When you’re shopping for new appliances, one of the biggest questions to ask is “How much does my appliance cost to run?” Knowing the answer will help give you a picture of the true cost of the appliance over its lifetime and help you weigh the pros and cons of your purchase. You need an electricity cost calculator.
Using an electricity cost calculator is pretty straightforward. Sure, you can take a look at the spec sheet of each appliance to see how many watts of energy it uses, but that doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to translate it into real dollars and cents. Likewise, you can look at the estimated cost to operate a new fridge on an Energy Star tag, but these numbers are just a guess — the actual costs vary widely depending on where you live and how much you pay for electricity.
To calculate the real cost of running an appliance, you need to do some research along with some math. If you haven’t done either of those things since high school, that’s okay. Here’s your complete step-by-step how-to guide to crunching the numbers.
Three Steps: Electricity Cost Calculator Gathering the Right Information
Before you’re ready to sharpen your pencil to solve a math problem, you need to know what numbers go into the equation. That will take a bit of research. Here’s the information you need to track down.
1. Figuring Out Your Electricity Costs
The first thing you’ll need to know when it comes to figuring out how much your appliances cost to operate is the price you pay for electricity. If you’re like most people, you probably only look at the total cost on your electric bill and write the check accordingly. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that the electric company measures your electric usage for the month in a unit called the kilowatt-hour
, or kWh.
The electric company charges you a specific amount of money per kWh each month for electricity. That total is further broken down into a series of charges; for example, you pay a certain amount of money per kWh for the electricity supply as well as for its distribution, a transmission charge, a renewable energy charge and so on.
To find out your total price per kWh, you’ll need to add up all the little charges on your bill.
These usually look something like this:
- Electric Supply: 0.0925 x 583 kWh
- Distribution Charge: 0.06236 x 583 kWh
- Renewable Energy Charge: 0.0005
In the example above, 583 kWh is the total amount of electricity used in the month. The number before that is the amount charged for 1 kWh. These are decimals because each part of a single kWh only costs pennies, but that all adds up.
To figure out your total charge, add all those decimals together for every line item on your bill. In this case, the total charge per kWh is 0.0925 + 0.06236 + 0.0005, which equals 0.15536. Translated into dollars and cents, that’s $0.15536 per kWh, or 15.536 cents per kWh.
That number is your electricity cost. If you multiply it by the total kWh used in a month, you get your monthly bill.
In this case, that’s $0.15536 x 583 kWh, which comes out to $90.57.
2. Figuring Out How Much Electricity Your Appliance Uses
Your house is filled with items that draw electricity, so the total kWh used per month is not at all helpful in figuring out how much your fridge or space heater adds to that total. To do that, you’ll need to know how much electricity an individual appliance draws, as well as how often you run it.
The amount of power your appliance requires to operate is listed in watts, and you can find this information easily in the instruction manual, a list of specs in an online description, or even on the appliance itself. For example, a 100-watt light bulb draws 100 W of power to operate it.
But how do you get from W to kWh? Just divide the wattage of the appliance by 1,000. For our 100-watt light bulb, that means 100 ÷ 1,000, which equals 0.1 kWh. In this case, 0.1 kWh is the amount of electricity it takes to run that light bulb for one hour.
3. Figuring Out How Often You Use Your Appliance
If you only used that light bulb for one hour per month, it would be easy to figure out how much you are paying to use it: You just need to multiply the cost of your electricity per kWh by the amount of kilowatt-hours of energy the device uses. In the case of our light bulb, the math looks like this:
$0.15536 x 0.1 kWh = $0.015536, or 1.55 cents to operate the light bulb.
If you only use that light bulb for one hour each month, that’s your total cost. However, you probably use that light bulb for many hours each day and many days per month, so you have to figure out how many hours per month you use it. In most cases, you can estimate this. Just think about how long you leave that light on each day, and how many days per month you repeat that usage.
