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Energy costs of household appliances

A report on the nation's energy usage has shown that leaving electrical appliances such as TVs on standby can cost the typical household an average of £50-86 per year. This is higher than previously throught, and is just one of several surprises to emerge from 'Powering the Nation', the result of a year-long study that monitored patterns of electricity consumption by real individuals and families.

The project, commissioned by Defra, DECC and the Energy Saving Trust (EST), monitored a total of 251 owner-occupied households in England between 2010 and 2011. It catalogued the range of appliances and gadgets owned, followed how and when they were used, and how much electricity each consumed. And the results make fascinating reading.

powerdown plug

Key findings

Some of the report's key findings are:

  • Average number of electrical appliances owned per household was 41, ranging from 13 to 85.
  • Annual electricity consumption averaged across all types of household was 3638 kWh (excluding heating); average per capita consumption was 2012 kWh/person/year.
  • Annual average electricity bill for households monitored was £530.
  • Fridges and freezers make the biggest contribution to overall demand, at about 16%, with lighting the next biggest user on 15.4%; consumer electronics (e.g. TVs, CD, DVD players, games consoles), cookers, and laundry equipment each account for a further 13-14% of total consumption.
  • Average electric bill for freezing and refrigerating food is £79 per year, while for cooking it is £66/year.
  • Appliance type Percent of total electricity bill
    Fridges, freezers, etc. 16.2
    Lighting 15.4
    Consumer electronics (TV, DVD player, CD player, games console, etc.) 14.4
    Cooker, microwave, toaster, kettle, etc. 13.8
    Washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, etc. 13.6
    Computer, monitor, printers, routers, etc. 6.1
    Water heating 7.1
    Other (incl. shavers, hair stylers, mobile phones, MP3 players, tablet computers, etc.) 13.4
  • People used their washing machines for an average 5.5 cycles per week (one participant used it 1200 times in 1 year!).
  • Using a tumble dryer instead of a washing line or clothes airer adds an average of £57 to the cost of laundry over 1 year.
  • A dishwasher costs an average of £50 a year to run (excluding detergent).
  • TV watching amounted to 6 hours per day on average, with annual running costs of £29 for an LCD flat screen TV, and £95 for a plasma screen.
  • Power for appliances on 'standby' typically accounts for 9-16% of electricity bills.

'Two can live as cheaply as one'

The study also confirmed the old adage that 'two can live as cheaply as one'. For example, three- and four-person households were found to consume about the same amount of electricity for cooking as one-person households. As the report points out, the trend for more people living alone will add to the nation's electricity bill. And the wide variation among households in the same category points to the potential for behaviour change and greater efficiencies in electricity usage.

Read a summary of the report, or download the full report, from the EST website.