Kilowatts: What You Need to Know About This Unit of Energy

Kilowatts: What You Need to Know About This Unit of Energy

by | Educational, Energy

If you ever took a science class or reviewed your electric bill, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with kilowatts or kilowatt-hours. Maybe you know a bit about them or perhaps you’ve never really paid much attention to what they actually are. Either way, there’s a lot to know when it comes to this unit of measurement. In fact, it accompanies us in our daily lives whether we’re aware of it or not. Read on to discover everything you need to know about kilowatts and their place in our modern world.  

What Is A Kilowatt? 

A kilowatt is a unit of energy that carries a lot of significance in everyday life — it’s the base unit used in the routine measurement for electrical energy. All the appliances and gadgets in your home consume electricity measured in kilowatts.   

Kilowatts are based on watts (W), the unit of measurement named after Scottish scientist James Watt. The reason that kilowatts are used instead of watts is due to the volume of electricity that nearly all appliances use.   

Watts are small, so kilowatts are used as a more fitting unit of measurement, much like kilogram is used instead of gram to measure larger things. A kilowatt is one-thousand times greater than a watt. 

What Does kWp and kWh Mean? 

Two acronyms that look similar but mean very different things are kWp and kWh. The first, kWp, means kilowatt peak. It’s a rating given to electricity systems, mainly involving solar or sometimes wind, hydro, or even nonrenewable sources. Kilowatt peak is essentially the rate at which any system of energy reaches utmost performance, such as noon on a sunny day for solar panels or at a certain time of day when there’s maximum wind.   

The other, kWh, stands for kilowatt hours. This refers to the total amount of electricity any system generates or consumes. While it sounds like a unit of time measurement, it is actually a unit of absolute energy usage.  

What Are Kilowatt Hours? 

Kilowatt hours (kWh) are the units in which electrical power usage is primarily measured — they are what you see on your electricity bill. The reason that this unit is used to measure your usage rather than kilowatts on their own is because kWh is a measurement of absolute power consumed over time. One kilowatt of power over the course of one hour is a kilowatt-hour of energy.   

As an example, a 100-watt light bulb would need 10 hours to consume 1kWh, whereas an oven would consume that same 1kWh amount in about 30 minutes. This shows how it is beneficial to use kWh to measure all the electrical consumption within a home or any other specified area, because it standardizes usage.  

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How Are Kilowatt Hours Calculated? 

Kilowatt hours are calculated in a very simple way: measuring the amount of energy you would use if you kept a 1 kW appliance running for one hour. In this sense, it’s more a unit of measurement used as a benchmark. The kilowatt hour is the time period of the single-kilowatt appliance running for one hour.   

Think of kWh in the same way you would lightyears — a unit of measurement that uses two interlinked set parameters to measure equivalencies for other objects in question.  

What Is the Average Cost of a Kilowatt Hour? 

The average energy cost of a kilowatt hour varies across the United States, as electricity prices differ depending on several factors. Some of these factors depend on the source of electricity generation and whether the grid is part of a deregulated market, in which case prices tend to be lower because several power providers compete to offer their services.   

In general, the average cost of electricity in the United States is around 13.9 cents per kWh as of February 2021. This means that with typical American usage at about 877 kWh per month, electric bills are around $100 per month as a national average. 

How Much Is a Kilowatt? 

Kilowatt Power How Much | Image of Bulbssource

In order to determine how much a kilowatt is, we must first understand watts. A watt is a measure of energy. A watt is the measure of the rate of power flow. When one ampere (amp) flows through an electrical difference of one volt (V), this is equal to one watt (W) 

How Many Watts Are In a Kilowatt? 

There are one thousand watts in a kilowatt. This follows the standard categorization of the metric system. Other examples are: one thousand grams in a kilogram, one thousand meters in a kilometer, and one thousand joules in a kilojoule.  

How Many Kilowatt In a Megawatt? 

One megawatt is equivalent to one thousand kilowatts. Power consumption can also be measured in megawatt-hours (mWh) in the same way that kilowatt hours are used to measure consumption. However, mWh are typically only applied to describe large-scale usage, such as the amount of electricity used by a town or large building, not a single-family home or apartment.  

How Many Kilowatts Are in a Gigawatt? 

There are one million kilowatts in a gigawatt (gW). This means there are one billion watts in a gigawatt. Because this number is so large, it’s typically only used to describe very large areas of consumption — even power generation is typically measured in mW rather than gW. If you’re interested, you can use a conversion table to easily convert megawatts to gigawatts. 

How Many Watts In a Kilowatt Hour? 

This is a bit of a tricky question, as a kilowatt hour is different than a kilowatt — it’s a unit that measures how much energy you’re using. So, while it doesn’t exactly equate to the number of kilowatts you’re using per hour, it still technically implies that the same number of watts are in a kWh as in a kW: 1,000. The difference is, in this case, the measurement equals the amount of energy you would use if you kept a one-watt appliance running for one hour. 

