The Energy Costs of Living

Sandy Smith
December 18, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Examples of energy sources. [6] (Source: Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of the DOE)

Household energy consumption is determinant of and on a lot of factors, like space heating and cooling, lighting, transportation amongst others, and the price of energy is directly set by supply and demand. As population increases, demand for energy also increases. This paper aims to relate the idea of energy consumption to the cost of living and how it affects different households and people demographically.

Energy Efficiency

The population is steadily increasing, which makes energy consumption a much greater demand. We draw energy from multiple different sources, as seen in Figure 1. In addition, the fast paced advancements and developments in the tech industry are also key drivers to the high-energy consumption of the United States as well as globally. One article states that much of the energy consumption and literature written about energy efficiency, cost of energy affecting cost of living, and other written statistics and surveys are mainly conducted in and focused on urban areas, for these are the areas most affected. As part of this, "interest in urban energy consumption stems from the central role that cities play in shaping global energy demand as well as growing urban leadership on climate change mitigation," meaning that as cities grow larger and adapt to the fast paced environment, energy efficiency starts to play a large role in lifestyles and finances. [1] The question then becomes how to effectively and efficiently reduce energy emissions while also being able to sustain everyday life. It does in fact become expensive when trying to use alternate energy efficient forms of light bulbs or other appliances, as seen in. [2] While the United States does have multiple energy regulation laws in place, it is a constant battle on how to reduce energy emission, yet keep up with the standard of living in society that is ever evolving, while also trying to combat the negative consequences reaped in the environment because of emission, specifically climate change.

Cost of Living and Consumption in the United States

Use of energy is measured in kW/h per month and then the cost is based on this number and amount used for each appliance. In the United States, it is a known fact that the cost of living differs from state to state based on multiple factors, a large one being energy consumption for household appliances and everyday life. On top of this, energy- consumption for households is transient and rates of energy as well as the cost fluctuate on a season basis. [3] For example, costs might go up in the summer because air conditioners are much more prevalent while heating systems in the winter are going to be of high demand; overall, Americans tend to spend more money on heating than cooling. [4] Each individual's lifestyle is unpredictable and different pertaining to the amount of energy used and when.


The amount of household appliances used on a daily basis, translating to the cost of living is beyond what one would think - everything from heating and cooling, to transportation, running water, our televisions, computers, and cell phones, and much more all are key drivers in the energy consumption and emission, and the efforts to reduce these have been long standing debates on what is most costly financially and to the environment. [5]

© Sandy Smith. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] L. Parshall et al., "Modeling Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions at the Urban Scale: Methodological Challenges and Insights from the United States," Energy Policy 38, 4765 (2010).

[2] G. Wood and M. Newborough, "Dynamic Energy-Consumption Indicators for Domestic Appliances: Environment, Behaviour and Design," Energy and Buldings 35, 821 (2003).

[3] A. Wilson and J. Boehland, "Small Is Beautiful," J. Ind. Ecol. 9, 277 (2005).

[4] S. Z. Attari, M. L. DeKay, and C. I. Davidson, "Public Perceptions of Energy Consumption and Savings," Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (USA) 107, 16054 (2010).

[5] B. C. O'Neill and B. S. Chen, "Demographic Determinants of Household Energy Use in the United States," Popul. Devel. Rev. 28, 53 (2008).

[6] S. Esterly et al., "2013 Reneweable Energy Data Book," U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE/GO-102014-4491, December 2014.