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What is a kwh

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learn about a kwh

Many Americans tirelessly pour over their electricity bills each month to figure out a way to decrease their energy usage and lower this forever fluctuating expense. While it may seem nearly impossible to get this cost down on a consistent basis, a greater understanding of how household energy is measured and thus what you can do to minimize that amount will get you one step closer towards your goal. Energy providers read the electric meters on the outside of your home each month to determine the amount of energy consumed in that time period. This value is expressed in kilowatt-hours, which is then multiplied by the rate your energy company is charging you to determine the total cost of your bill.

We know that lowering our energy usage is the key to saving money, but how do we measure kilowatt-hours, and how can we impact this number for our benefit? Payless Power, a retail electric company providing cheap pre-paid electricity in Texas with low power company rates, can help you better understand electricity terminology in order to decrease your energy expenses.


Let’s begin with grasping the concept of a watt, which is a singular unit of electric power that measures the rate of electricity used for one instant. A kilowatt is simply 1,000 watts of power. Electric companies use wattage to determine how much energy is needed to power a device for a relative period of time, like an hour. They often charge the customer a rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is determined by how much energy is used in one hour. This can be thought of as maintaining the use of a 1000-watt device (like a microwave) for the entirety of an hour. To better understand kilowatt-hours, let’s try our hand at measuring how much kWh common household devices use.

Learn How to Measure a kWh and Get Large Savings on Your Home Energy Bill

The basic calculation of measuring a kilowatt-hour and the monthly cost it derives is as follows:

  • (Wattage x monthly hours used) / 1000 x (rate charged per kWh) = the monthly cost of electricity used

While that formula may seem hard to digest at first glance, it is very simple to measure kWh once you break it down. Check out the examples below to see how easy it is for you to determine how many kilowatt-hours some of your devices use and what they cost you on a monthly basis.

100-Watt Light Bulb

Consider a 100-watt light bulb. They are normally used for 4 hours a day, or 120 hours/month. To find the kWh used and the cost associated, use the following calculations:

  • 100 watts x 120 hours = 12,000 watt-hours used per month
  • To convert to kilowatt-hours, simply divide wH/1000, or: 12,000 wH/1000 = 12 kWh
  • The average American is charged a rate of 12 cents/kWh for energy consumption, so we can multiply the rate by the kWh, or 12 cents/kWh x 12kWh = 144 cents/kWh or $1.44/kWh

With one light bulb contributing only a little over one dollar a month on average, you don’t really have to worry about it burning a hole in your pocket. Where you start seeing a larger impact is leaving several light bulbs on for many hours a day — that’s a bad habit that should try to be broken. To increase savings, try switching to LED light bulbs which use 75% less energy and last 35-50 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Window Air Conditioner Units: An Expensive kWh

A more inconsistent and impactful appliance, the window air conditioner sparks debates in many homes about how and when it should run. Opinions often differ on when to turn it on or off, how early in the warmer months to bring it out, and how high or low the temperature should be. On average, a 1,400-watt window unit is used for 8 hours a day, or 240 hours/month. Let’s find the kilowatt-hours used and the cost associated using the same methods we applied for the light bulb:

  • 1,400 watts x 240 hours = 336,000 watt-hours
  • To convert to kilowatt-hours, you can divide wH/1000, or: 336,000 wH/1000 = 336 kWh
  • Using the average charged rate of 12 cents/kWh, you can multiply the rate by the kWh, or 12 cents/kWh x 336 kWh = 4,032 cents/kWh or $40.32/kWh

As you can see, window air conditioners can be extremely costly, and steps should be taken to improve their efficiency. Make sure that there is a tight seal between the unit and window frame to ensure that the air is not able to escape. At the end of the day, these window units can be very inefficient, use an excessive amount of kWh and ideally you should aim towards investing in central air conditioning instead to reduce the amount of electricity used.


By arming yourself with the knowledge of how to measure your monthly energy consumption, you have much more control over what your electricity bill looks like at the end of the month. With the awareness of how many kWh your devices use, you can make the necessary adjustments to reduce the amount of energy it takes to maintain your household. You should also take the time, especially if you live within a deregulated electricity market, to compare the rates of local electricity providers and switch to the one that saves you the most money. You now have the power to make sense of what’s watt and kilowatt!

