Given the significance of the residential sector in terms of energy consumption, a comprehensive understanding of households’ energy consumption patterns and choices is imperative. This paper focuses on analysing and understanding the South African residential sector's energy characteristics considering their energy-use profile, and other characteristics such as their geographical distribution and demographic characteristics. The findings show that despite poorer households who are connected to the national grid receiving 50?kW/h of free electricity per month to help them cover their basis energy needs, South African households – particularly low-income households – still use various sources of energy including wood and paraffin to satisfy their basic energy requirements. Solid fuels are predominantly used in rural areas where around 75% of non-electrified households rely on solid fuels for cooking, heating and lighting. Low-income South African households consume between 5% and 10% of their total energy in lighting; space heating and cooking account for the remainder 85–90% of their total energy consumption. After evaluating the relevant data regarding households’ access to electricity, the type of energy used by households and households’ expenditure on electricity and energy in South Africa from the NIDS dataset; it was concluded, that electricity access is reasonably high across South African households. Additionally, an increasing trend can be observed in their total expenditure on electricity. However, approximately 70% of households still spend on other energy sources.