What uses the most power in a house?

Heating and cooling your home uses the most power in a house, followed by heating water and then your washer and dryer. There are lots of factors that affect how much power your home uses. Many appliances in the home are power hungry and a lot of that energy can be wasted.

This article explores what uses the most power in the house and how you can save energy and money.  

What uses energy in my home?

As I turn on the kettle, TV and air-conditioner I have often wondered what uses the most power in a house?   As time goes on we seem to be getting more and more appliances in our homes.  There are new innovations that are making our lives easier.

From the humble washer and dryer to fully integrated in home tech systems. Each appliance we add has its own level of energy consumption. Some will use very little whilst others use more than we think.

The more we know about where we are using power in our homes, the easier it will be to make adjustments that can save us money on our power bill.

There are many energy hungry appliances in our homes

There are a large list of things that are using energy in our homes.  Starting with the highest percentage of our power bills let’s highlight the main ones.

  1. Heating and Cooling
  2. Hot water
  3. Washer and dryer
  4. Lighting
  5. Refrigerator
  6. Oven
  7. Home entertainment (TV, DVD, Sound system etc.)
  8. Dishwasher
  9. Computer

Let’s explore how each of these appliances contribute to the power use in our homes and how much money and power we could save by adjusting our use.

How much power is used Heating and Cooling our homes?

According to the Department of Energy up to 48% of our power use is for heating and cooling.  That is almost half! Where you live and how your house is designed can both impact your heating and cooling needs.

The most obvious impact is your climate, is it really hot in summer? Does it get really cold in winter? In this case it can be really important to consider ways to reduce heat or cool loss and to use your systems as efficiently as possible.

How you house is designed also has a big impact on your heating and cooling needs. Making sure that your largest windows do not face the hot afternoon sun and insulation both have a huge impact on how hot or cold your house gets.

If you have an existing house, adding insulation can be one of the best things you can do to reduce your heating and cooling needs. If your windows face the hot afternoon sun, adding shades on the inside or outside can help to reduce how much your house heats up.

I understand that making major renovations to your house like these might not be an option. They can be expensive, or if you are renting you won’t be able to do this. The next best ways to reduce the amount of power used for heating and cooling are to make more efficient choices with what you have.

Keep cosy and warm

Simple ways to reduce heat loss in your home

  • Insulating your roof, walls and floors if possible
  • Keep curtains open during the day to let the sun in and warm up the house
  • Keep the curtains closed at night to reduce heat loss
  • Try adding draft stripping to doors and windows to reduce heat loss
  • Divide your home into zones.  If you have a heater in the lounge area, keep the doors closed to other areas to reduce the area you are heating.  This will reduce how hard your heater is working and reduce the amount of power used.
  • Make sure you choose the right size heater for your room.  If you are purchasing a new heater, measure your room size and ask for advice. Choosing the correct size for your room will reduce energy wastage. If the heater is too small it will be working too hard and will draw a lot of energy. If it is too big you will waste money in the purchase and it will heat less efficiently.

Which type of heater is best?

There are many types of heaters available to heat your home but they fall into a few main categories.  There are conventional electric heaters that plug into a wall and are portable. Reverse cycle air conditioners that are installed on the wall by an electrician and gas heaters. There is also underfloor or under-slab heating which is installed when the house is built.

The most efficient heater will generally be gas heaters and energy efficient reverse cycle heaters.  The most efficient models can actually use only 1/5th the power of a standard electric heater.

Another common type of heater is a fully ducted system.  These can either be gas or electrical. The best approach with this system, if you have the option is to choose to heat only the room that you will be occupying.  This will save wasting money on heating rooms that no one is using.

An energy efficient fully ducted system can actually save more power than individually heating rooms with their own space heaters.  Most of the power savings however come with choosing which rooms to heat and reducing heat loss by reducing drafts and heat loss through windows by closing curtains.

Cooling your home

Your cooling needs will depend a lot on the design of your house and your climate.  For some houses, you may just need a few fans throughout the house to circulate air, for others air conditioning might be necessary to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.

Fans are a great choice, they can reduce the temperature feel of the room by around 3 degrees Celsius and as I had covered in a previous post, they can cost as little as 2 cents and hour to run.

See my previous post on fans vs air conditioners here.

Evaporative cooler energy use

They work great in areas without humidity.  When you use evaporative coolers you need to have a door or window open to allow the air to flow through.  For those who don’t like to have their house completely shut up when it is hot, it can be a great choice. One thing to remember is that they also use water.  Be mindful of how much water your unit uses as it can start to add up.

Refrigerated cooler energy use

These are the most energy hungry choice for cooling.  They can be either small portable units that can be moved room to room.  There are also larger systems that are often both heating and cooling.  They can either be fully ducted into the house or exist as single units on the wall.

Ways to reduce your heating and cooling costs

The best way to reduce your power bill is to consider how you heat and cool your house.  As the single biggest portion of your bill, adjusting these two aspects will help to reduce your power bills each year.

