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.
A kWh or kilowatt-hour is the name given to a unit of energy. It is typically used 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 1,000 watts over one hour.
So how much is that in reality?
See below for a brief rundown of the three common energy user groups as defined by Ofgem in an update due to come into effect in October 2023:
|Typical energy usage (property type and size)||Average annual electricity consumption||Average annual gas consumption|
|Low (flat or 1-bedroom house/1-2 people)||1,800 kWh||7,500 kWh|
|Medium (3-bedroom house/2-3 people)||2,700 kWh||11,500 kWh|
|High (5-bedroom house/4-5 people)||4,100 kWh||17,000 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 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.
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 refers to the speed you are driving at (i.e. 50 mph) whereas kWh indicates the distance you have already covered (i.e. 25 miles) and the figure your energy company will use to work out your bill.
There is no standard price for electricity cost per kWh in the UK, which means your cost could vary from your neighbour's.
The average costs of gas and electricity per kWh have risen a significant amount since the autumn of 2021 thanks to the price of wholesale energy rocketing. It costs suppliers much more to buy the energy than it used to, and these extra costs are passed on to customers.
Under the price cap that came into effect in July 2023, the average energy prices per kWh are as follows:
|Unit rates||27.35p per kWh||6.89p per kWh|
|Standing charges||53.37p per day||29.62p per day|
Your actual kWh costs will depend on a variety of factors including where you live, what kind of energy plan you are on, what payment method you use and, in some cases, what time you consumed the energy. Find your exact price per kWh using the sample bills in our guide to how to read your energy bill.
In a functioning energy market, switching energy with Uswitch would be easy, but this isn't the case at the moment. When switching returns, it will take minutes to see what your options are and switch if there's a good deal on offer.
Knowing your consumption in kWh can save you a huge amount of money. Running a comparison using your consumption or usage figures in kWh is the best way to get an accurate quote.
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