Space heating used nearly 1/3 of US energy in commercial buildings

Nearly one-third of the energy consumed in commercial buildings in 2018 was used for space heating. Commercial buildings consumed 6.8 quadrillion British thermal units (BTU) of energy in total, and 2.2 quads were used for space heating.

Space heating was the main end use for all fuels except electricity, making up at least two-thirds of end-use consumption for natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat, but only 6% of electricity consumption.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) estimates that for every square foot of commercial floorspace, 25,000 BTU were consumed for space heating.

Space heating was the most energy-intensive end use in 2018 when measured in terms of energy per square foot—especially in colder climates.

In contrast, office equipment and computing were the least energy-intensive end uses in 2018: office equipment consumed 500 BTU of energy per square foot, and computing consumed 3,100 BTU per square foot.

Natural gas fueled nearly three-quarters of the energy used for space heating in commercial buildings in 2018, and it was also the fuel most used for water heating (67%) and cooking (81%).

Fuel oil was the least-used fuel source for those end uses. Electricity was the most-used energy for cooling (98%) and was the only energy source used for ventilation, lighting, refrigeration, office equipment, and computing.

“This survey provides a valuable benchmark to refresh our nation’s understanding of how commercial buildings have been using energy in the United States, and the data will be used for a variety of government and business purposes, including benchmarking buildings, modeling energy, and forecasting.” said EIA Assistant Administrator for Energy Statistics Thomas Leckey.

Readers can find more end-use data estimates on the EIA website.

This data release, the final one for the 2018 CBECS survey, also includes more tables on total major fuel, electricity, and natural gas consumption and expenditures and new data tables for fuel oil, district heat, and end-use estimates.

Users can access CBECS microdata to create custom tables.

CBECS is the only independent, statistically representative source for the characteristics and energy use of commercial buildings in the United States. EIA collects data for commercial buildings through in-person and web surveys.

Respondents, such as building owners and managers, completed the survey at 6,436 buildings for the 2018 CBECS, representing 5.9 million buildings in the United States. EIA also collected energy usage data from suppliers of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat.

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