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 as of 2020 (the last full year for which data is currently available) is in the neighborhood of 27 kWh per day, or 808 kWh per month. That’s substantially lower than a little over a decade ago. In 2009 the average was 50 kWh per day, or 1,500 kWh per month, or almost double where we are now. Similar figures apply for Canada. Assuming an average electricity cost of $0.13 per kWh, that translates into about $6 per day for electricity, or $107 per month.
Here’s how I calculated these figures:
|3,804,000,000,000||Total kWh consumed in US in 2020|
|21%||Used for residential|
|798,840,000,000||kWh residential use in 2020|
|329,500,000||US population 2020|
|2,424||kWh per person|
|9,698||kWh for a family of four|
|808||kWh per month (family of four)|
|27||kWh per day (family of four)|
|$0.132||average cost per kWh 2020|
|$107||cost per month (family of four)|
|$4||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, and Ontario where I live has almost identical daily consumption to the US average, at 26 kWh per day for a typical family of four (that’s down from 2009 as well, but not by as much – dropping from 35 kWh). 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 $103 a month for electricity or roughly $1,425 per year.
Average electricity consumption in 2009 was lower in the US than in Canada because the Canadian average is heavily influenced by electric heating, especially in Quebec where the provincial electric utility heavily promoted electric heating for decades. As of 2020 the average electricity consumption for different countries is:
- Canada: 11,535 kWh per year (ours was 3,030 in 2007! but climbed to 13,587 as of 2021 because we replaced all our gas appliances with heat pumps. Now we’re not cooking with gas!)
- US: 9,698 kWh per year by my method; 10,715 according to energy.gov
- European Union: 3,763 kWh per year (basically unchanged since 2000)
- Japan: 7,200 kWh per year (up from 5,945 in 2009)
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. For a while, 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. Then we got rid of our gas furnace, gas hot water heater, and gas dryer, and replaced them all with heat pumps, and now we consume quite a bit more electricity – around 1,100! – but we’re not using any natural gas.