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How much electricity am I using?

If you want to save electricity (and why wouldn’t you?) it helps to focus on the things that use most, and so cost you the most money. In other words: 'what uses watt'?


Some electrical items use a lot of electricity. Others don’t. As a rule, those with moving parts or which produce heat use much more than those producing light or sound.

So if you want to save electricity and money, there’s no point worrying about a digital clock or an electric razor since these use so little power you would hardly notice the difference. The big savings lie elsewhere.

Every electrical appliance has a power rating which tells you how much electricity it needs to work. This is usually given in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). Of course, the amount of electricity it uses depends on how long it’s on for, and this is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). 

An item like a fridge has a low wattage, but because it’s on all the time it’ll use a lot of electricity. And although an iron is only used now and again, it uses a lot of electricty so the quicker you do your ironing the better.

See table below for ratings for different appliances.

Electricity is sold by the kilowatt-hour (kWh) – usually referred to as ‘units’ on your electricity bill. If you’re feeling mathmatical you can work out how much a particular appliance costs to run by multiplying its wattage by the amount of time it’s on and then by the cost of electricity per kWh.

For example, let’s say you have a 500W dehumidifier (i.e. 0.5kW) and you run it round the clock for a whole day. The electricity used is 0.5 (kW) x 24 (hours) = 12kWh. If your electricity costs 15p per kWh (and price will vary depending on the tariff you are on) then this will cost 12 x 15 = 180p. It’s costing nearly £2 a day to have the dehumidifier running constantly, so you can see how appliances can add a lot to your bills.

Many modern appliances have design innovations to make them more energy efficient. An electric oven might be better insulated to reduce heat loss, thereby reducing the energy it needs to maintain your cooking temperature. A modern washing machine is likely to be designed to get your clothes clean at lower temperatures and use less water.

Those goods rated ‘A’ or above on energy labels (see label) are the most efficient and will save you money compared to a lower rated equivalent.

This table lists common appliances and a typical power rating or a range (the actual power rating can vary a lot depending on size and model).

Appliance Rating
 Immersion heater  3000W
 Electric fire  2000-3000W
 Oil-filled radiator  1500-2500W
 Electric shower  7000-10,500W
 Dishwasher  1050-1500W
 Washing machine  1200-3000W
 Tumble dryer  2000-4000W
 Iron  1000-1800W
 Vacuum cleaner  500-1200W
 Towel rail  250W
 Deep fryer  1200W
 Toaster  800-1500W
 Kettle  2200-3000W
 Microwave  600-1500W
 Oven  2000-2200W
 Grill/hob  1000-2000W
 Dehumidifier  300-700W
 Extractor fan  1-36W
Appliance Rating
 Fridge  40-120W
 Fridge-freezer  200-400W
 Freeze  150W
 Electric mower  500-1500W
 Electric drill  900-1000W
 Hairdryer  1000W
 Heating blanket  130-200W
 Plasma TV  280-450
 LCD TV  125-200W
 Video, DVD or CD  20-60W
 TV box  30-40W
 Games console  45-190W
 Laptop  20-50W
 Desktop computer  80-150W
 Tablet (charge)  10W
 Broadband router  7-10W
 Smart phone (charge)  2.5-5W
   

Energy monitors

Many homes now have energy monitors that show how much electricity is being used at the present time, as well as how much was used last week, last month etc. They are wireless devices that can tell you useful things like what your current energy use is costing you. Basic models can be bought for around £30 although you may find that your local library can lend you one to try out.

Lighting

Although a single light doesn’t use much electricity (60-100W for a typical old-fashioned bulb), our homes can have dozens of them, so it adds up to quite a lot – around a fifth of an average home’s electricity bill. As we move to low-energy light bulbs the amount we spend on lighting will go down, but it is still worth checking that you’re not leaving lights on unnecessarily.

Read more about domestic lighting here.

photo: www.iStock.com / Ruta Saulyte-Laurinaviciene

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For more domestic energy advice, view all our advice pages.

Energy monitors

Energy monitors measure and display electricity usage in real time.

Read this leaflet to find out how they can help to cut your bills.