| October 17, 2023

What the Watt? A Beginner’s Guide to Kilowatts and Kilowatt-Hours

An electricity meter

Electricity can be confusing, especially when it comes to understanding how it’s measured. Words like kilowatts and kilowatt-hours regularly pop up on our bills, and they might seem a bit puzzling at first. So if you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head over these terms, keep reading!

When we talk about electricity consumption, we’re talking about how much electricity your home uses over a certain period of time – like an hour, a day, a month, or a year. This usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) using an electricity meter. But let’s break down what that means.

First off, we need to talk about kilowatts, or “kW” for short. A kilowatt is kind of like the speedometer in your car—it describes the rate at which an appliance uses electricity. Appliances with a higher wattage consume electricity at a higher rate. A kilowatt is equivalent to 1,000 watts.

But what about a kilowatt-hour (kWh)?
This of it this way: if a kilowatt is like the speedometer in your car, a kilowatt-hour is more like the odometer. It represents the amount of energy you would use if you kept a 1-kilowatt appliance running for an hour. So you can think of it like the distance covered after driving at a certain speed (kW) for a certain time (h).

Working out the kWh used by an appliance can be done with a simple calculation. Multiply the power of your appliance (in kilowatts) by how long it runs each day (in hours).

Now that we understand these terms, how can we apply this knowledge?
The average 1500 sq ft. Nova Scotia home uses about 9,990 kWh per year. Broken down monthly, this comes to about 833 kWh per month. The cost of energy in Nova Scotia is 18.3¢/kWh, so that works out to an average cost of $152.28/month.

Knowing this provides a helpful benchmark to gauge how your home stacks up. Maybe your appliances are using more electricity than you think. So next time your electricity bill shows up, take a closer look – are there ways you can reduce your energy use?