Apartment Power Bill: What Consumes the Most Energy?

what takes up the most electricity in an apartment

As the end of the month is near, the time comes to start worrying about the electricity bill. Those most concerned are the people with variable-rate energy plans, as the colder months usually mean higher power usage. In addition to this, the rising energy prices due to the energy crisis are there to remind us all that we need to be aware of what uses the most power in our homes. 

Contrary to the popular belief, the appliances and devices that you use for most of the day do not use the most electricity. The usual suspects for the high energy usage and a high electric bill are the computer and the TV. In reality, it is the heating and cooling system that uses the most power in your home. Let’s read on and learn how much you actually pay every month to use each of the appliances below. 

What Uses the Most Electricity in an Apartment

We’ve said before that heating and cooling elements use the most power in your home and contribute the most kWhs to your energy bill. Even if you go for energy-efficient models, it is still costly to run these appliances. The thing is that heating (cooling systems also need to heat the gas to be able to cool down your home) takes a lot of power, whatever the work the appliance needs to do. 

With this in mind, we wanted to see how much power is used in an average household, by each of the following appliances: 

  • Room heating, 
  • Water heating, 
  • Cooling / Air Conditioning, 
  • Washing machine, clothes dryer, 
  • Refrigerator, 
  • Dishwasher, and 
  • Electric oven and stove. 


As heating is essential to our daily lives, it is no surprise that 27% of your electricity bill goes towards it. In your home, there are several appliances that can heat various types of mediums for different purposes. While your heating unit keeps the home comfortable during the cold part of the year, and your water heater keeps the water hot, your stove and oven also produce a lot of heat to cook the meals you and your family can enjoy. 

Room Heating

By far the highest electricity user in an average house, your HVAC system, when heating, uses more electricity than some other appliances combined. As it goes, heating takes a lot of power and may use up most electricity you spend in a month. For this reason, you should consider ways to save energy while keeping your home warm. 

Switching from electricity to natural gas is one good idea. This way, you will be able to save a ton on your electric bill, as heating with natural gas (or any other type of gas there is) costs less and may be more efficient. With this in mind, consider switching to natural gas for heating, especially if you live in an area where natural gas pipes are available. 

Another way to save on heating your space is to insulate your home. As the median US home is 37 years old, the insulation may need replacing. The same goes for your attic insulation and wall insulation. Have a professional come and check the state of the insulation materials, and while there, they can also check whether all the surfaces that should be insulated have been – many houses, for example, do not have an insulated basement, despite almost 30% of heating being lost here. 

Yet another way to save on heating is to switch the heater itself: purchasing a heat pump may be pricey, but it pays off quickly, as most heat pumps use up to 85% less electricity than other electricity-powered appliances. Depending on your climate, you may want to choose one of the following three heat pump models for home heating: 

  • Air-source heat pumps – also known as air-to-water heat pumps, it draw heat from the air, even when it is cold, 
  • Water-source heat pumps – also known as water-to-water heat pumps, these pumps draw heat even from cold water, 
  • Ground-source heat pumps – also known as ground-source heat pumps, these appliances are similar to geothermal solutions. 

Water Heating

Water heating is the next biggest contributor to the electricity bills in your homes. Your water heater can draw as much power as a space heater – just for a shorter period of time. We’ve discussed before that any type of heating will increase your energy use, but there are ways to save even with water heaters. 

In reality, a heat pump can provide hot water for residential use in the same way it can keep your house warm. Insulating your water heater or purchasing an energy-star-certified appliance will help you save even more. Be mindful of how you use hot water and bear in mind that this is where you can save. 

There are two basic kinds of water heaters: tankless and water heaters with the tank. The first kind lets you use less electricity than would normally be the case since the water is not stored in tanks. The latter kind, on the other hand, lets you use the free electricity periods to heat the water that is then stored in the tank. This way, your energy costs will go down, even though your energy usage will stay the same. 

Air Conditioning

Energy consumption in your home also depends on air conditioning. This way, with a good central air conditioning unit, you can spend as much power in the summer, for cooling, as you would spend in the winter, for heating up the place. As your air conditioning is not made for saving money, you may have to do a bit of work to reduce the workload on your appliance and the energy bills you pay every month

Insulating the AC unit is a good way to reduce your energy usage. Insulating the house is probably the best thing you can do. In reality, as insulation can be costly, you can insulate doors and windows only. Run a home energy audit and see what else there is that you can improve and drive down the power bill


Besides your water heater and the HVAC system, there are appliances in your home that also have high energy consumption and increase your energy costs. Some appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washing machines, and clothes dryers can hate heating elements that use as much as 2 kW of electricity – that’s 2 kWh on top of your electricity bill for every hour of effective use. Let’s consider some of them in more detail. 

