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:

Amount Item
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.

8 replies
  1. Fred
    Fred says:

    We live in Germany and use about 4000 kWh for a family of 4. We dont use A/C but our hotwater is electric – a flow through water heater.

    We used to live in Canada and we no longer understand why the electricity usage is so high there. Easily double of Europe. Perhaps it really amounts to poor house construction and the desire to have a low interior temperature during the summer. Our apartment in Germany has about 20 cm thick stone walls. It is also designed to create a draft if the right windows are opened. So even if the outside temperature is almist 30C, A/C is not required.

    One final note dont use a dryer. Sun drying saves your clothes and electricity. Dont need fabric softner either. All-around win.

    Reply
    • Curt
      Curt says:

      I have tracked my annual and monthly consumption since 2005. I live in BC, Canada. Since 2005 and so far the highest monthly average (2012) was 771 kw-hr/month and the lowest up to 2015 619 kw-hr/month. I have made significant change in residence type resulting in an average in 2016 of 414 kw-hr/month and I fully expect to average less than 350 kw-hr/month in 2017. We are not freezing in the dark!

      Reply
  2. Randy
    Randy says:

    My family of 6 is using 30,765kwh annually. I think there’s a mistake but every time I bring it up to Peco they blow me off. My bill each month is in the $900 range and it use to be around $280. Am i right to think there’s something not right?

    Reply
    • Robin
      Robin says:

      If your bill jumped from $280 to $900 it’s safe to assume there is something wrong. Do you use a lot of air conditioning, or use electric heating? Those are the main sources of excess energy use. The other possibility is a refrigerator or freezer that no longer works properly – you would notice it running almost continuously instead of the compressor cycling on and off. You might want to hire a home energy auditor to check things out for you – they will likely discover sources of waste that will pay for their fee within a month.

      Reply
    • Maurice Fortin
      Maurice Fortin says:

      13.69 if you divde per person, while that is higher than normal, that is also not insanely higher as well, keep in mind some of this can be taken as a loss for conversion or some fees they slap in an are not actual “in your tank” power, however, the math sounds about right, person in Canada seems to be in the range of 7.8-14Kw per day.

      Most of us here in Canada require that much more lighting, cooling, heating, more zones for the electrical load etc, in some cases far far more than average because they just need to leave lights on, cannot afford to replace old things (most cannot)

      ^.^

      Reply
      • Robin
        Robin says:

        I’m not sure “most of us cannot afford to replace old things” is true, I think it’s more a question of people prioritizing conservation over other things, or even knowing that replacing old things actually has a pretty fast payback. For example, there are usually spring sales on LED light bulbs, coupled with utility incentives, and I was able to replace all the compact fluorescents in my house with LEDs for under $20. The end result is a 2/3 reduction in my lighting costs.

        Also most of us in Canada don’t require more cooling, and we certainly don’t need to leave lights on. These are choices.

        We had a nanny when our kids were young, and she did meal prep for us in late afternoon. I often found her slicing carrots or onions in a dark kitchen with no light on. When I asked her why she didn’t have the lights on, she seemed surprised. Why turn on the lights when there’s enough light from outside to see what she’s doing. First world people have a tendency to want tons of electric lighting when a little natural light would do. We need to learn to make compromises between our ‘luxuries’ and the planet’s health.

        Reply
  3. EricW
    EricW says:

    In Toronto (2017) we use between 35 kWh/month and 80 kWh/month, mostly all at the lowest rates. We pay about $35 – 45 per month. I’m trying out some new R-150/inch insulation with the fridge and that will drop further once in place. Other then the fridge most AC goes to our electronics or lights.

    Reply
  4. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    we live in Calgary, in two story 12 years old house, there is 3 of us, all adults, total electricity usage was 4227kwh/year or 352kwh/months, in May this year we change all CFL to all LED lighting, our house very typical for two story build in Calgary with total area of 1970 sqft, with gas heating

    Reply

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