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What Is A Kilowatt Hour? Why Should It Matter To Me?

Written By: Warm Thoughts Communications on March 12, 2021

reducing electricity at homeWhen you get your electricity and gas bills, chances are you look at what you owe—and pay it. You may even go the extra step of checking your meter reading to make sure it matches what you see at home.

But if you’re like most people, you don’t do a deeper diver into your bill. If you did, you’d notice how many kilowatt hours (kWh) you’ve used—and that information could help you lower your bills.

Kilowatts And Kilowatt Hours Explained

If you want to lower your electricity bill, it’s important to know what “kW” and “kWh” mean—as is knowing the difference between the two.

The abbreviation “kW” is short for kilowatt—a unit of electrical power that equals 1,000 watts.

A kilowatt hour (kWh), on the other hand, measures an amount of power used over time.

While both are interrelated units of measurement, the important difference between kWh and kW is that a kWh reflects the total amount of electricity used, whereas a kW reflects the rate of electricity usage.

For example, you can use kWh to express the total energy consumed over, say, the course of a month—which is exactly what your energy bill does!

Why Should I Care About kW And kWh?

Why does all of this information matter to you as a consumer? Well, several reasons. Knowing what a kilowatt hour is can help you understand:

Armed with this information, you can make lifestyle changes and product choices that could dramatically lower your monthly energy use and bills. Understanding kWh can also help you when comparison shopping for energy providers.

KWh Usage For Common Appliances

What does one kWh of energy usage look like? It’s hard to say precisely without a direct measurement (more on that in a bit) but, in general, a kWh is equal to:

If you want to get a better idea of how much energy a particular appliance is using, there are two ways to do it.

  1. The first and more accurate way is to use an electricity usage monitor, which looks a lot like a wall adapter (they’re sometimes called “smart plugs”). Just plug your appliance in and it will display your kWh usage in real-time.
  2. The second way is to do the math! To work out the kWh usage, use this formula:

    Wattage ÷ 1,000 x hours used = kilowatt-hours used

So, for example, if you use a 2,000-watt heater for three hours,

If you used that space heater the same way every day for a month, you’d use 180 kWh (6 x 30).

How Many Kilowatt Hours Should I Expect To Use?

The amount of energy you use depends on many factors: the size of your home, the number of people in your family, the number of appliances you’re running, and the efficiency of those appliances, to name a few.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kWh—an average of about 877 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption, at 14,787 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest, at 6,296 kWh per residential customer (to see where your state ranks in the national scene for electricity use, check out this story).

How Can I Cut Down My kWh Usage?

The best way to use fewer kWh and reduce your bills is to make sure that your home and all your electrical appliances are working as efficiently as possible. Here are 10 of the best ways to do it:

  1. Insulate your roof and walls—when you’re looking for ways to cut energy use year-round, insulation gives you one of the best bangs for the buck.
  2. Program your thermostat to reduce heating and cooling usage at night and when no one is home.
  3. Use cold water for washing your clothes.
  4. Replace your incandescent bulbs with LEDs.
  5. Install low-flow showerheads and aerators to reduce hot water use.
  6. Use smart power strips, which turn appliances off and prevent “vampire power loss.”
  7. Weatherize your exterior doors and windows using caulk and weatherstripping.
  8. Replace old, inefficient appliances with high-efficiency models.
  9. Use lights on a timer when you’re not home or turn them off altogether.
  10. Reduce the temperature on your water heater to 120°F (most manufacturers set the temperature higher).

Want another way to lower your electricity bill? Switch your plan to Discount Power! Enroll in one of our money-saving electricity plans online today, or contact us to learn more about our smart, affordable energy plans available in your place of residence!

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