How to work out your energy usage

Learn how to calculate how much energy you use

Energy costs are sky-high, so having an understanding of how much energy you're using can give you more control over your bills, help you be more energy efficient and allow you to make savings more easily. This guide will walk you through how to work out your energy usage.

Key energy-saving guides


In this guide we've the big savings, plus thrifty crowd-sourced tips...

We debunk some common energy-saving conundrums.

MoneySavers' tips to 'heat the human', and not the whole home.

How is energy use calculated?

Energy providers calculate how much energy you're using with a measure called 'kilowatt hours' (kWh).

A kilowatt hour is equivalent to 1,000 watts of energy used over one hour. So, for example, 1 kWh would be enough to power a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours. According to energy regulator Ofgem, it would typically take a fridge freezer 26 hours to use 1 kWh, while an electric oven would use 2 kWh in just 30 minutes.

You can get a sense of how much energy your appliances use, and roughly how much they cost to run, in our Energy saving tips guide – or you can watch founder Martin Lewis's explanation of how to work it out.

If you're really dedicated, you could use this method and tot up how much all of your electrical appliances are costing you to run over your billing period, and see how close it is to your actual electricity bill.

Your energy tariff will show a unit rate and a daily standing charge

Your energy tariff will be made up of a unit rate, what you're charged for each kWh of gas or electricity you use, and a daily standing charge, what you pay for being connected to the National Grid. 

Almost all households are paying Price Cap rates right now (unless you've signed up to a fixed tariff). You can check what you should be paying with our Price Cap Calculator.

  • Martin has long campaigned for standing charges to be lowered

    MoneySavingExpert and Martin have argued that high standing charges unfairly penalise households on lower incomes and those looking to cut their usage – see Martin's 'Why are energy standing charges so high? What can be done?' blog for more info.

    Ofgem launched a public review of these charges, asking bill-payers, suppliers, charities and consumer groups for their views on them, plus how an alternative system could work. We'll update our guides with the outcome of this review when it's published.

    It's also worth noting there are variances in standing charges by region (for example, if paying by direct debit in London it's £249 a year, in North Wales and Mersey it's £335 a year) – Ofgem says this is due to the different costs of transporting power to different locations.

Understanding your energy usage and bills gives you the power to get a better deal

Having a good understanding of how much energy you're using has many benefits, including making it easier to compare the tariffs offered by different energy suppliers. While you may be able to switch to a different supplier offering a better rate, the switching market is not as competitive as it once was, and most households are on a tariff controlled by the Energy Price Cap.

To find out which deals are worth considering, see our full list of tariffs that we know about and use our Should you fix? calculator to check if it's worth switching. Alternatively, E.on Next has a variable tariff that it promises will remain £50 under the Price Cap for the next 12 months.  

Check your energy bill to find your energy consumption

Energy bill. Gas bill. Electric bill.

Deciphering energy bills can be tricky. Sometimes it's hard to work out exactly how much energy you're using, especially given that every energy supplier has its own bill format.

While it can be tempting to ignore the formulas and calculations and skip straight to the amount you owe, understanding your energy consumption will help you have more control over what you're using, and make it easier for you to make savings.

All energy bills should include the name of your tariff, the billing period and your energy use for that period, usually in kilowatt hours (kWh) and in pounds and pence.

The bill will also normally say whether your energy use is based on an actual meter reading (an 'A' may be listed), or an estimate (in which case you may see an 'E'). If your bill is based on an estimate, you can supply a meter reading – online, via your supplier's app or by phone – and then ask for an updated bill.

Try to stay on top of giving regular meter readings to your supplier. Don't do it and the company will estimate your usage – which could see your direct debits set too high if the firm has overestimated how much you use.

Use your meter to work out your energy usage


To get your most up-to-date energy use figures, you need to check your gas and electricity meters. Most homes will have two meters: one for gas and one for electricity. Reading your electricity meter is fairly straightforward, as the figures show your usage in kilowatt hours (kWh).

For gas meters, it's slightly more complicated, as they measure in cubic feet or cubic metres, so you need to convert these readings into kWh (converters are available online, or check a recent bill to see how your supplier calculates this).

A back-to-basics way of tracking your energy use is simply by checking how much these figures go up by in a certain period. Scribble down the numbers on your electricity and/or gas meter, then take another reading a day, a week or a month later. The difference will tell you how many kWh you've used in that period.

Make sure to give your supplier regular meter readings, to ensure your bills are as accurate as possible, and that you're not paying more than you should be. If you have been overpaying, it's usually possible to get some of your credit back – see Energy direct debits help.

Track your energy use with a smart meter

Over half of all UK households are now fitted with smart meters, the next generation of gas and electricity meters. They're currently being introduced across Great Britain, with the roll-out due to be completed by the end of 2025.

Smart meters make tracking energy usage easier – they automatically send meter readings to your supplier, resulting in more accurate bills, and also come with an in-home display, which should allow you to track your energy consumption in real-time and, crucially, see how much it's costing you in pounds and pence.

For more info you can read our full Smart meters guide.

You can use 'typical use' values as an estimate

Energy regulator Ofgem estimates that a typical household in England, Scotland and Wales uses 2,700 kWh of electricity and 11,500 kWh of gas in a year – and also provides average figures for what it thinks a low and a high user would consume.

You can look at these three user groups – low, medium and high – to get a rough idea of the amount of energy you're using. Which one you most closely resemble depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • the size of your home
  • the number of occupants
  • the age and health of the occupants
  • the age of your home (older or period properties tend to be less energy efficient)
  • the efficiency of your appliances

Ofgem's typical usage figures

 User group Average annual electricity use Average annual gas use
Low see description 1,800 kWh 7,500 kWh
Medium see description 2,700 kWh 11,500 kWh
High – see description 4,100 kWh 17,000 kWh

Do bear in mind that this will give you only a rough idea of your energy usage. Working it out yourself or checking a bill from your supplier will give you a more accurate picture of what you're using.

  • Low: Typically one or two people living in a one or two-bedroom flat who are home in the evenings and at weekends, and do laundry once a week. These households typically use the central heating from time to time but don't use a tumble dryer or dishwasher.

  • Medium: Usually three or four people living in a three-bedroom house. Some household members are at home during the day, as well as in the evenings and at weekends, and they do an average of three loads of laundry a week. The central heating and electrical appliances are used regularly.

    Ofgem's Price Cap figures are based on typical medium use. The current Price Cap of £1,928 a year (falling to £1,690 a year from 1 April) is what the average household – one that falls within the medium usage group – will pay on a dual-fuel tariff. Those in the low usage group are likely to pay less, while those in the high energy use group will probably pay more as the cap only limits the rates and standing charges you pay – the more energy you use, the more it'll cost you.

  • High: Households with more than four residents, such as students and large families, typically fall within the high energy usage group. In these households, someone is always at home during the day, in the evenings and at weekends. Large appliances such as the washing machine and dishwasher are used daily and there might be more than one television.
  • Typical use is higher for those with an Economy 7 meter

    For those with Economy 7 meters (often households with electric storage heaters), the typical electricity use is estimated to be higher, at 3,900 kWh a year (although many will argue that this still isn't high enough). That's because these households don't tend to have a gas supply, so all of their appliances are powered by electricity.

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