Ever wondered how much electricity a home uses? How your home compares, or what the major uses of electricity are? Then this guide will be handy.
In it, we’ll look at how much electricity the average home uses in the UK, how that compares to different countries around the world, and what the major uses of electricity are in the home. We’ll also talk you through how much electricity different appliances use, as well as what affects those figures.
Household electricity use in the UK dropped under 4,000kWh for the first time in decades in 2014. At an average of 3,940kWh per home, this was about 20% higher than the global average for electrified homes of 3,370kWh.
When compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, however, electricity use in the UK isn’t that high. American homes average 12,300kWh each year, in Canada it’s 11,000kWh, and in Australia it’s 7,000kWh. This is generally because UK homes are quite small, heating is primarily done with gas, and air conditioning is not widespread.
Homes in the UK are much more similar to the average European usage of 3,600kWh, more than double that in China averaging 1,500kWh, and three times that in India averaging just 1,100kWh. The lowest recorded average for electrified homes is Nepal at 320kWh, according to World Energy Forum figures.
Although the average UK home uses around 4,000 kWh/year, that doesn’t mean yours should. One of the problems with comparing yourself to an ‘average’ home is that this figure tends to be skewed by a small number of homes using very large amounts of electricity. This is why the regulator Ofgem bases its ‘typical user’ figures on the median rather than the average.
With this in mind, and if you want to know if you’re using a lot of electricity, it’s probably best to compare your own figures to a home of a similar size. Here are the averages by dwelling type in the UK.
As you can see from the data, bigger houses tend to use more electricity. Unlike the previous figures, this data excludes electricity from space heating so it doesn’t distort our view of the data (it is more common in detached properties naturally).
Mid terraces and flats use the least electricity, both clocking in around 2,800kWh/year, end terraces use slightly more, semi-detached homes are next, followed by bungalows and detached houses up at 4,153 kWh. If your home uses electric heating then your stats will be much higher than these figures.
Of course, knowing how you compare won’t help you reduce electricity use that much. For that you’ll need to dig into the data a little more.
Understanding when we use electricity can be really helpful when you are trying to get your head around the issue. A typical home can draw anywhere from 100W with only standby on, up to several thousand watts with many big-drawing devices on.
The following graph shows how the average 24-hour electricity use profile looks for a sample of 250 British homes. It gives a fascinating insight into when we use energy. You can see that the peak load occurs between 6-7pm when cooking, lighting and audiovisual demands are all ramped up.
Something quite obvious from the graph above is that the average draw remains up around 250W even in the dead of night. With the exception of cold appliances, which need to stay on, there is often potential to cut down on standby use from things like set top boxes.
To take this analysis a little bit further let's look at electricity use over the year.
Before we dig into how much electricity individual appliances use, it can be really useful to understand how demand is split up between different end uses. These are the figures estimated for 2014 to give you an idea.
Cold appliances (basically refrigeration) top the list of uses, followed by lighting, consumer electronics, cooking and wet appliances (washing mostly). Now that we’ve got a little perspective, let’s look at some individual appliances.
Obviously how much electricity a TV uses will depend considerably on how much you use it. But we also know from the data that your choice of technology will make a massive difference too.
In the Powering the Nation survey of household electricity usage, Plasma TVs were found to use 658 kWH/year, LCD flat screens 199 kWh/year, and traditional CRT screens just 118 kWH/year.
But TVs are one of the fastest changing technologies around. These days most new TVs are much more efficient and use LED technology. Based on a daily usage of four hours a day, a 32-inch LED TV will use just 50 kWh/year, a 42-inch LED TV will use 80 kWh/year, and a 70-inch screen will use 150 kWh/year.
Fridge electricity use varies greatly depending on size and efficiency. Averages from survey data are 162 kWh/year for a fridge, 327 kWh/year for an upright freezer, 362 kWh/year for a chest freezer and 427 kWh/year for a fridge freezer.
The extreme variation in electricity use among refrigeration systems shows why you need to consider both how efficient (its rating) and how big it is when you choose a new one. The smaller and more efficient, the less energy it will use.
New fridges are considerably more efficient these days. A new A+ bar fridge will use as little as 100 kWh/year, a tall A+ fridge freezer is likely to use around 200 kWh/year, while a very large American style A+ fridge freezer can easily use over 400 kWh/year – even though it meets a high efficiency standard due to its large size and features.
Computer electricity use also varies greatly depending on its size, and whether it is portable. All laptops, tablets and phones are designed to be quite efficient due to being battery dependent.
Desktop computers use roughly 150 kWh/year, and laptops 30 kWh/year, while tablets use just 12 kWh/year and phones as little as 2 kWh/year. Electricity use from printers can be up to 160 kWh/year, modems are around 60 kWh/year, and printers and scanners use around 20 kWh/year.
It really depends on the light bulb. The average light bulb in a home gets around two hours of use per day. For an old-style 60W incandescent this would be 44 kWh/year. A halogen bulb can produce the same 700 lumens two hours per day for 31 kWh/year, but for a CFL that drops to just 9 kWh/year and for an LED just 6 kWh/year.
Obviously as usage varies so will energy demands, but with lighting the main issue is how efficient the technology is. LEDs produce light more than five times more efficiently than traditional incandescents, which waste loads of energy as heat.
The average electricity used for washing clothes in the UK is 166 kWh/year. Washing machines generally uses 0.3-1.0 kWh per cycle, depending on their size, efficiency and the choice of program and temperature.
The average cycle clocks at 0.6 kWh, and homes do around 270 cycles per year. Bringing the total up to 166 kWh/year. As machines become more efficient and households get smaller both of these are trending down gradually.
Annual electricity use for drying is 394 kWh, but this can vary hugely depending on how much you use it. Tumble dryers are expected to be used around 150 times a year and have greatly varied demands based on their efficiency and size.
An A++ rated 8kg heat pump tumble dryer will use 230 kWh/year based on the official rating standard at less than 2kWh per load, whereas a C rated 8kg tumble dryer will use 585kWh/year at almost 5 kWh per load. This would represent a saving of £50 a year in running costs on average, meaning that for homes that do a lot of drying, paying more for an efficient dryer makes sense. Of course, using the line is much cheaper again.
Cookers use 317 kWh/year, microwaves 56 kWh, dishwashers 294 kWh, kettles 167 kWh, hobs 226 kWh and ovens 317 kWh. A fan uses 46 kWh, hair dryers 20 kWh and dehumidifiers a whopping 525 kWh.
Of course, all of these figures are just averages based on survey data. If you are trying to cut down your own bills, then you want to focus on the big users – and make sure you aren’t paying too much for electricity in the first place.
*Source and notes for graphs and table
Source: EnerdataAverage annual electricity by dwelling type (kWh/year)
Source: Powering the Nation: Household electricity-using habits revelaedAverage 24-hour electricity use profile for a typical UK home
Source: Further analysis of the Household Electricity Use Survey. Electrical appliances at home: turning into energy saving.Average electricity end use in UK homes (kWh/year)
Source: Powering the nation: Household electricity-using habits revelaed.
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