Understanding how energy companies work out your bills is essential to learning how you can reduce your costs.
Most of us take our energy for granted. We flick the switch and expect the lights to come on, and we turn the heating on and expect the room to warm up. But understanding where our energy comes from and how it is charged can help you get a cheaper deal.
In this guide we explore the difference between kWh and kW and give you an idea of what a kWh actually represents to your household energy consumption.
What is a kWh?
A kWh or kilowatt-hour is the name given to a unit of energy. It is typically used in gas and electricity bills, to determine how much energy a household has consumed over a period of time.
A kWh is the standard unit used by energy suppliers to calculate your gas and electricity bill. One unit refers to the use of 1000 Watts over one hour.
So how much is that in reality? Well, to give you an idea the average low user, so someone in a small home occupied by one or two people who work full time, uses approximately 2,000 kWhs of electricity a year, and 9,000 kWhs of gas a year.
A medium user, so a small family in a three bedroom house for instance who work full time with children in school, would use 3,200 kWhs of electricity a year, and 13,500 kWhs of gas a year.
Finally a high user, so a large family of four or five occupants living in a large 4 bedroom house who spend a fair amount of time at home, would use around 4,900 kWhs of electricity a year and a whopping 19,000 kWhs of gas a year.
Any other energy bill jargon you don’t understand? Our guide to energy terminology
What’s the difference between a kW and a kWh?
Kilowatts (kW) represent a unit of power whereas a kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of energy.
Put simply, kW refers to how much energy a device needs to work and kWh represent how much energy has actually been used.
A power rating, i.e. one kW, is the amount of electrical power needed for an appliance to work at any given moment. Energy is what is needed to keep the power going. So in order to keep an appliance with a power rating of one kW running for one hour, it would require one kWh of energy.
To give you an example, imagine you have a lamp that uses a 100-Watt light bulb. Turning the bulb on for 10 hours will require one kWh (the equivalent of 1,000 watt hours).
A popular analogy to explain the concept of kW vs. kWh, is to think of your electrical device as a car. kW refer to the speed you are driving at (i.e. 50 mph) whereas kWh indicate the distance you have already covered (i.e. 25 miles) and the figure your energy company will use to work out your bill.
So what can one kWh power?
Different brands and types of equipment consume varying levels of energy, but to give you an idea one kWh represents roughly:
- A full dishwasher or washing machine cycle
- Three hours of watching your favourite series on TV
- Two days on your laptop
- Boiling 10 kettles
- Using your computer for four hours
How much does a kWh cost?
Costs per unit depend on a variety of factors including where you live, and in some cases what time you consumed the energy, for example for those on an Economy 7 tariff.
Still confused? Don't worry, just take a look at our guide to energy bills to find out exactly what type of plan you're on.
Using kWh to switch
Knowing your consumption in kWh is not just a fun fact to know; it can save you a huge amount of money. Running an energy comparison on uSwitch is always accurate and can help save you money, but running a comparison using your consumption or usage figures in kWh is the best way to get an accurate quote.
If you enter your consumption details in kWh we will be able to apply your usage figures to other plan and tariff rates. Just be sure to enter your kWh details along with the accurate time-scale; either monthly, quarterly, or yearly.
However, even if you can't find your usage in kWh you can still get an accurate comparison by entering your details in spending. You can even get an accurate comparison by estimating your usage based on the size of your house, how many rooms it has, how many people live there and your energy habits.
Switching energy is easy
Once you've entered your consumption details you can run a comparison and see if there are any cheaper deals available for you in your area.
uSwitch's energyswitching service is free and impartial so you can rest assured that all the results you see are unbiased. We feature all energy suppliers and will search the plans and tariffs available in your area, as well as showing you the results based on price alone, free of any commercial influence.
You can filter the results according to other factors if you want, such as choosing to see fixed plans only, or focussing on green plans. Once you find the right plan you can switch there and then. Just enter some basic information and we'll process your switch for you.
Your new energy supplier will contact your old supplier and request your switch for you. There's nothing else you need to do other than submitting your latest meter reading to your old and new supplier.
That way you can ensure your final bill from your old supplier is accurate, and your first bill from your new supplier isn't estimated.