How Do You Convert Watts Into Kilowatts? 

Converting watts into kilowatts is as simple as dividing the number of watts by 1,000 to convert the amount from watts to kilowatts. As an example, 120W divided by 1,000 results in 0.12kW. To reverse the conversion, multiply the number of kilowatts by 1,000 to obtain the number of watts. In this case, 40kW becomes 40,000W.   

These equations can simplify the conversions further: kW = W/1000 and W = kWx1000. 

Kilowatt Usage Rates 

Kilowatt Usage Ratessource

The typical rates for kilowatt usage vary depending on each individual. It has a lot to do with personal choices, including whether the household regularly practices energy conservation and if there are energy efficient devices in the home.   

Usage rates also vary due to geographical location, as homes in colder climates tend to use more kWh to heat their homes (if they have electric heating) while those in warmer areas tend to use even more electricity running air conditioning units. Still, there is a general average across the United States on overall kilowatt usage rates, and it’s not too far off from the world average.  

How Many Kwh Does a House Use Per Day?
What Is The Average Household Electricity Consumption Kwh Per Month?

The average American home uses about 30 kWh per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As such, the average American home uses a monthly average of 877 kWh. While this is an average, given the geographical diversity of the United States, some areas use more or less electricity than others. Residents of Louisiana consume the most electricity per household in the country at 1,240kWh on average. Hawaii residents consume the least at 505kWh per household per month.  

How Many kW Would a Generator Need to Run a House? 

You can run most critical household equipment with a generator that puts out 5,000 to 7,500 watts, which is equal to 5-7.5 kW. Generators of this size typically cost around $600.   

Major appliances that need continuous power include water heaters, freezers, and main lights. A generator with around 7,500 running watts, the equivalent of 7.5 kW, can run all these appliances at once. 

How Can I Calculate the Consumption of Electrical Appliances? 

There are three main things you need to assess to find out how many kWh of electricity you are using for each appliance: device wattage, device usage, and daily usage.   

Finding device wattage requires three steps:  

  1. Multiply the number of watts by the number of hours used per day to find the watt-hours (Wh) per day. (Wh = Wxh, where h is equal to the number of hours) 
  2. Take the Wh and divide it by 1,000 to find the device usage in kWh. (kWh = Wh/1000) 
  3. Take the kWh and multiply it by the number of days in the month to find your total monthly consumption. You can also multiply the kWh amount by fewer days to find consumption over any desired amount of time. 

How Can I Figure Out How Many kWh I Am Using in Total? 

If you want to find your total household electricity usage, you can add up the daily usage of all electrical appliances to determine your total monthly energy use in kWh. If you want a much easier (but less accurate) method, you can simply look up the average kWh total for each major and minor electrical appliance you use and add up those numbers.   

Most brands of major appliances will state in their product packaging and their website what their typical energy usage rate is, leaving you to just figure out how often you use the appliance. When you add up all the appliances in your home, you can come up with an approximate figure for the amount of energy that you are using in total. 

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How Many Kilowatt Hours to Charge a Tesla? 

Before getting into how many kilowatt hours it takes to charge a Tesla, it’s important to understand how Tesla batteries operate. They’re not typically charged to full capacity for performance reasons as the battery will perform better for a longer time if not fully charged every day. They can be charged to 100% for a road trip, but it’s not advised to charge them to capacity regularly  

As an estimate, it takes about 50 kW to charge a standard range Model 3 battery from empty to 90% full. This type of slow charging can be done at home, but it takes a long time, usually more than half a day (translation: at least 12 hours).   

If you want to charge fast, you need to increase the wattage. Superchargers deliver nearly 75 kW, which creates a predictable charging experience. These are specialized Tesla charging stations that are located around the country, particularly for road trips, as the average Supercharging session lasts a little more than 45 minutes. 

A Few Final Facts Involving Kilowatts 

Knowledge is power, and knowing more about kilowatts — along with how many are needed to run electrical appliances — can help lead to a greener future. Here are a few useful facts and statistics that involve your home and kilowatts:  

  • Baking uses more than frying: 3.2 kW per hour compared to 2.4 kW per hour. 
  • Clothes dryers use 2.7 KWh per load — that’s over 200 kWh per year if laundry is done only twice a week.  
  • The average American home uses nearly 5,000 kWh per year just to run the water heater. 
  • Cooling homes in the summertime uses nearly 30 kWh per day with a standard air conditioning unit. 
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only 0.025 kWh per hour — replacing your home’s old-school bulbs with these energy efficient bulbs could save up to 75% when it comes to lighting costs! 

Given that energy, especially in the form of kilowatts, is such a big part of our everyday lives, its importance cannot be stressed enough. Learn more about energy usage and all things that involve kilowatts on the Tara Energy blog. 

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