Washing Machine

Your washing machine may not work every day unless you have a large family, but these expenses still add up. As the washing machine uses a lot of power, it is useful to consider the way it is used and to maybe change some of your habits when it comes to using it. For example, running all clothes on a hot-water cycle wastes precious energy and boosts your energy bill. 

For this reason, you may want to reduce energy consumption by only running the washing machine on lower-temperature settings. Additionally, running it only when full will further decrease how much energy these energy-guzzling appliances use. Using lower settings will still give good results, and running it only when full will also save you time, as you will be around it less. 

Some energy-efficient models can help you save even more. Switching from a top-loader to a front-loader will also help you save, especially as these models use less water as well – resulting in needing to use less laundry detergent, besides lowering your monthly water bill. With less water in the drum, there is also a reduction in energy use. 

Clothes Dryer

Your clothes dryer also uses a lot of power. The bigger the load, the more it will use. As it is likely that you have an older clothes dryer, upgrading it to new technology or an energy-efficient model will likely result in lower energy bills. Your home’s energy consumption may not be slashed by you purchasing a newer model of a clothes dryer, but it will still be lower. 

When considering which appliance you can purchase, you should know that there are several models that you should take into consideration: 

  1. Clothes dryers with a heat pump as the heat source, 
  2. Condenser clothes dryers – use less electricity and save the condensation water which you can later use in your clothes iron or for steaming the floors without nasty mineral deposits, 
  3. Natural gas clothes dryers – use natural gas to produce the heat and cost less per cycle than an electric model. 

With all these options, there is really no need not to invest your money to save money in the long run. 


Your refrigerator may not use too much power, but staying mindful of the size, the functions it has, and how you use it is important to limit its energy use. Namely, as you stock the fridge, there will be more need for it to work harder to keep all those groceries cold. We are not saying that you should keep it empty, but rather than purchasing a model that is too large for your needs may result in more electricity being used than is necessary. 

In addition to this, all the extra functions will determine how much electricity your refrigerator uses. Having a crisper, a self-regulating drawer, the freezer, ice, and cold water dispenser all sound great but may result in higher energy costs at the end of the month. Likewise, keeping the door even slightly ajar will make your fridge use more power than is needed, so most new models have an alarm that goes off when the door has been open for too long. 


Your dishwasher is another appliance that uses a lot of energy. However, without a dishwasher, your typical home’s energy use may be even higher. How? Well, in reality, dishwashers already save a lot of both water and electricity (for heating the water). Dishwashers barely use half of the water to do the dishes that you would use to hand-wash them. Likewise, they save electricity as there is less water to heat. 

However, you can still reduce the electric consumption of an appliance like this. Purchasing an energy-efficient dishwasher usually pays off within 2-3 years and using it only when full will reduce energy costs and increase the lifespan of your appliance. Connecting the dishwasher to a source of hot water that is cheap and abundant (like solar collectors), will also help you use less energy. 

Electric Oven & Stove

Your electric oven and stove are used only once or twice a day, but can definitely increase the energy use of your electrical appliances. The thing is that both these home appliances use a lot of power, up to 2.7 kW per hour per heating place/body. For this reason, and especially if you cook often, you should consider energy-efficient appliances, such as IR ovens or induction cooktops. Alternatively, purchasing a gas stove and a gas oven can significantly reduce your energy use. 


The lights in your home may use very little power individually, but considering how many lights there are in an average US home, they may all add up to significant energy being used every time the sun is not up. To counteract this, you should consider switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LEDs, and letting more antiviral light into your home. This will counteract some electricity usage and will result in a lower power bill at the end of the month. 


Newer models of TVs use much less power than older models. If you have an old TV, it may be worth upgrading to a PLASMA, LED, or even OLED model. This way, you can still enjoy your favorite shows, but with energy use several times lower than before. Another way to save is to purchase the TV of the right size since oversizing your TV increases the energy consumed per hour of watching it. 

The real danger to your energy bill with TVs and similar devices is their standby mode. In this mode, small electric circuitry keeps working and the small LED lights that you can find on your TV will keep working, for the whole lifespan of the device or appliance. To slash vampire energy use, you should consider installing a smart power strip that you can connect all your devices to. And, truth be told, there are more and more devices around our TVs as it is. 


Computers are among the lowest energy users in a home, especially if we talk about laptops. The best way to save here is to keep the computer off whenever not in use and to use the laptop only. Unless you need a lot of computational power, you can do most of the work on your laptop as it is. 

