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Kilowatt-Hours (kWh) Explained: Understanding Your Energy Usage

PublishedApril 5, 2024
UpdatedMay 20, 2024
AuthorCory O'Brien HeadshotCory O'BrienSenior Director - Growth MarketingEditorRyan Barnett HeadshotRyan BarnettSVP, Policy & New Market Development
In this article
01.
What is kWh a measure of?
02.
What is 1 kWh of electricity equal to?
03.
Monthly Electric Bills and kWhs
04.
Learn More About How Solar Can Transform Your Electric Bill 

If you are reading your electric bills or looking into solar, kWh is an abbreviation that will appear over and over again. Shorthand for “kilowatt-hours,” this guide will walk through everything you need to know about kWh, including what it means on your electric bill. 

What is kWh a measure of?

Kilowatt-hours are a measurement of electric power, commonly used to quantify home electricity consumption, solar energy production, or EV battery capacity in the United States. 

Breaking down kWh measurements piece-by-piece, a kilowatt is a unit of energy that is equal to 1,000 watts and an hour is… well, an hour, or sixty minutes. Therefore, a kilowatt-hour is a measure of 1,000 watts over a one-hour time period

What is 1 kWh of electricity equal to?

To understand what 1 kWh of electricity is equal to, two key components of the equation must be considered: 

  1. The electric device’s wattage
  2. The run-time.

For instance, let’s say that you need to run a 500-watt device. If you power this device for 1 hour, then 500 watt-hours (or 0.5 kWh) will be consumed. Then after another hour, 1 kWh (1,000 watt-hours) in total will be used. Likewise, a 2 kW (or 2,000-watt) device would consume 1 kWh of electricity in just 30 minutes. 

To illustrate a few real-life examples, here is a look at the wattages of typical home devices and the approximate rate at which each appliance or electronic would consume 1 kWh of electricity while in use.  

Home Device Average Wattage 1 kWh Approximate Run Time
Air Conditioner (Central) 4000 15 minutes
Air Conditioner (Window Unit) 970 62 minutes
Clothes Dryer 3400 18 minutes
Desktop Computer 155 6.5 hours
Dishwasher 1350 44 minutes
Electric Oven or Stove 3000 20 minutes
Game Console 150 7 hours
Hair Dryer 1300 46 minutes
Laptop Computer 35 29 hours
LED Light Bulb 12 83 hours
Microwave 900 67 minutes
Refrigerator 150 6.5 hours
Router or Modem 10 100 hours
Smartphone Charger 7 143 hours
Television 150 6.5 hours
Vacuum Cleaner 1100 55 minutes
Washing Machine 425 2.25 hours

Note: The table above is designed to show typical kWh consumption for home appliances and electronics. Actual kWh will vary by appliance make, model, efficiency, and age. 

Monthly Electric Bills and kWhs

In the United States, the average home consumes approximately 900 kWh of electricity each month to power appliances, lights, and other electronics. However, electricity bill consumption varies for every homeowner and is primarily impacted by the size of the home, efficiency of appliances, time of year, and ongoing energy habits.  

How many kWh per day is normal?

Knowing that the average American home consumes around 10,800 kWh annually, roughly 29.5 kWh could be considered normal on any given day of the year. Nationally, kWh consumption is typically highest during the summer and winter months, which can largely be attributed to the power required to run electric heating and cooling systems. 

Daily kWh consumption also varies heavily throughout different states and regions, mainly driven by climate considerations. The highest averages for home electricity use in the US can be found all across the hot and humid South, including high daily consumption rates (>35 kWh per day) in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and surrounding states.  

How do you calculate cost per kWh?

To calculate the kWh rate you pay for your electricity, simply divide your total utility bill (minus any flat fees or taxes) by your total power consumption. The kWh your utility charges may also be displayed next to the consumption recorded on your electricity bill. 

In some parts of the country, electricity rates will vary throughout the day, week, and year. Known as TOU rates or demand-based pricing, utilities with these cost models will charge higher rates for kWh consumption during peak billing hours, which usually occur in the late afternoon and early evening. To reduce spending within these billing structures, homeowners can shift heavy electric loads from high-wattage appliances outside of peak demand hours. 

Average Cost Per kWh in the US

According to the most recent State Electricity Profile from the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), the average cost of residential electricity in the US was roughly 12.36 cents per kWh in 2022, with Hawaii (39.72 cents) and Wyoming (8.24 cents) home to the highest and lowest rates nationally. 

More recently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average price of residential electricity had risen to an average of 17.3 cents per kWh in February 2024, roughly 5 cents higher than just two years prior.   

Solar Panel kWh Explained  

Just as the kWh you purchase from the utility are charged to your electricity bill, the kWh your solar panels produce can inversely be credited to your account. Lowering your monthly energy costs, the value at which the solar kWh you export to the grid are redeemed will depend on the terms of your utility’s net metering or net billing structure.

Calculating solar kWh is a lot like calculating electricity consumption, in that the main factors are the panels’ wattage and time. Although there are many other factors that influence solar production efficiency (such as sunlight intensity and system age) you can calculate approximate solar kWh with the formula: Total System Wattage x Number of Peak Sun Hours.

So in ideal operating conditions, a 6.8 kW (6,800 watt) solar energy system may produce roughly 34 kWh of electricity daily, when installed in an area that receives 5 peak sun hours per day. As the number of peak sunlight hours your property receives is dependent on the season, the same set of solar panels will produce various amounts of electricity throughout the year. Both daily and annual solar kWh estimates can be easily calculated during a home solar assessment.   

Learn More About How Solar Can Transform Your Electric Bill 

If you are interested in learning more about how solar energy can reduce the number of kWh you purchase from the utility each month, please feel free to reach out to a home energy expert at Palmetto. Or, if you’d like to get an estimate even quicker, you can calculate your solar savings today.

Still want to learn more about kWh? Here are a few related articles to explore:

About the AuthorCory O'Brien HeadshotCory O'BrienSenior Director - Growth Marketing

Cory brings over 8 years of solar expertise to Palmetto, and enjoys sharing that knowledge with others looking to improve their carbon footprint. A dog lover residing in Asheville, NC with his wife, Cory graduated from UCSB. If you run into him, ask him about the company he founded to rate and review beer!

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