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Blog May 30, 2019

What is a Kilowatt-Hour

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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.

What’s a Kilowatt-Hour and How Does it Impact Your Energy Bill?

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 be improve their efficiency. Make sure that there is a tight seal between the unit and window frame to ensure that 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.

Use Your Knowledge of Kilowatt-Hours to Help Your Home Get Smart Savings On the Monthly Energy Bill

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!

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