What is kWh in electricity meter?

To understand what kWh in electric meters means, you will first need to know how to read your electricity meter and to understand that you’ll also need to have some information on the types of electric meters and probably how they work. So here we go;

Types of electric meters and how they work

Your electricity meter will most probably be one of these three i.e. smart meter, dial (analog), or digital meter. As you already know, electricity meters usually measure electricity usage in kWh. If you are using the old dial or analog meter, there are normally five different dials. When reading the meter, the number that you should focus more on, is the one in the middle. If the number displayed by the middle dial is exactly in the middle of the two side dials, read the number that previous number. However, if the number is directly over another number, read that number only if the dial on the right is NOT zero.

You are probably questioning what these numbers mean. Well, these numbers stand for the amount of electricity consumed. The more you use electricity, the more the turn the dial makes – thus increasing the figure. It works exactly as the odometer in your car. The more you drive, the more the kilometers displayed on the dashboard.

Smart and digital meters are rather straightforward and a lot easier to use. If yours is one of these types, then all you have to do is to read the 5 digits being displayed.

Determining your meter kilowatt-hour

Once you are able to understand your meter readings, you can then compute the amount of electricity used since the last reading. To achieve this, you’ll first need to have your previous reading which you will then deduct from the current read. The number you get is the total number of energy in kWh you’ve consumed since the last reading.

Monthly energy usage (kWh) = Current meter read (kWh) – Previous reading (kWh)

Note that, the electricity meter can never be reset to zero. Therefore, the figures displayed are the total amount of energy used ever since the meter was installed. This figure will continue to increase as long as you continue to use electricity. This means that you cannot know your current energy usage if you don’t know your previous reading.

Note that, there are some electricity companies that will charge you an estimated amount based on your previous read, and therefore, if you are moving into a new house and the previous tenant used to consume a lot of electricity, then you might be charged a higher figure than what you deserve.

How long is a kilowatt-hour?

As earlier stated, the secret to reducing your monthly electricity bill is to first understand your energy usage and how much each electrical device in your home contributes to your overall monthly electrical bill. By doing this, you will be able to establish which device or gadget consumes more electricity, and, what you can do to minimize the consumption.

Now that you understand what kWh means and how to calculate it, let’s now see how long is a kilowatt-hour.

Just to remind you about kWh, we defined it as the amount of energy used in kilowatts per hour. Note here that kWh is a rate of measure and is different from 1kWh. To clearly demonstrate this, let’s look at the example of the 100watts or 0.1 kilowatts bulb operating for 10 hours .s. This means the bulb would have consumed 1000watts or 1 Kilowatt at the end of 10hour, which means that its energy consumption rate would be 0.1 kilowatts per hour. On the other hand, a device that consumer 1kilowatt per hour i.e. 1Kwh under the same duration i.e. 10 hours, would have consumed 10Kilowatts – note the difference.

Here are examples of some of the common household devices energy usage

  • 50 inch LED T.V: 0.016kWh per hour
  • Electric dishwasher- 2kWh per load
  • Most electrical ovens – 2.3 kWh
  • Water heater – ranges from 300 t 500 kWh per month
  • Refrigerator54Kwh per month
  • Washing machine – around 2.3 kWh per load
  • Clothes dryer 2.5 to 4kWh


If you are concerned with your high electricity bill and you seriously want to clump it down, then the first step towards achieving that is to understand your energy usage and how much each of your devices contributes to your overall monthly energy usage. It will also be wise that you start paying attention to your appliances especially those that are mostly on stand-by e.g. computers. T.Vs and stereos. These devices use electricity the whole day even when they are not in operation.

Always remember that each electrical device and appliance in your house contributes to your bill and by finding out each device’s energy consumption rate, you can establish which appliance is costing you more. This awareness will not only help reduce your monthly expenses but will also assist in minimizing your carbon footprint

The information above on kilowatt-hour, what is it, and how to calculate it, will also come in handy when purchasing electrical devices and in choosing Electricity plans. Lastly, take time to scrutinize your electricity bill as that will enable you to be aware of your usage and whether or not you are paying the correct amount.

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