What Daily Things Use Electricity?

Electricity powers many of the appliances, devices, and systems we rely on in our everyday lives. From lighting up a room to powering our refrigerators and washing machines, electricity allows us to enjoy modern conveniences that make our lives easier and more comfortable.

However, these electrical devices and appliances also consume a significant amount of energy. The average U.S. household uses about 897 kWh of electricity per month, costing over $100 on the utility bill. With rising energy costs and concerns over sustainability, it’s becoming increasingly important for households to understand their electricity usage and identify opportunities to conserve power.

To reduce electricity consumption and costs, it helps to be aware of which daily activities and household tasks require the most electrical energy. Knowing which devices and appliances use the most power allows us to target the biggest energy hogs and adjust habits or upgrade equipment to be more efficient. Understanding our electricity use empowers us to take control of our energy bills and environmental impact.

Lighting

Lighting accounts for a significant portion of electricity use in homes and businesses. The main types of electric lighting include:

  • Incandescent bulbs – These traditional bulbs with glowing wire filaments are inefficient, wasting 90% of energy as heat. They also have short lifespans.
  • LED bulbs – LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs use up to 80% less energy and last around 25 times longer than incandescents. They have become the most popular and cost-effective lighting option.
  • CFL bulbs – CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) bulbs use 70% less energy and can last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Halogen bulbs – Halogen bulbs are more efficient than traditional incandescents while providing a bright, white light. However, LEDs tend to be more energy-efficient.

Overhead fixtures, lamps, holiday string lights and more all consume electricity to brighten homes and workspaces. Upgrading to LED lighting is one of the easiest ways to reduce electricity usage.

Heating & Cooling

Heating and cooling systems are major electricity users in most homes. Central air conditioning units require a significant amount of electricity to run the compressor and fans that cool the air. Window AC units are also common in many homes and consume electricity as well. Fans used for cooling also require electricity to run the motor and blades.

In cold weather, heaters are needed to warm up living spaces. Electric space heaters, whether portable units or hardwired heaters, draw a lot of power when running. Central forced-air furnace systems run on electricity too, powering the blower motor that circulates heated air. The thermostat that controls the temperature also uses a small amount of electricity.

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers also fall into the heating and cooling category, as they adjust moisture levels which affect perceived temperature. These appliances have motors and internal components that use electricity.

Refrigeration

Refrigeration is one of the most ubiquitous uses of electricity in most homes. The main appliances that use electricity for refrigeration are refrigerators and freezers. Most households have at least one refrigerator that runs 24/7 to keep food and drinks chilled. Refrigerators need a constant power supply to maintain the interior temperature through a refrigeration cycle involving the compression and expansion of refrigerants. The freezer compartment also needs consistent electricity to keep it at freezing temperatures.

While refrigerators and freezers are on all the time, they cycle on and off as needed to maintain the set interior temperatures. Opening the door causes the interior temperature to rise, so the compressor kicks in more frequently to cool things back down. Newer Energy Star certified refrigerators include more insulation and tight door seals to maximize efficiency. The refrigerator typically uses the most electricity of any appliance in the kitchen.

Freezers also rely on electricity for freezing and long-term food storage. Standalone freezers in basements or garages need a constant power supply to keep food frozen solid at temperatures below 0°F. Freezers have similar efficiency features as refrigerators but maintain even colder temperatures that require more energy usage over time.

Cooking

Cooking appliances like stoves, ovens, microwaves, and toasters require electricity for meal preparation. Stoves and ovens rely on heating elements powered by electricity to cook food. The heating elements get hot when electricity passes through them, transferring that heat to cook food placed inside the oven or on the stovetop surface. Electric ovens also use electricity for features like interior oven lights and digital displays and controls.

Microwave ovens use electricity to power high-frequency radio waves that generate heat in food. The microwave’s magnetron tube converts electrical energy into concentrated radio wave energy. As these waves interact with food molecules, it causes the molecules to vibrate rapidly and generate friction and heat that cooks the food.

Toasters also rely on electricity to power heating elements that transfer heat to bread or pastries placed inside to toast them to the desired level of crispness. The user can adjust the level of toasting using knobs or buttons that control the amount of electricity flowing to the heating elements.