If you’re really meticulous, you might allow more or less usage on weekends than weekdays in your estimate. And if you’re very detailed, you could keep a log of usage to know for sure how often you use it for a week or a month.
Once you estimate your usage, you just need to multiply the total number of hours of use by the cost per kWh to operate it. If you use your 100-watt bulb for eight hours each day, every day, you can figure out the cost of usage as illustrated below:
Electricity Cost Calculator:
- $0.15536 x 0.1 kWh x 8 hours = $.124288, or 12.42 cents per day
- $0.15536 x 0.1 kWh x 8 hours x 7 days = $.870016, or 87 cents per week
- $0.15536 x 0.1 kWh x 8 hours x 30 days = $3.72864, or $3.73 per month
A Note About Different Appliances
A light bulb is a fairly straightforward example of electricity usage. It’s either on or it’s off, and it’s very simple to tell the difference between the two to get a reasonable estimate of your usage. Any appliance that’s either on or off will be just as easy to calculate. For example, a washer, dryer or fan with just one setting is either on or off, so you can decide on a ballpark figure for usage and go from there.
Other appliances, however, are trickier
. Take that fan, for instance. Though it’s easy to see if it’s running or not, it may have two or three different speeds — and each speed will correspond to different wattage. Likewise, a dryer or heater with different settings will draw varying amounts of electricity, and you may or may not be able to look up the exact wattage for each one.
A refrigerator or space heater can be even more difficult to estimate accurately, since they tend to operate based on a thermostat and may cycle on and off differently depending on how cold your house is or how warm the drinks are when you put them inside. In this case, you can consider using an outlet meter that measures the amount of electricity in kWh
that’s being drawn through that outlet. This will be the most accurate way to know exactly how much electricity your washing machine or refrigerator is using, and it’s easy to multiply the number on the meter by your electric rate to get exact results about how much you’re paying to operate that appliance.
Common Appliances and Their Costs
If all that math has your head spinning — or if you’re not interested in trying to estimate how many loads of laundry you do per month and how long each cycle lasts — you can get a sense of how much it costs to run various appliances by looking at some averages
using the pre-populated electricity cost calculator below:
It’s important to note that these figures are averages based on the typical wattage used by each type of appliance listed above. For better results in your calculations, check the actual wattage drawn by your appliance — or the one you’re considering buying.
Likewise, you can use the information above to get more accurate results for your personal costs by figuring out what you actually pay for electricity at your house. The national average is just that: an average. This means that you pay either more or less — and perhaps by a lot. It’s worth it to calculate your own electricity rate as described in the steps above and use it to see how much each of these appliances will cost you. To do so, simply take the kWh number from the table for the appliance you’re considering and multiply it by your actual electric rate.
For example, if you want to know how much a NewAirMiniDryer26W clothes dryer will cost to operate per hour, but you know that your electricity costs $0.155 instead of $0.12 per kWh, calculate your costs like this:
1.4 kWh x $0.155 = $0.217, or 21.7 cents per hour
From there, you can estimate how long a load takes to dry and how many loads you do per month to figure out your personal monthly cost for running the mini clothes dryer.
Electricity Cost Calculator – The Bottom Line
No matter how general or exact you prefer to be, playing with this electricity cost calculator will help you understand how much your household appliances are really costing you. This is crucial when it comes to knowing what you’re getting for your money because you pay to own an appliance for as long as you operate it — not just on the day you bring it home from the store.
Understanding the operation costs will also highlight that, in some cases, you get what you pay for. For example, a cheap mini fridge may have low wattage, but if it’s not well insulated and cycling on more often to keep the interior cold, your final costs to run it will be higher than a better-designed beverage cooler with excellent insulating properties.
There’s a lot to consider when purchasing new appliances for your home, but a solid grasp of what it takes to keep them running allows you to plan your budget accordingly and to make the best possible choices for your home and lifestyle needs.