Understanding Your Household Energy Consumption

Whether you're preparing your home for a residential solar power system, or you simply want to learn more about how much electricity you use, the first step involves understanding your household energy consumption. Only by understanding your consumption can you ultimately cut down on your energy costs.

Measuring electricity

Amps, watts, volts, lumens - there's a lot of different terminology used to describe and measure electricity. Due to the large number of terms employed, understanding your home's energy consumption begins with knowing what these words mean and how they're impacted by your electricity usage.

For instance, the typical U.S. household consumed an average of 901 kilowatt-hours a month in 2015, or about 10,812 kWh for the year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, the amount varies greatly from one state to the next. Louisiana topped the list of most electricity used with 1,291 kWh per month, while residents of Hawaii only needed 506 kWh a month.

But unless you know what a kilowatt-hour is, these numbers won't make much sense, and it'll be tougher to cut your energy usage accordingly.

As its name states, a kilowatt-hour is the measure of the amount of kilowatts used during one hour of time. A kilowatt is a unit of power used to determine the rate at which energy is generated or used.

Think about a single 100-watt lightbulb in a lamp. If you leave this lightbulb switched on for 10 hours, it will consume 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kWh. Similarly, 10 100-watt bulbs burning for only 1 hour will use the same amount of electricity. However, from a demand perspective, the utility will need to provide 10 times the amount of electricity to supply energy for the second scenario compared to the first one.

Armed with this knowledge, you'll have a much better sense of how much energy your home consumes, as well as how much it costs to run the appliances and devices that use this electricity.

How much energy do typical appliances require?

Not all appliances and devices use the same amount of electricity to operate.

There is no single overarching formula to determine how to calculate the total energy of every individual appliance. This means you'll have to figure out how much each appliance is using.

Many items will have the wattage used stamped on the bottom or the back. However, it should be noted that there are some appliances and electronics that will continue draining energy even when they're not turned on or are in standby mode. These are sometimes referred to as “energy vampires”.

Certain items, though, will stand out as being the most energy hungry. Heating and cooling your home, for instance, typically account for nearly half of all residential energy costs, with heating consuming roughly 30 percent and cooling about 20 percent, noted Mass Save, an energy efficiency company. Regular maintenance and annual checkups for your heating, vacuum and air conditioning system can help keep your HVAC system working at its most efficient.

A water heater is another big energy consumer since you use this to run a dishwasher, shower or bathe, and clean clothing. This can eat up as much as 15 percent of your home's energy, with the washer and dryer consuming another 13 percent on average, the source noted.

With a greater understanding of your electricity usage, you can better control your overall consumption. A more energy-efficient home coupled with a rooftop solar PV system can drastically reduce your utility bills.

Click here for more information on how a residential solar installation can save you even more on your monthly electric bill.