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Energy per kWh

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Gas and electricity

What is a kilowatt? Let's find out about power by the hour

What does kWh actually mean? Find out with our handy lowdown of this unit of energy.

Are you feeling confused by kilowatts? 

Do you look at your energy bill and cry, ‘What in the name of Einstein’s hair is this?!'

Key points

  • A kWh - or kilowatt hour if we're being formal - is used to measure energy
  • One kWh can boil a kettle 10 times 
  • Leaving your appliances on standby could be costing you money

You’re not alone.

Let’s demystify the mysterious kWh.

A kilo-what?

Put simply, a kWh is a unit used to measure energy. Gas and electricity companies use them to work out how much your bills are.

One kWh equals a thousand watts of energy used in an hour.gas_grid

Every appliance uses a different amount of energy per hour, and the kWh measures how much they actually use.

Let’s see this in action

Keeping in mind all appliances are different (think microwave - the higher the wattage of the machine, the quicker your food cooks), for your one kWh, you can:

Boil a kettle 10 times

This is your HiiT workout. A high energy burst is needed to get the heart rate up, or in this case, the water boiled.

Do the ironing for an hour

The 10k run of kWh use. Taking it nice and steady gets you a wardrobe full of clean shirts and a winner’s medal.

Run a fridge-freezer for three hours

Now we’re moving into half marathon territory for your average runner.

Keeping up a regular pace for most of the time, working a bit harder up the hills, or when the fridge door is open.

Binge watch a box setdigital_tv_grid

Depending on your TV, you can watch your favourite programme for up to seven hours, a more relaxing option than running a 50k road race which would take you about the same time.

How much should I be paying for a kWh?

There’s no easy answer to this question. The price of energy is affected by lots of different things, from where you live, to the weather conditions.

Martin Chitty, director of energy analysis at cost management consultancy PCMG explained:

“In the current electricity market, the most important factors that influence the kWh price are environmental charges and network charges – collectively referred to as 'non-commodity' – which make up over half of the price. These are passed on by the supplier to the relevant companies in the supply chain, who set the prices to the customer based on their own costs and complex regulatory policy.

“In the gas market, the most important factor is the gas commodity price, which is influenced by a range of factors including supply and demand, the oil price, financial markets and geopolitical events.

“The smallest part of the price is the supplier's charges, brokerage charges and profit margin – although for domestic users and small businesses these can be very high.”

Keeping costs down

Did you know?

The capital W in kWh is down to Scottish inventor James Watt. The Watt is named after him and so is capitalised when used in abbreviations like kWh.

It’s important you know about the humble kWh so you can get your head around which of your appliances are escalating your electricity bill, and how you can reduce your energy costs.

Apart from using a comparison service to find a cheaper supplier that is. We know an awesome one of those.

Top tips to help reduce your energy bills

Making your home energy efficient can take many forms, some of which are quick wins. Others can cost more and take longer, but they’ll be worth it in the long run.

Turn the heating down

Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie. Turn your thermostat down a notch, pop on a sweatshirt, and you’re on your way to saving yourself around £80 per year.

Turn off your appliances

Most of us are guilty of going to bed leaving the TV on standby. You could save yourself about £30 a year if you turned your appliances off, instead of leaving that little light flashing.

Use energy-saving lightbulbs

Not only do they last longer than your average bulb, they also use less power.

Top performing are LEDs. Incredibly, they use 90% less energy than a traditional bulb.

Block up holes

Draught-proof your home and you might save up to £50. bulb_8

Look for heat escape routes around your windows, doors and fireplace. Oh, and don’t forget the letterbox and loft hatch.

Get insulated

Insulating your loft and walls can save you big bucks in the long term, for a relatively small investment. It’ll also help keep you toasty warm.

Replace your boiler

If your boiler is limping towards the home for old heating equipment, it may be worth replacing it before you’re sat freezing under an old blanket in the middle of winter.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, heating your home makes up 60% of your energy bill, so it’s well worth making the switch to a more efficient model.

Switch energy suppliers

Energy providers change their tariff offerings regularly, so when your current deal runs out, make sure you get online and compare tariffs.

You can get separate deals for your gas and electricity, or you can opt for a dual fuel plan which covers both energy sources.

You can also choose from several different kinds of tariff depending on what your needs are.

This is where it pays to know your kWh usage per year. You’ll be asked for it when looking to switch, so providers can offer you the best deal for the amount you use each year. See – learning about kWhs was worth it after all.

You can find your annual kWh usage on your current energy bill. 

By Kath Denton