Cleaning

Doing chores around the house takes a lot of energy. Cleaning appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, and vacuums all require electricity to run.

Dishwashers use electricity to power the motor that sprays water during wash and rinse cycles. Heating elements also use electricity to warm the water to dissolve and remove food. The control panel and any digital displays require power as well.

Washing machines use electricity for the motor, to power the drum that agitates the clothes during wash and spin cycles. Electric heating elements are needed to heat the water for warm or hot water cycles. The control panel also requires electricity.

Clothes dryers run on electricity to tumble and heat air during drying cycles. The motor rotates the drum, while heating elements produce hot air to dry the clothes. Electronic control boards also require power to operate setting and sensors.

Vacuums use electricity to run the motor and suction system that pulls in dirt. Powered brushes, lights, and any digital displays will also draw electricity while in use.

Entertainment

Many of the gadgets and devices we use daily for entertainment require electricity to function. Televisions, computers, video game consoles, speakers, and more all need power to provide us with media, games, and connection.

Televisions account for a significant portion of home electricity use simply because many households have multiple TVs that see frequent use. Large, high-definition flat screen TVs can use over 200 watts of power. Even smaller or older CRT tube TVs use quite a bit of electricity if left on for hours of viewing. TV usage adds up quickly, especially when binge watching shows.

Computers, both desktops and laptops, also draw a constant supply of power when in use. High performance gaming PCs require significant electricity to run graphics cards, processors, and multiple monitors. Laptops use less power but are still a constant draw when plugged in. Peripheral devices like printers and external hard drives also require their own power.

Video game consoles are essentially specialized computers, so they require considerable electricity as well. Modern consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can use over 200 watts while gaming. Handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch use less at full load, but still require continuous power to play games.

Speakers and sound systems, from simple stereo receivers to multi-channel surround sound setups, need consistent power to amplify audio signals and produce sound. Wireless speakers and soundbars also rely on electricity to connect via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Our electronic entertainment devices are convenient and fun, but their daily use contributes substantially to electricity consumption. Being mindful of turning off devices when not in use can help reduce energy waste.

Charging

One of the biggest daily uses of electricity in most homes is charging electronic devices like phones, laptops, tablets, and smartwatches. It’s easy to plug a device in to charge and forget it’s slowly draining electricity for hours or overnight.

The average smartphone uses 5-10 watts while charging. Newer fast charging technologies can use up to 30 watts to charge more quickly. Laptop chargers also use between 30-100 watts depending on the model. Tablets typically use 10-30 watts during charging.

While each device doesn’t use huge amounts of electricity individually, it adds up when multiple devices are plugged in to charge at the same time. Smart chargers that automatically stop charging when the battery is full can help reduce wasted electricity.

Smart Home Devices

Smart home devices are becoming increasingly popular and rely on electricity to function. Some common smart home devices that use electricity include:

Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri allow you to use voice commands to control other smart devices and access information. The hardware that houses the virtual assistant like an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker requires electricity to operate.

Smart Security Systems

Smart security systems like those from ADT, Vivint, and Ring have components like cameras, sensors, and alarm panels that connect to your WiFi to monitor your home. These security devices are powered by electricity to detect intruders, send alerts, and provide real-time video access.

Smart Appliances

Many modern appliances are now “smart” and can connect to the internet and your phone. Smart appliances like refrigerators, ovens, washers, dryers, and dishwashers use electricity not only to perform their primary functions but also power the connectivity features.

Conclusion

In summary, many of the conveniences and necessities of modern life rely on electricity to function. From heating and cooling systems that maintain comfortable temperatures, to lighting that illuminates our homes, to powering appliances and electronics that we use every day, electricity drives and empowers our lifestyles.

With this reliance comes the responsibility to monitor our energy usage and adopt more sustainable practices. Simple changes like swapping out lightbulbs, utilizing smart power strips, adjusting thermostats, and upgrading to energy efficient appliances can significantly reduce electricity consumption. We all have a role to play in using this precious resource wisely.

The next time you flip a switch or plug in a device, consider the source providing that energy. Our individual actions, when multiplied by millions of households, have immense influence. Through informed and conscientious energy usage, we can maintain modern comforts while also building a cleaner, greener future.

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