume how much energy, and where does this energy come from - is it electricity or fuel? Click on each area in the map below to get a better understanding.

← UP

Still curious? You can study how different types of WINDOW, LIGHTING TYPE AND APPLIANCE compare across the categories of energy consumption, cost and rated lifetime.
We hope you can use it the next time you think of renovating your own house!

(Click on the card below to study the energy consumption of both residential and commercial buildings)






Energy Incentives in the US

Compare the number of Incentives and the current Average Energy Consumption by State

It is also important to understand the incentives that a homeowner can avail to get aid for renovations. These incentives include Regulatory Policies and Financial Incentives. You can learn more about this HERE. The available policy maps include extensive details on net metering, solar power policies, renewable standards, and energy efficiency resource standards.

Average Energy Consumed vs the Energy Incentives by State
(Hover over each state)

Our Team

Aditi Memani

Master of Science, MS CSE ('22), Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science

Karen Kuo

MArch I, Master in Design Studies, Technology ('23), Harvard Graduate School of Design

Kritika Kharbanda

Master in Design Studies, Energy and Environments ('23), Harvard Graduate School of Design



  1. Wilson, EJ. H. et. al. 2022. End-Use Load Profiles for the U.S. Building Stock: Methodology and Results of Model Calibration, Validation, and Uncertainty Quantification. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL/TP-5500-80889. (Link)
  2. Find Policies & Incentives by State. DSIRE USA. (Link)
  3. Building America Best Practices Series, Volume 7.3, Guide to Determining Climate Regions by County, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, August 2015.
  4. Kadric´ D. et. al. October 2021. Cost-related analysis of implementing energy-efficient retrofit measures in the residential building sector of a middle-income country – A case study of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Energy & Buildings 257 (2022) 111765.
  5. Latini, A. et. al.2015. IEE/12/758/SI2.644752 D.6.7. Best practices for improving energy efficiency in Fruit and Vegetable processing plants.
  6. Aksoezen M. et. al. October 2014. Building age as an indicator for energy consumption. Energy and Buildings 87 (2015) 74–86
  7. Hyedari A. et. al. 2021. Effects of different window configurations on energy consumption in building : Optimization and economic analysis. Journal of Building Engineering 35 (2021) 102099
  8. Residential vs. Commercial Energy Use, Solar Feeds (Link)
  9. States Investing the Most in New Housing, Construction Coverage (Link)
  10. ASHRAE Climate Zones, Open EI (Link)