The List: 10 Facts About Household Energy Usage in New Jersey

Larger houses, and older ones, help explain why almost half of energy expenditures go to home heating

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In a state with some of the nation’s highest energy costs, how people and businesses use and pay for electricity and other types of energy is always a top priority for policymakers. It has led to initiatives to encourage more power plants to be built in New Jersey, to develop renewable resources like solar, and to reduce energy consumption by customers of the state’s gas and electric utilities.

Household consumption ranks third when it comes to total energy usage in the state, accounting for 23.7 percent overall, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Households rely on a mix of fuels, including electricity, natural gas, and petroleum products, among others. Transportation ranks first, at 39.1 percent, hardly surprising given that New Jersey has the longest average commute in the country. The commercial sector accounts for 25.9 percent; the industrial community, 11.3 percent.

There is good news. New Jersey depends on nuclear power and natural gas for the bulk of its electricity generation. It ranks in the lower third of states in carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour of generation, according to the agency. Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants are a major source of pollution contributing the global climate change.

A peek at data compiled by the agency reveals some stark differences between New Jersey, its fellow Mid-Atlantic states, Pennsylvania and New York, and the rest of the nation..

1. Average household spend on electricity: $3,065 per year

New Jersey’s household electricity bills are among the highest in the nation. That’s not surprising, given that the state has the 10th highest electricity rates. Still, New Jersey households use less electricity on average than the rest of the country.

2. Annual energy use per household (excluding transportation): 127 million BTU

New Jersey’s appetite for British Thermal Units ranks well above the regional and national averages.
BTU refers to the heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

3. Nearly half of the energy used by NJ households goes to space heating

Space heating accounts for 49 percent of household energy consumption, followed by appliances, electronics, and lighting (31 percent), and water heating (18 percent). Air conditioning accounts for 3 percent of the total household energy use.

4. More than 80 percent of homes are heated with natural gas

That’s one of the highest rates in the country. The prevalence of the fuel is linked to the fact that five major interstate gas pipelines crisscross the state.

5. A total of 93 percent of New Jersey homes have air conditioning

Central air is the clear favorite at 80 percent of the total. Only 20 percent rely on window or wall units.

6. New Jersey homes are 20 percent larger than average U.S. homes

With average square-footage at 2,399, compared with 1,971, that may help explain the state’s energy appetite

7. Approximately 70 percent of households reside in single-family dwellings

Another possible explanation for power-hungry New Jersey homes. (The remaining 30 percent of residents typically live in apartments)

8. More than 50 percent of New Jersey homes have a programmable thermostat

That’s not just handy, it allows residents to reduce energy usage when they’re not at home or at night. The U.S. average for these programmable devices is nearly 40 percent.

9. Thirty percent of cars are parked within 20 feet of an electrical outlet

In this category, the state is slightly below the national average of more than 40 percent. The issue is important because it could be an indicator of how many residents will be willing to purchase electric vehicles, which most experts say will be mainly charged at home.

10. Twenty percent of New Jersey’s housing stock was built before 1950

Energy efficiency is a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes older houses more difficult to heat and cool — among many contributors to higher energy usage.