I’d like to know the average electricity consumption for a family of four in one year. We are using about 700 kilowatt hours a month and that seems high to me. How do we compare to the average?
Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes
The average electricity consumption for a family of four will vary considerably depending on where you live. And the consumption of individual households can be quite far from that average. As I explain in my About me page, my family of four got our household use down to 180 kilowatt hours a month which is about one sixth the average of my home province of Ontario.
In Costa Rica where I lived for a year, most families used almost no electricity – enough for a couple of lightbulbs, a semi-automatic clothes washer doing the wash once a week, and maybe a table top fan for very hot days. Many people in smaller towns didn’t even own a refrigerator. Prices were high enough that people there couldn’t really afford to use much more. All told, the average Costa Rican family probably used 2 kilowatt hours a day or less – or 60 kilowatt hours a month. And by developing-world standards Costa Rica is well off; in many other developing countries electricity isn’t even available to most people, so the average is very low.
On the other hand, if you live in Phoenix chances are you can’t survive without air conditioning for much of the year, and whole house air conditioning on a hot day can account for up to 90% of your electricity use on such days.
The average electricity consumption of a US family of four is in the neighborhood of 50 kWh per day, or 1,500 kWh per month. Similar figures apply for Canada. Assuming an average electricity cost of $0.12 per kWh, that translates into about $6 per day for electricity, or $180 per month.
Here’s how I calculated these figures:
|3,741,000,000,000||Total kWh consumed in US in 2009|
|38%||Used for residential|
|1,421,580,000,000||kWh residential use in 2009|
|308,745,538||US population 2010|
|4,604||kWh per person|
|18,417||kWh for a family of four|
|1,535||kWh per month (family of four)|
|50||kWh per day (family of four)|
|$184||cost per month (family of four)|
|$6||cost per day (family of four)|
That’s the average. Of course, you can do much better than that. As I mentioned Canadian and US total electricity consumption per capita is about the same, but I have heard smaller figures for Ontario, my home province, for domestic consumption, where the average is closer to 35 kWh a day for a typical family (substantially lower than the 50 kWh above). My home city of Toronto gets pretty hot in the summer so some use of air conditioning is fairly typical. Toronto has a climate not that different from the midwestern states of the US, or New England states. We pay around $0.15 for electricity here if you count all the extra costs they throw on our bill, so a typical household pays about $150 a month for electricity or roughly $1,800 per year.
Consumption in the US tends to be a little lower because the Canadian average is heavily influenced by electric heating, especially in Quebec where the provincial electric utility heavily promoted electric heating for decades. Here are figures for various countries, note that the statistics for each country may not be from the same year as the others:
- Canada: 12,836 kWh per year (ours was 3,030 in 2007!)
- US: 10,654 kWh per year
- Europe: 4,667 kWh per year
- Japan: 5,945 kWh per year
Since a family of 5 is probably larger than a typical household, but adding extra people doesn’t make that much difference to the electrical load, I would guess 12,000 kilowatt hours per year is a reasonable average.
Of course that is an average. Someone who leaves all the lights on, runs the air conditioner on high all summer, and has a big plasma screen TV on all the time will use more than that, as will anyone in a cold climate who heats with electric baseboard heaters. Meanwhile, someone who heats with natural gas, oil, wood, or solar, installs compact fluorescent lights, turns the lights off when not needed, and only runs the air conditioner when absolutely essential, will use a lot less.
As I said, you can do much better than the average. My household (two adults, two kids) used about 300-400 kWh per month, or around a third of our local average. But by carefully tracking how much we consumed, and finding ways to cut back on waste, as I explain in How to save electricity, we managed to reduce our consumption to about 7 kilowatt hours a day. It’s sometimes challenging to keep your consumption down that low – but it is doable.