What Uses the Most Electricity in a House? (And HOW to LOWER YOUR BILLS)

What Uses the Most Electricity in a House? (And HOW to LOWER YOUR BILLS)

After rent and food, household utility bills are your biggest expense. They’re also one of your most variable costs, with plenty of potential to save a good chunk of money through a few behaviour tweaks. 

But, to reduce your bills, you first need to understand which home appliances cost the most to run. Then you can get smart about your energy use and learn how to lower your costs. 

This article will help you understand what household devices use the most electricity. Then we’ll show you ten ways to reduce your utility bills.

How are my energy bills calculated?

Let’s start with the basics. The amount of energy you use (and therefore how big your electricity and gas bills are) depends on two things:

  1. How much power each device in your home uses
  2. How long you use each device for

This can be expressed as a simple equation:

Total energy used (kWh) = power of device(s) x duration of use

This equation is used by your energy supplier to calculate your bills. They charge you for the energy you use using a unit called kilowatt-hours (kWh). The more powerful your devices and the longer you use them for, the more you’ll pay. It’s that simple.

It’s worth noting that gas is charged at a cheaper rate than electricity. So gas-powered devices are much cheaper to run than their electric equivalents (i.e. a gas hob will cost a third of the price to run than its electric equivalent). Current UK gas and electric prices are:

Gas = 10.3p per kWh

Electricity = 34p per kWh

You can use these figures and the equation above to calculate what it costs you to use any of your devices. Here’s an example of a 1800W hairdryer that you use for 10 minutes:

1800W = 1.8kW

10 minutes = 0.167 hours

So, the calculation to determine energy used is 1.8 x 0.167 = 0.3kWh

And the calculation for what this costs you is 34p x 0.3 = 10p.

What Uses the Most Electricity in a House?

The devices in your home can be split into two categories:

  1. Low-powered items that you use for long periods (e.g. wifi routers, lightbulbs, etc.)
  2. High-powered appliances you use for short durations (e.g. ovens, kettles, washing machines, electric showers)

Using low-powered items, even for a long time, has minimal impact on your bills because they don’t use much energy. Most of your energy bills come from the energy used by high-powered devices in your home. 

This infographic shows what it costs to run common household appliances. As you can see, it varies wildly.

The most expensive appliances to run per hour are:

  • Electric shower: £2.89
  • Tumble dryers: £1.27
  • Gas central heating: 1.13
  • Portable electric heater: 68p

As you only use the shower for a few minutes each day but may have your heating on for several hours, it can be more helpful to think about the daily running costs of your home appliances rather than their hourly rate.

The most expensive appliances to run per day, based on typical daily usage, are:

  • Gas central heating: £5.65 (based on 5 hours of use)
  • Portable electric heater: £1.36 (based on 2 hours of use)
  • Tumble dryer: 85p (based on one 40-minute cycle)
  • Electric oven: 62p ( based on one hour’s use)

If you’re wondering how much leaving items on standby adds to your bills, here are the costs of the most common items:

  • TV: £16 per year (4.4p per day)
  • Sky/Virgin/BT box: £15 per year (4.1p per day)
  • Games console: £14 per year (3.8p per day)
  • Wifi router: £12 per year (3.3p per day)

Between them, these four devices add £57 to your annual bill when they’re not in use. Anything else you regularly leave on standby will also add to your outlay. 

So, while any individual item may only cost a few pennies a day to leave on standby, cumulatively, all the devices in your house may be costing you over £100 a year. That’s the price of convenience.

What does it cost to run my household appliances?

Here are the running costs of some other everyday items:

How much does it cost to leave a light on overnight?

  • A 60W bulb costs 2p an hour to run, so leaving it on for 8 hours overnight will cost 16p a night (£58 a year)

How much does it cost to boil a kettle?

  • Boiling a kettle for one cup (350ml) costs 3.7p
  • Boiling a full 2-litre kettle costs 21p

How much does it cost to run a laptop?

  • A laptop costs 2p an hour to run, or 12p for 6 hours

How much does it cost to charge my phone?

  • Don’t worry; charging your phone costs less than a penny.

