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