Watt, Why & How e-Newsletter

Home or Highway: Which Uses More Energy?

Source: iStock
Cars and houses

You use energy at home and while driving, but it's hard to know which is costing you more. While household spending is easy totrack through your utility bills, fuel use for transportation is a little harder to pin down. So how does your home energy budget compare to your gasoline budget? To find out, let's do some math.

The typical American household consumes about 90 million Btu (British thermal units) of energy a year, according to U.S. Department of Energy statistics, at a cost of about $2,000.

That same typical household has two vehicles that travel an average of about 20,000 miles per year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The combined average fuel economy of cars and light trucks is 21.4 miles per gallon. That means that the average household uses about 935 gallons of gasoline (nearly 108 million Btu) annually for travel. 

With gasoline prices currently averaging $2.69 per gallon nationwide, that comes to around $2,500.

These are just estimates, of course. Your household usage will vary depending on the size and age of your home, as well as the number and type of vehicles you own. If you have one of those "typical" households with two or more vehicles, however, you may be guzzling more energy on the road.

Saving energy and money

The best way to put the brakes on your fuel costs is to drive less; walk or ride a bicycle whenever you can. When you are behind the wheel, follow these tips to drive more efficiently:

  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage usually decreases at speeds above 50 miles per hour. Driving slower is not only safer, it can save you money as well.
  • Avoid hauling cargo on your roof. Cargo on your roof increases drag (wind resistance), which reduces fuel economy.
  • Remove extra weight. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones.
  • Avoid idling. Idling uses up to half a gallon of fuel per hour without getting you anywhere. Shut off your engine when your vehicle is parked.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control while driving on the highway keeps your vehicle running at a constant speed, which helps save fuel.

If you're looking to purchase a new car or truck, see Fueleconomy.gov. It's a great resource comparing models side-by-side and finding the most fuel-efficient vehicles available.

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