What’s cheaper, a bath or a shower?

  • A bath costs 54p, and a 10-minute shower costs 48p, so a shower is slightly cheaper.

How can I lower my energy bills?

There are two main ways to reduce your bills. One is to buy and use the most efficient devices you can. The other is to reduce how often (or for how long) you use your current devices.

Modern appliances are more efficient than their predecessors, which makes them cheaper to run. But, as a renter, you don’t have control over the big-ticket solutions that would have the most impact, such as buying an ultra-efficient boiler or investing in solar panels or insulation. You’ll have to settle for whatever setup is already in your accommodation.

However, if one of your appliances breaks and needs replacing, you can pressure your landlord to choose an energy-efficient model. Beyond that, there is little you can do to influence how efficient the main appliances in your home are.

Instead, you should try to use your devices as efficiently as possible. This may require you to change how you use some items. 

And what you need to change isn’t turning lights off or how long you use your laptop or watch TV for—they’re all fairly low-powered. To noticably reduce your energy bills, you need to focus on how you use the high-powered items around your home.

How to reduce your bills

Here are ten of the best things you can do as a renter to lower your energy bills.

1. Have shorter showers

A ten-minute shower will cost you 48p. A four-minute one costs only 19p. If you shower every day, making that switch will save you £20 a term. If everyone in a 5-person flat did the same, you’d save £100 on your termly bill. 

The best way to develop a four-minute shower routine? Pick a shower song. Most songs are about four minutes. So take your phone and a BlueTooth speaker into the bathroom with you, start your shower song, and make it your goal to be done before the song ends.

2. If an appliance has an eco setting, use it

You can reduce the cost of running kitchen appliances by using their eco mode. On a dishwasher, this will use less heat and water, but the cycle will take longer to complete. 

The eco mode on a washing machine usually means selecting a half load or short wash cycle and a lower temperature (say 30°C). Of course, this is no good if you have a load of heavily soiled clothes, but it works for a regular wash of underwear and t-shirts.

3. Don’t leave things on standby

Leaving your TV on overnight won’t break the bank, so don’t worry about this if you would only be turning off a single device. But small recurring costs add up, so if you are happy to commit to unplugging all your devices, you’ll notice a saving on your bills. 

And if you have a TV, games console, router, TV box, and stereo all being fed from an extension lead plugged into one wall socket, this is a no-brainer, as it only requires one flick of a switch. 

(Pro tip: plug your router into a separate wall socket so nobody has their internet access unexpectedly cut off at night.)

4. Turn off everything you can when nobody is in the property outside of term

If your accommodation will be empty outside of term time, the last person to leave should turn off any non-essential items at the wall before they go. This will save you money and reduce the risk of an electrical fire while your place is unoccupied.

5. Use efficient cooking methods

As our infographic shows, an electric oven costs 68p an hour to run while a gas hob costs 16p. Let’s say you cook a bolognese for two hours in a pot in the oven. It’s going to cost you £1.24. But cooking that same bolognese on a gas hob for two hours will only cost you 32p. This is because:

(a) gas is cheaper than electricity, and

(b) when you cook something in the oven, you have to heat all the space inside it up. But when you cook on the hob, you only have to heat the area inside the pan, which is much smaller and requires far less energy.

You can take advantage of this by cooking on the hob rather than in the oven whenever possible. (Turning the hob down once you’ve brought your food to the boil will also save on gas.)

A second way to cook efficiently is to make a big batch of food, then divide it into meal-sized portions and freeze it for another day.

Let’s revisit that bolognese we just cooked. Cooking one portion on the hob costs you 32p. But if you cooked four times the amount instead, it still costs you 32p, but now you have four meals, each of which only costs you 8p to cook.

Freezing the additional portions costs you nothing because your freezer is already running. And re-heating one will cost about 2p because microwaves are super-cheap to run.

Not only does batch cooking save you money; it also saves you time. Having pre-cooked, pre-portioned food in the freezer allows you to enjoy tasty homecooked food without needing to do meal prep every night. It’s like having the convenience of takeaway food without the extra expense.

