Posted on: 23.09.2022 Posted by: Редакция Comments: 0

You may be wondering if choosing to live in an apartment is more sustainable than moving into a house. Perhaps you want to cut down on your bills or you are concerned about the future of the planet. But are apartments really more energy-efficient than houses?

In general, apartments are more energy-efficient than houses. They are often located near public transportation and amenities, leading to less car usage. Due to their smaller size, apartments are also cheaper to heat and cool.

One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aims to ensure that human-built environments are sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and resilient. In this article, I will describe reasons why choosing to live in an apartment may be better for the environment (and for yourself!).

Energy Consumption in Apartments and Houses

Every aspect of our lives – living in comfortable spaces, heating and cooling our buildings, using transportation, producing food, disposing waste, etc. – requires the production and consumption of various energy resources.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), households consume energy depending on several different variables, such as the location of the house, the materials the house is made of, and the energy sources used. Residential households are among the biggest energy consumers out there.

Did you know that residential households account for about half of all building energy consumption in the U.S.?

In many affluent parts of the world, a single-family resides in a suburban house. They may own one or more cars (or other vehicles) to commute to work, school, and most other places on a daily basis.

However, the typical suburban lifestyle (living in a large house) can contribute to higher energy consumption in residential areas. And that’s despite having green technology innovations installed and used in modern homes.

According to Anthropocene, energy consumption and emissions from households are trending upwards due to a growing share of houses with HVAC systems and as houses become larger while accommodating fewer people.

Several factors can contribute to large suburban houses being less energy-efficient and sustainable than apartments. However, it’s important to keep in mind that energy consumption encompasses more than just the micro-level of your individual household consumption patterns.

On a macro level, energy consumption also includes the design of neighborhoods, cities, and public facilities, such as transportation. Of course, the building you live in contributes to the formation of a neighborhood, and the neighborhood forms a city or a place.

If you live in a city without adequate public transportation, it may be difficult to justify living in an urban neighborhood as you’ll likely need a car to get around. Since parking spaces are hard to come by in densely populated areas, it often makes more sense to live in suburbs.

Therefore, energy efficiency and usage are influenced not only by what you do within your household but also by where you choose to reside.

Heating and Cooling in Apartments and Houses

According to the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, over 40% of energy in U.S. households comes from HVAC (heating and cooling) in 2021. Specifically, it is generally more expensive to heat a room than to cool it.

The energy consumption in apartments is lower than in larger houses, partly because the living area is much smaller. Therefore, less energy is needed to heat or cool the entire space. Additionally, constructing residential buildings with denser living areas can aid in temperature control.

For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that dwelling units are somewhat protected from outside temperatures as they typically have other dwelling units and common areas that block direct exposure.

A similar observation is made in this study published in the Journal of Sustainable Real Estate. Dwelling units consume less energy because the shared walls provide additional insulation against exterior weather fluctuations. Detached single-family houses, on the other hand, do not have this protection.

The U.S. EIA comments that apartments in buildings with five or more dwelling units consume less energy than other types of housing (including houses).

Their graphics titled “Site Energy Consumption per Household in 2009 by Vintage” on this page gives us the following data. (BTU refers to a British Thermal Unit and is a heat unit.)

  • A single-family dwelling (built in the 2000s): Uses over 100 million BTU per year.
  • An apartment in a building with 2-4 units (built in 2000): Consumes nearly 60 million BTU per year.
  • An apartment in a building with more than 5 units (built in 2000): Consumes about 40 million BTU per year.

As you can see, a single-family dwelling generates a much larger amount of heat per year compared to a dwelling unit. Interestingly, high-rise apartments may be the best choice for those concerned about energy efficiency.

Furthermore, large multifamily buildings become more energy-efficient with each passing decade. For example, houses built in the 2000s consume 12% less energy than those built in the 1970s (though they contain more energy-consuming appliances).

Interestingly, newer houses constructed in the U.S. are more likely to have higher ceiling heights (resulting in increased heating-related energy costs) while also having more energy-efficient windows.

Transportation Energy Consumption

Larger suburban apartments are typically further away from convenient public amenities, such as reliable public transportation. This results in household members using their cars for transportation over longer distances.

For example, you may drive to work, school, recreational activities, etc., on a daily basis. Most new houses are built in the outer suburbs. To grow a city, one needs to expand either upward or outward.

The problem is that local transportation systems in outer suburban areas may not be as robust as those established closer to or within the central city area. You may need to use your car to commute to work or you may have to travel to the nearest train or bus station to utilize that mode of transportation.

As explored in this article by The Conversation, suburbs reliant on cars are prone to “significant energy demand related to transport, particularly gasoline, especially when compared to inner-city households.”

