Why are my power bills so high? Which appliances use the most power?

If you were to make a chart of the electricity-consuming devices in a typical home and rank them in order of their hunger for power, the list might look something like this:

per hour
Heat pump or central air
15,000 watts
Water heater or clothes drier
4,000 watts
40 cents
Water pump
3,000 watts
30 cents
Space heater
1,500 watts
15 cents
Hair drier
1,200 watts
12 cents
Electric range burner
1,000 watts
10 cents
1,000 watts
10 cents
Computer and monitor
400 watts
4 cents
Light bulb
60 watts
0.6 cents

This table assumes that a kilowatt-hour of electricity costs 10 cents, which is an average rate depending on your location.

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If your house has electric heat, then the middle of winter is a time when you are going to use a lot of power. A heat pump might run 10 to 15 hours a day. At $1.50 an hour, that's $15 to $22 per day. Over the course of a month, that's several hundred dollars worth of electricity. The same applies in the summer if you use the air conditioner a lot.

Water heating uses a good bit of power as well. When you take a shower or run a load of clothes in the washer, the electric water heater might run for an hour reheating the water in the tank. That's 40 cents. A typical household can burn several dollars a day heating water. Because we don't normally think of it this way, it is funny to consider that every shower you take costs 40 cents! When you add in the cost of washing and drying the towels (every load of clothes that you run might cost $1 to $2 for washing and drying), plus the soap and shampoo, it can cost nearly a buck to take a shower!

Refrigeration is another big power drain because the refrigerator can easily run for 10 hours a day. That's about $1 per day to keep the milk cold. If you leave the computer or TV on all day, it can add up to $1 per day as well.

Then we get to light bulbs. At 0.6 cents per hour, it doesn't seem like much. However, many fixtures contain two or more bulbs, and it is easy to leave several fixtures on. If 10 bulbs are burning, that's 6 cents an hour. If they burn for six hours a day, that's 36 cents per day for lighting. Multiply that by 30 days in a month, and it's $10 per month for photons.

Using a space heater or an electric blanket to heat a smaller area at night is probably the easiest way to save big on your power bill. Saving hot water is the next easiest.