6. Don’t use excessive heating

Heat your house so it’s comfortable, but not so warm you’re sitting around in shorts and a t-shirt in winter. Wear an extra layer when it gets cold rather than cranking up the heating dial as soon as summer is over.

Central heating is usually controlled in one of two ways:

  1. a timer (which you can set)
  2. a thermostat (which automatically turns the heating on when your house falls below a certain temperature)

If your heating is timer-controlled, don’t have it on constantly. Instead, set it to be on for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple more in the evening. Keeping the central heating off overnight will also help you sleep better.

If your heating is on a thermostat, keep it at the lowest comfortable setting. Standard room temperature is 22°C, but setting your thermostat to 21°C or even 20°C can significantly reduce your bills. Again, if you’re at home in shorts and a t-shirt when it’s cold outside, you’re overheating your house and burning money.

Everyone has a different idea of what a comfortable temperature is. If you like it warmer than everyone else you live with, don’t make them crank the heating up. Instead, get a small portable heater for your room and use it to take the edge off the cold. It will be cheaper to heat up your room than the whole flat, and it allows everyone to enjoy the ambient temperature that’s right for them.

7. Don’t overfill the kettle

Just boil the amount of water you need. Our calculations above show that boiling a full kettle when you only want a hot drink costs you an extra 17p. Do that four times a day, and you’re throwing away about 70p. 

Add that up over a term, and you’re lighting £50 on fire. Small recurring costs add up fast, so don’t think about how much things like this cost in a single instance; think about what they cost in the long run.

8. Don’t use a tumble dryer

After your shower, they’re the most expensive appliance to run. Dry your clothes naturally on an airer or your radiators instead.

9. Keep your fridge, freezer, and oven doors closed

You may have noticed that all the highest-cost appliances either heat things up or cool them down. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to heat your oven or cool down your fridge and freezer. 

But once these appliances are at their intended operating temperature, they require far less energy to keep them there. So, you want to avoid unnecessarily opening their doors and exposing them to ambient room temperature. 

Get all your meal ingredients out of your fridge together at the start of meal prep, so you only have to open the fridge door once. (Well, twice, because you’ll have to put them back at some point too.)

When cooking something in the oven, don’t open the door every few minutes to see how it’s doing. Set a timer on your phone for when your food will be ready and check it then (and only then).

10. Use big appliances during off-peak hours (assuming you’re on the right tariff)

Because energy is in high demand during business hours, many energy providers charge higher rates during weekdays and lower rates on evenings and weekends. And the difference is big; the off-peak rate is usually about half the price of the peak rate.

If you’re on a variable rate tariff, you can take advantage of this by only using high-powered items like your shower or washing machine in the evening. Before doing this, you’ll need to check your billing details to confirm which tariff you’re on and what hours your supplier defines as being off-peak. (You can look this up on their website.)

If you’re on a flat tariff, you’re charged the same rate regardless of the time of day, so you can’t take advantage of this trick. But if you are able to choose your energy supplier as a renter, it may be worth switching to a variable rate tariff to take advantage of lower costs.

Make sure you use a comparison site such as Money SupermarketUswitch, or Ofgem to check whether you’re getting the best deal before switching.

What will have little impact

For some reason, people love to focus on turning lights off when they think about saving energy. But lightbulbs are so low-powered that obsessively turning them off whenever you leave a room will barely make a dent in your bills. 

Sure, if you leave on every light in your house 24/7, you’re (literally) lighting money on fire. But if it’s convenient to leave a hall light on in the evening so people don’t have to scramble around in the dark, don’t get hung up about it—it won’t cost you much.

Still, turning lights off when rooms aren’t in use is good practice from a sustainability point of view. And it will make your bulbs last longer, so it’s a good habit to have—it’s just not going to noticeably reduce your bills like the other suggestions we’ve made will.

Instead, focus on these two key things:

  1. How you use high-powered appliances
  2. Not being wasteful with small recurring costs.

By making a few small changes in these areas, you can lower your energy bills by a few hundred pounds without making any drastic lifestyle changes. All it takes is a little mindfulness and discipline.