Tips to reduce your heating costs

  1. Reduce heat loss by blocking drafts, closing curtains and doors
  2. Choose the right size heater for your room
  3. Don’t overheat your rooms.  Set your heater to a comfortable temperature but don’t go overboard.  Remember you can always grab a nice thick jumper and a blanket
  4. If you are in a reasonable climate, turn off heating when you go to bed or set a timer so it turns off soon after.  You will be cosy under your blankets so there is no need to run a heater as well (unless you live in a very cold climate)
  5. Insulate your house if possible
  6. Close off the area you want to heat by closing doors.  Remember the smaller the area you need to heat, the less energy you will use.

Tips to reduce your cooling costs

In addition to the tips above which can be applied to cooling as well

  1. Don’t set your air conditioner to a temperature that is too low.  The cooler you set the temperature, the harder the air conditioner needs to work
  2. Use fans if you can.  If you need to use an air conditioner, using a small fan in the room can help to circulate the cool air and help your air conditioner to work more efficiently
  3. If sun shines into your windows, draw the curtain.  That will help reduce the amount your house warms up

What about hot water?

Heating water can be about 25% of the energy used in our homes.  That means that any changes we can make to our hot water usage can make a big difference to our energy bills. Here are some great ways to save money on hot water.

  1. Take shorter showers – showers use up heaps of hot water, try to keep your shower as short as possible
  2. If your washing machine draws hot water (you will know because your washer will have a hose running to the hot water tap) wash your clothes on a cold setting only
  3. If you can adjust the temperature on your hot water system, try reducing it by 10 degrees.  This will reduce the temperature and therefore the power needed to heat it.
  4. Fix any leaks, make sure your hot water system and your taps are not dripping.

How much energy do lights use in our home?

Lighting can use around 10% of the energy in our homes.  Turning the lights off when we leave a room seems to be the first thing we think of when we want to save power.  While this may be a good approach, changing the types of light bulbs you use can make a bigger difference.

CFC or LED lightbulbs can use 75% less energy than your normal incandescent light bulbs. They also last way longer. Making this one small change will go a long way to help reduce the amount of power used in your home.  A good practice is, as your incandescent light bulbs burn out, replace them with the more energy efficient choices. If you are keen, you can replace them all in one go.

How much energy do appliances use?

Most of us have many appliances in our home that we are starting to accept as necessities. From fridges and freezers, washers, dryers and even dishwashers, most of us expect these appliances to be there to help us with our daily chores.  We recently moved from a house without a dishwasher. It had been a while since I had hand washed all of our dishes but it was a good reminder as to how dependent we had become on our dishwasher.

Our home are also filled with other small appliances like slow cookers, blenders, kettles, toasters and microwaves.  Each of these small appliances can vary in their power use and often use more power than you think. Lest discuss the main appliance categories.

Fridge energy use

They run 24 hours a day so in this case, it is best if you can choose the most energy efficient model you can.  Also, make sure you have the temperature set correctly. If you have it set too cool it will draw more energy than necessary and waste power.

Oven energy use

Electric ovens can use a surprising amount of energy.  If you use them for around 1 hour per day they can use as much energy per year as your fridge. Ovens tend to draw a lot of power because they are heating to a high temperature and are usually running a fan.  

Tips to save energy when using an oven include, avoid opening the door unnecessarily when cooking, if you are using your oven to reheat food, make sure to defrost it so it heats up quicker and choose the most energy efficient oven possible when purchasing a new one.

Where is energy wasted in our homes?

One of the best ways to save energy in our homes is to stop wasting it. There are so many small changes we can make that will help to reduce our power bill without making any major purchases or changes to our home.

What are some simple changes to stop wasting energy?

Turn the TV off when you are not using it.  I know I am guilty of walking out of a room, or heading outside and leaving the TV on.  So many of us will fall asleep at the end of the night with the TV still blaring, whether that is in the lounge or in our bedrooms.  Don’t waste energy that you aren’t even enjoying. Turn the TV off when you leave a room or before you fall asleep.

Don’t waste energy on standby.  It is really easy to leave appliances drawing energy without noticing.  When we leave computers, tv’s, gaming devices plugged in they continue to draw energy.

This can account for around 10% of our energy bills. Turn them off at the switch or grab a power-board that automatically turns these appliances off when they go into standby.

To follow this, don’t overcharge your phone or laptop.  Meaning when they get to 100% charge just turn off the charger.  That way you won’t keep wasting power. Chargers will still use power even when your device is fully charged so remember to turn them off when you have finished charging.  

What uses the most power in a house? – Summary

I hope you now have a better understanding now of what uses the most power in a house. Our lives have become ‘energy hungry’ so we need to be more mindful of how and where we are using power.

The good news is there are lots of easy changes we can make in our daily lives that will save power, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our power bills.  Try 1 of the ideas we have discussed in this article and you will be doing your home and the planet some good.