What is a Watt?


Seeing ‘watt’ may have you reminiscing a particular summer of high school where your teacher got out some crocodile clips and you discovered how electricity works, leaving you thinking ‘what’s the point?’

Watts are more useful to you than only helping you to reminisce your 14-year old days.

When you get your energy bill, most of us look at the price, if anything; some people just let the direct debit come out of their account. However, you may be surprised by how much you can learn when you invest time in processing your energy bills.

Especially now that the nation has been spending an unprecedented amount of time at home, you could be saving yourself a lot of money by being more mindful of your appliances. Leaving things on standby, or never turning them off at all, wastes energy which you then still must pay for. With many employees lacking financial security at the moment, it is something worth spending time monitoring.

Knowing what a watt is allows you to understand what a kilowatt is, and then a kilowatt-hour.

If you can understand what a kilowatt hour is, then you can understand:

  • how your bills are worked out by your supplier,
  • why some appliances use more than others do – even how much individual appliances might use, and
  • why it is important to switch appliances off at the wall to save on your energy costs.

Using this knowledge, you can better monitor your gas and electricity usage. Through this monitoring you can reduce your energy costs – saving money and the environment.

Thinking of switching? Watt’s important

Understanding your specific, monitored usage allows you to make really accurate comparisons if you’re thinking of switching your provider.

Why? Because you can look at the exact charge of energy (gas or electricity) per kilowatt hour (kWh), allowing you to make an accurate estimation of your bill costs with each supplier.

What is a Watt?

First, we will look at what a watt is.

However, some background information is required beforehand in order to contextualise the information.

What is ‘energy’?Energy is the capacity something has to do work,
such as creating light, heat or motion.
What is ‘power’?Power is the rate at which energy is EITHER
consumed or produced by an item. It is measured in watts

So, what is a watt?

A watt is a unit of power.

A watt details the rate at which energy is consumed by an item; how much energy it needs to function.

The watt is named after Scottish engineer James Watt.

What is a Kilowatt?

Kw stands for kilowatt. A kilowatt is, simply, 1,000 watts.

This means a 10,000-watt shower could be referred to as a 10kW shower.

Kilowatts are what your energy is bought in. Generally, 1 Kw of gas will cost you around 4p, while 1 Kw of electricity will cost around 15p.

Power plants measured their capacity in kW. This is because capacity measures the maximum electricity which could be generated at any given instance. The rate at which energy may flow out of a power plant is measured in kilowatt hours.

What is a Kilowatt Hour?

A kilowatt hour IS NOT the number of kilowatts you use per hour.A kWh is a measure of how much energy you are using. It calculates how much energy would be used if you left a 1000-watt appliance running for an hour.

What could this look like?

A 100-watt lightbulb would take 10 hours to use 1 kWh of energy, a 50-watt lightbulb would take 20 hours to use 1kWh of energy, etc.
It’s difficult to estimate how much appliances may use because similar appliances can have very different wattages; here are some rough examples:

ApplianceWattage (watts)Amount of Time
Shower10,0006 minutes
Immersion Heater3,00020 Minutes
Oven2,00030 Minutes
Iron1,00060 Minutes
Plasma TV280 – 4503 Hours
Laptop20 – 50All Day

How Many kWh Should I Be Using?

Your energy usage typically depends on the size of your home, the number of people whom you share your home with, and the amount of time you spend at home vs. in an office etc. Usage also depends on from which supply you get your energy (e.g., is your oven gas or electricity powered). The latter reason is why many people’s household expenses have increased across the Covid-19 lockdowns, as more time and energy is being spent at home.

However, you can roughly expect to use:

House SizeDwellersTime in/outElectricityGas
Small1Full time job outside2,0009,000
Three Bedroom2 Adults 1 ChildFull Job and education3,20013,500
Four Bedroom4 StudentsIn the house all the time4,90019,000

Using This Information

Your energy bill will detail how many kWh you’re using each month. Using this information, you can then work out the amount of energy you’re consuming. This will help you reduce usage, if you need to, and accurately predict future usage, such as for when you plan on swapping providers.

If you multiply the wattage of any appliance by the number of hours you use the appliance for, then divide by 1000, you’ll have the kWh measurement for that appliance. You can do this for most appliances as the wattage is usually written on the plug/appliance itself.

Watts to Calories

Imagine the world was powered by Big Macs, what would that look like?

There are 563 calories in a Big Mac, which equates to 0.65 watts.

What would this mean in terms of generating power?

It would take 650 Big Macs to generate 1 kWh of power, meaning it would take 650 Big Macs to power the aforementioned following:

ApplianceWattage (watts)Amount of Time
Shower10,0006 minutes
Immersion Heater3,00020 Minutes
Oven2,00030 Minutes
Iron1,00060 Minutes
Plasma TV280 – 4503 Hours
Laptop20 – 50All Day

How about if Big Macs had to power their own construction?

Typically, a McDonald’s restaurant uses between 500,000 to 700,000 kWh of electricity each year.

This means a daily average of 1650 kWh per restaurant.

650 Big Macs are used to create 1 kWh of energy. This means 1,072,500 Big Macs would be required to power a McDonalds for the day.

That is 390 million Big Macs a year in order to power only one restaurant.

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