An average laptop uses just about 45 Watts of electricity or 0.045 kWh per every hour they are plugged in. When considering the energy use of your laptop, you should also consider that all the media equipment connected to it has a high energy use as well. Speakers, for example, will easily double your laptop’s energy use and so will additional displays and other media equipment. 

The Top Power Consumers in your Home/Apartment

With many appliances around your home, the total energy use will rise. This is why we have considered energy use and some common ways to save on each appliance before. Now, let us compare the energy use of different appliances and check out how much money they can cost you to run for a full year: 

ApplianceMonthly Energy Use (kWh)Yearly Energy Use(kWh)Cost per Year - WashingtonCost per Year New York Cost per Year - Average US
Heating System90910,908$2,441.21$1,144.25$1,682.01
Water Heater3604,320$966.82$566.46$832.68
Air Conditioning 4505,400$1,208.52$556.46$832.68
Washing Machine12144$32.23$15.11$22.20
Clothes Dryer25300$67.14$31.47$46.26
Refrigerator 41492$110.11$51.61$75.87
Electric Oven60720$161.14$75.53$111.02
Electric Stove1201,440$322.27$151.06$222.05
Traditional Lights901,080$241.70$113.29$166.54
LED Lights9108$24.17$11.33$16.66
Desktop Computer36432$96.68$45.32$66.61

Tips on How to Save Energy

There are many tips on how to save energy in your home. We’ve tried to keep it simple and easy for you, so here are our top tips on how to save energy and reduce your energy bill: 

  1. Use as much natural light in your home as you can. Open up the curtains and let the light shine in, 
  2. Use LED lights, as they use up to 90% less energy compared to incandescent light bulbs. Believe it or not, old light bulbs’ energy use accounted for up to 30% of the energy bill, 
  3. Use smart plugs, as you can turn on and off all your media equipment electronics and save money on ‘vampire load’, 
  4. Invest in Energy-star certified electronics and slash your electric bills for years to come, 
  5. Be mindful of major appliances’ energy use and use them only when needed / full, 
  6. Open up curtains during sunny winter days and let the light generate hot air in your home, 
  7. Open up the windows during summer mornings and nights, to let the cool air in and reduce the strain on your air conditioner, 
  8. Use pots and pans of the matching size to the burner size – this will save energy right away, 
  9. Use lids on pots and pans when cooking, and reduce the temperature to medium-high heat, as you will get the same result as with high heat and no lid on, 
  10. Clean appliances regularly, particularly your oven and behind the fridge and the freezer, 
  11. Install LED outdoor security lights and reflectors, 
  12. Turn off the stove ten minutes before the end of cook time – residual energy will keep cooking the food, 
  13. Take up energy-free entertainment activities, such as hiking and sports, 
  14. To reduce energy use at night install motion detectors, 
  15. Use more energy during the free energy and off-peak periods, 
  16. Insulate hot water pipes, 
  17. Install a sewage water heat recovery system to reduce the electrical load on your water heater, 
  18. Reduce the water heater’s temperature by up to 20 degrees and still enjoy plenty of hot water, 
  19. Install solar panels and solar collectors, 
  20. Use a slow cooker, 
  21. Use air conditioners only in the rooms where you reside, never in the entire house, 
  22. Run a full home energy audit and see what other places you can save energy. 


Does turning the heat on and off cost more?

No, turning the heat on and off does not cost more. Most smart thermostats will turn the heat completely off when you are not at home. The thing is, keeping the rooms and the house always hot uses the most energy, so any other kind of heating mode will save energy, including turning it on and off. 

What costs the most electricity in an apartment?

Your space heaters and water heaters cost the most electricity in an apartment. Since any kind of heating uses so much energy, you should be mindful of this and insulate your home as soon as possible. To further reduce electricity load, you should also go for alternative heating sources, such as natural gas or a heat pump. 

What uses electricity overnight?

Almost all your devices and appliances use electricity overnight. The rule of thumb is that if an appliance has an LED light or a display that is always on, the appliance uses power at all times, even when it is not in use. Use smart wall outlets and smart power strips to combat this ‘vampire load’. 

Does a microwave use a lot of electricity?

Depending on the size and the model, your microwave can use a lot of electricity. In reality, these big models are usually installed in restaurants, but home models can draw a lot of power, especially if used for a long time. Still, reheating food in a microwave will cost less energy and less money than reheating it in an oven. 


Electricity use around the house can be combated by making wise choices and knowing which appliances use the most power around your home. As heating takes the most energy, insulating both your home and your hot water pipes will save you the most energy. As insulation and other energy-saving tips take some money, you should think of them as an investment, rather than an expenditure. 

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