How to Calculate the Cost of Running an Appliance

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It seems that electricity costs are ever on the rise. This is made worse when electricity is wasted. There are many ways to save money on your electric bills. Some are more significant than others.The following will show you how to calculate the cost of running any electric appliance, from a night lamp to your clothes dryer.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric appliance of interest
  • Calculator
  • Recent electric bill
  • Watch
  • Find on the appliance its power usage. This will be a number followed by a "W" which stands for watts, or by "kW" which stands for kilowatts (thousands of watts). If the units are W, divide by 1000 to get the power usage in kW. For a typical lamp with three 60W bulbs this would be 0.180 kW.

  • If the appliance is one that runs for a set time, use your watch to measure how long it takes to run. If it is on as long as you keep it switched on, estimate how many hours per day on average you leave the appliance (e.g. lamp) on. For example, if you are at work for 10 hours a day, and sleep 8 hours a day, your lamp may be on for about 6 hours per day on average.

  • Multiply the average time per day the appliance is on by its power usage in kW. This is the energy used by the appliance, measured in kilowatt hours or kWh. In the above example this would be 1.08 kWh.

  • Find on your electricity bill your cost per kWh. This should be the sum of the distribution charge and the generation charge. Typically this may be close to $0.11/kWh.

  • Multiply the power usage of the appliance by the cost of electricity, obtaining the average cost of running the appliance in dollars per day. For our lamp example this would be about $0.12/day or about $3.56/month.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you add up the cost for all your lights, you will begin to see why your electric bill is as high as it is. If you add such power hogs as the dishwasher, clothes dryer, and heat pump, more of the picture will emerge. By turning off lights when nobody is in the room, you may save more than 10% of your electric bill. Set the thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter and the heat pump will run less, reducing your bill further.
  • Electric companies usually charge higher rates during the winter and summer, when usage goes up. This makes it more important in those seasons to switch appliances off when possible, and to shift use of high power appliances to off-peak hours as much as you can.
  • Some appliances have variable power draws during different stages of their cycles (e.g. dishwashers and clothes washers). For these you will need to either use the peak power to get a conservative estimate, or find the average power draw in the literature that came with the appliance.

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