A Comparison of Energy Use, Operating Costs, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Home Appliances (Energy Analysis October 2021)

Natural gas, electricity, oil, and propane compete in the residential sector in a variety of applications – primarily space heating and water heating. Natural gas, electricity, and propane also compete in cooking and clothes drying applications. Choosing which energy to use has significant implications in terms of efficiency, economics, and the environment. While the ultimate energy choice is made by consumers and builders, this choice is also influenced by government policies.

It is important that government policies and regulations that influence energy matters be based on accurate measurements of energy efficiency and environmental impacts. Most government policies and regulations that influence energy matters are “site-based” – that is, they only consider the impacts at the site where the energy is ultimately consumed. Site-based regulations, such as appliance efficiency standards and measurement, can lead to higher energy resource consumption as well as higher levels of pollution.

A full-fuel-cycle analysis is more comprehensive. This method examines all impacts associated with energy use, including those from the extraction/production, conversion/generation, transmission, distribution, and ultimate energy consumption. Site energy analysis only takes into consideration the ultimate consumption stage. Significant energy is consumed, with resulting polluting emissions, during all stages of energy use.

This view is supported by the National Academies’ report to the Department of Energy (DOE), “Review of Site (Point-of-Use) and Full-Fuel-Cycle Measurement Approaches to DOE/EERE Building Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards.” The report found that DOE should consider changing its measurement of appliance energy efficiency to one based on the full-fuel-cycle. This more accurate measurement would provide consumers with more complete information on energy use and environmental impacts.

The purpose of this analysis is to compare the relative impacts associated with residential appliances powered by natural gas, electricity, oil, and propane. Consideration is given not only to impacts at the point of ultimate energy consumption — i.e., the home — but also to those impacts associated with the production, conversion, transmission, and distribution of energy to the household. For example, energy is used and lost in the generation of electricity and in the processing required for crude oil and natural gas.

Please direct inquires to: 
Brendan O’Brien Senior Manager, (202) 824-7220

Full report: A Comparison of Energy Use, Operating Costs, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Home Appliances.PDF