Their article includes results from a study conducted in Brussels, Belgium. This research focused on the energy consumption of three hypothetical housing types:

  • An energy-efficient, “passive” suburban house (having a high energy efficiency class). The hypothetical household consisted of four people reliant on cars.
  • A normal suburban standard house (with an average efficiency rating). This household would also include four people using cars.
  • An urban apartment. This apartment would consist of two people using public transportation.

The study examined three kinds of energy consumption (estimated over a 50-year period):

  • Embodied energy
  • Operating energy
  • Transportation energy

The results showed that the low-energy suburban house had overall energy consumption similar to the suburban standard house. While the passive house led to lower operating costs, its embodied costs were higher than the standard house.

To be more specific, the “energy-efficient” house had higher costs associated with embodied energy due to its triple-glazed windows and insulation. (Note that the study looked at a 50-year period.)

Additionally, the urban apartment had the lowest energy consumption across all three categories studied. The researchers concluded that an apartment is more energy-efficient than a suburban house because:

  • The residents’ use of inner-city public transportation reduces transportation-related energy demand (e.g., gasoline).
  • Living in a smaller space of an apartment results in less material consumption.
  • Heating and cooling a dwelling unit requires less energy compared to a larger house due to the smaller space.

According to the article, over 50% of energy costs in residential buildings are related to embodied energy and transportation energy. Therefore, living in an apartment closer to the neighborhoods you frequent most often may be the most energy-efficient way to minimize your CO2 footprint.

For instance, in 2019, 1.1 billion tons were emitted by cars and light trucks in the U.S. This figure accounted for 17% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for that year. Considering this, it’s likely a good idea to utilize public transportation as much as possible.

How to Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Simply put, energy efficiency means consuming less energy to achieve a similar outcome. Unfortunately, many buildings consume more energy resources than necessary. Therefore, you can help the environment by being conscious of your energy consumption.

Why should you strive to make your home as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible? According to Red Energy, an energy-efficient home:

  • Reduces energy waste.
  • Reduces carbon emissions.
  • Reduces the need for non-renewable energy sources.
  • Provides a cleaner, healthier living environment.
  • Will save you money on energy bills.

The UN has listed 17 Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to focus on creating sustainable living environments for people worldwide. You can contribute to these efforts by creating an energy-efficient home for yourself and your family.

By opting for a sustainable home, you not only contribute to reducing energy waste but are likely to save money in the long run too. It’s a win-win situation for you and the community!

Fortunately, there are numerous ways in which you can enhance the energy efficiency of your home – whether you live in an apartment or a house.

Here is a comprehensive list featuring many strategies you can implement to make your home more energy-efficient:

  • Replace your light bulbs with LED bulbs. Sylvania Eco LED bulbs (available on come in packs of 4, 8, and 12 and are durable and energy-efficient. They will certainly help you cut down on your energy costs.
  • Use smart thermostats. Smart technology can also assist you in proper and cost-effective temperature control.
  • Dress weather-appropriate. By dressing according to the weather, you can save on heating and cooling costs.
  • Air dry your clothes. Dryers are among the most energy-intensive appliances on the market!
  • Close your blinds and curtains in summer. Keeping the blinds and curtains on the sunny side of your house closed can help regulate the indoor temperature.
  • Seal your home airtight. Air sealing your house is another excellent way to reduce heating and cooling costs. You can, for example, use versatile Magzo Foam Weather Stripping (available on to seal your doors, windows, and other gaps.
  • Install new windows. If your house uses single-pane windows, consider replacing them with energy-efficient alternatives. Double glazing your house is practical in both cold and hot climates.
  • Install a tankless water heater. Your water heater is one of the most energy-intensive appliances in your home. A tankless version can help you save energy.
  • Improve your home’s insulation. By upgrading your insulation, you can save 10% to 50% on your heating costs.

Each of the tips mentioned above can help you reduce the energy consumption of your home, but let’s not forget that the largest portion of our energy consumption comes from commuting! Spending less time in the car has significant energy-saving benefits, and reduced car usage is one of the reasons why apartments are more energy-efficient than houses.


Both at a macro and micro level, it is in our best interest to lead a more sustainable and energy-efficient lifestyle. By choosing to live in an apartment instead of a house, you can cut down on your energy costs, especially if you reside in a building constructed in the 2000s.

However, there are many smaller, everyday measures you can take to be more energy-efficient:

  • Use public transportation more frequently (or ride a bicycle).
  • Opt for environmentally-friendly appliances.
  • Heat and cool your home (and yourself) naturally rather than artificially.
  • Turn off your electronic devices when not in use or charging.

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