Energy Burdens Across the United States

High Energy Burdens are a Factor for Many Families

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a new report this week looking at how much Americans are spending on energy bills compared to their household income.

According to the report:

ACEEE’s 2020 research found that low-income, Black, Hispanic, and Native American households all face dramatically higher energy burdens – spending a greater portion of their income on energy bills – than the average household.

Besides straining family budgets, high energy burdens are also correlated with a greater risk for respiratory diseases, increased stress and economic hardship, and difficulty moving out of poverty.

According to the report, one-fourth of all U.S. households and two-thirds of low-income households have high energy burdens, meaning they spend more than 6% of their household income on energy. Two out of every five low-income households have severe energy burdens, spending more than 10% of their income on energy costs.

According to Ariel Drehobl, senior research associate at ACEEE and the lead author on the report:

Even before the recession, many people with high energy burdens had to cut back on other necessities like food and medicine to afford utility bills. Now, many of the same communities that were struggling to pay bills before the global pandemic are being hit the hardest by job losses and could be at particular risk for shutoffs ahead.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the same communities with pre-COVID energy burdens above the national average have been hit the hardest by job loss and the health impacts associated with the pandemic, further stressing the situation.


How Energy Resource Center Helps

Energy efficiency is a major factor in the above data. When families live in older, less efficient homes, more energy is needed to run their appliances, heat and cool their homes, and run the electricity. Focusing on increasing energy efficiency in the home will lower utility bills and decrease the burden on the household.

Drehobl puts it this way:

From bad insulation to outdated heating or air conditioning equipment, there’s a lot of energy that’s just going to waste in many homes. If we focus on supporting those most in need to make their homes more efficient, those investments can go a long way to reduce their bills.

We have witnessed this to be true over the last 30 years of performing energy efficiency upgrades for income-qualified households. On average, energy bills decrease by 25%, but that is just an average. We have seen reductions up to 50% and those bills stay down year over year, saving the family more money over the lifetime of the equipment and materials.

As bills go down, comfort and safety increase. Our work identifies and mitigates carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks, can protect air quality in the home, and will keep residents warmer or cooler during extreme weather. These things all add up to a better quality of life.

Get Involved

While the ACEEE report is distressing – no family should have to choose between paying utility bills and getting groceries or medication – there is hope. Thanks to long-term partnerships, ERC can provide free services for families the most in need.

We work in 27 counties across Colorado. Income-qualified households receive our services and all equipment with zero out-of-pocket expense. Applying for services is easy and one of our intake specialists can help. Find out more here.

If you are interested in helping families who could benefit from these services you can make a donation directly to ERC, or you could check out our Pay-It-Forward services.

Together, we can improve home energy efficiency, conserve energy, promote health, increase comfort and expand quality of life for Coloradans.



Our Loveland office has moved! If you are in the Weld, Boulder, Larimer country service area please contact our Sterling office at 970-463-7020 or email