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Residential Energy Consumption Survey

A periodic survey measuring U.S. households’ energy use to inform policymaking
  • Client
    Energy Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Dates
    2009 - Present


Household energy use patterns are volatile, posing challenges for policymakers.

Since the 1970s, the Department of Energy has conducted the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) every five years through its Energy Information Administration (EIA). The survey measures energy use and costs while also collecting data on the types of appliances used in homes and what housing designs are most energy efficient. With America’s energy demands having major implications for U.S. foreign policy and domestic economic stability, developing accurate and sophisticated statistics is an essential task.


NORC conducted detailed field interviews to measure household energy patterns.

EIA commissioned NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct its 2009 survey. NORC mainly the U.S. Postal Service mail address database to develop a sample of primary residences and then sent field interviewers to individual homes for visits. NORC asked residents an extensive series of questions about their energy-use habits and even took square-foot measurements of their homes. EIA contacted utilities to match the sampled residences with their energy consumption and costs. Data were collected from 12,083 households selected to accurately represent the 113.6 million U.S. households in existence in 2009.


Policymakers on the federal, state, and local levels were armed with reliable data on energy.

RECS statistics help guide government decisions on energy, such as what types of incentives to offer to homeowners for energy-efficient upgrades.

The figures are especially important for the big-picture task of matching up the energy demand side with the supply side. For example, RECS helps the Energy Department forecast future residential energy demand, allowing the government to more accurately calculate whether adequate energy is likely to be available and at what cost.

RECS also plays a key role for government and industry leaders promoting improvements in home-design efficiency.

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“RECS is the only survey that gives a snapshot of residential energy consumption and how people are using electricity within their homes.”

Senior Vice President

“RECS is the only survey that gives a snapshot of residential energy consumption and how people are using electricity within their homes.”

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