What is electricity and how much do you use it?

Electricity is a modern luxury that few people want to live without. In fact, you use electricity for everything from lighting your home and running your appliances to maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors and more. You may not realize how much energy your home is using until you open up your monthly electricity bill. While the amount owed is a reflection of your energy cost, it may not be the best way to determine how much electricity your home actually uses. When you know how much electricity you use around the house and what the most significant energy drains are, you can take smart steps to reduce consumption and to lower your monthly electricity bill.

How Electricity Is Measured
Your electricity service provider measures your home’s energy consumption in kilowatt-hours. Many people are familiar with wattage, but they do not understand what a kilowatt-hour is. For example, you may be familiar with the concept of a light bulb having a 60-watt or 100-watt rating. This is simply a measure of how much energy the bulb uses to produce light. This measurement does not tell you about energy consumption with respect to time.

The Difference Between a Kilowatt and a Kilowatt Hour
A kilowatt-hour, or kWh, is the equivalent of using 1,000 watts over an hour. If one of your home’s appliances requires 1,000 watts of energy to run, it would use a kilowatt-hour of energy in an hour. In contrast, a 2,000-watt appliance would use the same amount of energy in 30 minutes. A 100-watt light bulb would take 10 hours to use an equivalent amount of energy. In addition to showing you how much money you owe to your energy service provider, your energy bill also shows how many kilowatt-hours of energy your home has consumed in the billing period.

Cost to Heat and Cool Your Home
Maintaining your home’s temperature at a comfortable level requires a considerable amount of energy. If your central heating system is powered by electricity, it uses approximately 10.5 kWh per hour. A central AC system uses 3 kWh per hour. There are considerable variations in this based on the energy efficiency of the units in your home. Window units, portable units and ceiling fans all use considerably less energy.

Energy Consumed in the Kitchen
The smaller appliances in your kitchen may use nominal amounts of electricity. For example, the average toaster uses 0.4 kWh per use. Other appliances, however, make a big difference in your energy bills. An older refrigerator may use 150 kWh per month. A newer ENERGY STAR fridge that is approximately the same size may only use 35 kWh per month. The oven will use 2.3 kWh per hour, and the dishwasher may use up to 2.17 kWh per cycle.

Other Significant Areas of Energy Consumption
There are a few other major energy guzzlers in the average home that you should know about. An electric water heater, for example, may use up to 500 kWh per month. The clothes dryer may use up to 4 kWh for each load. If you wash your clothes with warm water, your machine will consume the equivalent of 2.4 kWh per load. With hot water, this jumps up to 6.3 kWh per load.

How Much Energy Does Your Home Use?
Many factors will impact how much electric energy your home uses. These factors range from how large the home is and where it is located to how many people live in the home, the age of the appliances and more. You can easily monitor your monthly energy consumption by looking at your bill. If you want to see how much energy your home is using at any given time, you can take a look at your electricity meter. This is usually located on the exterior side of the house.

How to Reduce Energy Consumption
There are numerous ways to reduce energy consumption throughout the home. For example, replacing outdated appliances with newer appliances that have an ENERGY STAR rating can make a large dent in your energy bill. Adjusting how you heat and cool your home will also be cost-effective. For example, making a minor adjustment to the thermostat and re-sealing the doors and windows can help. By turning on ceiling fans throughout the home and keeping the interior doors open, you can maximize circulation for added benefit. While small appliances and electronics each use a nominal amount of energy, the cumulative amount is significant. Some of these items, such as gaming consoles, computers and TVs, are responsible for ghost usage. This means that they consume energy in the background regardless of whether they are in use or not. Investing in a power strip and powering down these items when they are not in use can also be effective at reducing energy consumption.

How to Lower Your Electricity Rate
Reducing energy consumption is helpful to the environment, and it can also save you a substantial amount of money over the course of a year. There is another smart way for you to save money on your electricity bill. Electricity is a deregulated industry in many areas. When electricity is regulated, you cannot choose which company provides your energy or shop around for a lower rate. In deregulated areas, you may be able to choose from many providers. These providers often have several different plans with various rates. You will be able to choose where your electric energy is sourced, such as from wind or solar power. You also can take advantage of a higher deposit, automatic payments or even pre-payments in order to qualify for a lower rate.

While newer appliances and electronics are generally becoming more efficient, electricity rates in many areas are increasing. As a result, you may notice that your electricity bill has slowly yet steadily increased over the last few years. Now that you understand which electronics and appliances utilize the most energy, what you can do to reduce consumption and how you can shop for lower rates, you can take steps to lower your monthly electricity bill.

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