Average household electricity use around the world

by Lindsay Wilson in Housing

Average households electricity use

Do you know how much electricity your home uses each year?

If you do this post will let you see how you compare to the rest of the world.

Reducing the carbon footprint from your home’s power use is a theme we will post a lot on in the future.  As a primer for these posts we are going to look at how much electricity households use around the world, and what per person use is in different countries.

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Average Household Electricity Use

About 80% of people in the world have access to electricity.  This figure has increased in the last decade, mainly due to increasing urbanization.  But despite the fact that more and more people are getting access to electricity we use very different amounts of it.

Using data from the World Energy Council we can compare how much electricity the average electrified household uses in different countries.

Average Household Electricity UseAcross the countries we chose to compare household electricity use varies enormously.  The average American or Canadian household in 2010 used about twenty times more than the typical Nigerian household, and two to three times more than a typical European home.

In the US typical household power consumption is about 11,700 kWh each year, in France it is 6,400 kWh, in the UK it is 4,600 kWh and in China around 1,300 kWh.  The global average electricity consumption for households with electricity was roughly 3,500 kWh in 2010.

There are numerous things that drive these differences, including wealth, physical house size, appliance standards, electricity prices and access to alternative cooking, heating and cooling fuels.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in this chart is that the global average is as high as 3,500 kWh/year, given that the figures for India and China are so low.  Two things explain this, household size and electrification rates.

In China about 99% of people have electricity and average household size is around 3.  In India these are 66% and 5 respectively  and in Nigeria 50% and 5.  Average household size in most wealthy countries is closer to 2.5 people.  As a result the distribution of electrified households is more skewed towards wealthy countries than population in general.

Home Electricity Use Per Person

By taking residential electricity use and dividing it by population we can look at how much electricity the average person uses at home in each country.  Unlike in our previous graph this chart takes in to account all the people in each country, so for places where electricity access is not universal the figures are lower.

Home Electricity Use Per Person


Although the graphs look very similar there are some striking differences.

Each American uses about 4,500 kWh per year in their home.  This is about six times that of the global average per capita, or more than five times the average for those who have electricity access.

The variation between developed countries is also quite stark.  While the US and Canada are up around 4,500 kWh per person the UK and Germany are below 2,000 kWh.  In Brazil, Mexico and China per person use is just 500 kWh, but growth is very different.  In Brazil residential use per person has been stable over the last 20 years, whereas in Mexico it is up 50% and in China it has increased 600%.

Where is yours like?

Our household electricity use has been 2,000 kWh each of the last few years, which means it is about 700 kWh per person.  We benefit from not using electricity for heating or cooling, although our electric oven is a big source of demand.

That makes us a Brazilian family, but global people ;-)

How do you stack up?


Related post: How do we use electricity?

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    • http://findingbetterways.blogspot.com Linda

      I’m on par with the British home. In my old, drafty, uninsulated, single paned windowed home with horrible exposures both for winter north winds and summer southwest sunshine. AC is a must for the hottest months, but try to dress right and use fans only throughout spring and fall. And I try to set the winter thermostat to the low 60s and dress warm, but I’m really not comfortable at those temps.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        In Britain only about one fifth of power is used for heating, and we really don’t need air-con. So given your dodgy insulation and the fact you heat and cool that is pretty frugal by some standards. Of course you can see from the numbers it really varies enormously depending on wealth, among other things

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    • http://www.pocketdialuk.com Jonathan

      Hi Lindsay,

      Do you know if it is possible to understand sleeping patterns on a country by country basis by looking at domestic energy consumption?

      If so, where could I get this data?



      • Lindsay Wilson

        Sorry Jon, haven’t got a clue about that one. Interesting question. I wonder to the increasingly common use of mobile devices makes it harder to see activity in the load curve anyhow?!

        • http://www.pocketdialuk.com Jonathan

          Yes good point! In fact data usage would be another interesting one to look at although it might be more influenced by mobile/internet penetration in any particular country.
          Thanks for getting back to me. J

          • Lindsay Wilson

            Yep, I think data usage on mobiles and tablets would be useful for young people in wealthier countries, though I’m sure there must be a good morning spike for kettles, bathroom lights, water pumps . .

    • http://digitalblogindia.in/ Kunal

      My electricity consumption in Australia is about 4015 KWh for 3 people. My cooking as well as boiler runs on electricity. I have no gas. The wastage in USA is appalling. There are too many lights in every room and all the McMansions have heating and cooling running 24 hours. My two housemates waste a lot of electricity by washing clothes in warm water and my washing machine is only 1 energy star which doesn’t help.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        That is pretty impressive with no gas! We use are around 1800 kWh per year in the UK for 4 people on electricity and produce around 3000 kWh with solar. Gas is our problem, using as much as 10,000 kWh for heating and water. Gradually improving insulation helping

        • http://digitalblogindia.in/ Kunal

          Must be cold out there. I live in Brisbane so i can do without heating in winter and cooling in summer. I do not use or have dryer either because we get enough sunshine throughout the year.

          • Lindsay Wilson

            Yep. Now I’m jealous. I grew up in Canberra and Sydney, but met an english girl in Byron 12 years ago. Looking forward to moving home some day!

            For reference, using a 20 C base we have 3,500 heating degree days (HDD) here, in New Farm it is just 700. So yes, its colder. We also don’t use a dryer, though it is a pain in the winter. Lindsay

      • CriticUKGermanComparison

        I think high levels of energy consumption are cool provided efforts are made to obtain “free” energy with low footprint. The problem is not the wastage it is the production of clean energy. In my view we should not leave it to the market but we should have certain national or international investments (not simply in fusion as with the ITER project in France) but for example widespread geothermal. If each garden in Britain had a 300 metre hole we would not need household gas. If the government borrowed 100 billion to do it, the cost per hole would go down. We would spearhead a tunnelling industry which could connect our cities with underground supersonic trains running in a vacuum and we could export these technologies. Who wants to see wind turbines and solar panels? not me. If the solar panels could be made to resemble tree leaves (an idea I had but some Japanese guy filed a similar patent) OK? but otherwise I want the stuff underground. I do not want to see or hear things, keep it all underground or far away (take a whole area of a country and shove millions of solar panels to generate electricity for all of Europe, perhaps do that in Ukraine or in Libya which have vast areas of uninhabited land.

    • Eric Gold

      We are mostly a 2 people household, although our college aged kids come home on holidays and some summers. Winter heating and hot water by NG, while cooking is electric. Home is in New Mexico — the southwest United States where we have about 1000 cooling degree days and 4000 heating degree days. House size is 265 square meters (2850 square feet.)

      10 years ago our average monthly electric consumption was about 1000 kWh a month. Through the years conservation efforts and a switch from electric to NG for hot water have reduced our monthly electric consumption about 90%, now at 100 kWh a month.

      Overall NG consumption is also reduced by about 50% from a decade ago by improving home insulation and installing windows for passive solar heating.

      I make it a point to avoid measures that reduce energy consumption but cost more than had no change been made. Put simply, my unsubsidized carbon and pollution reduction measures have SAVED me money.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        Hey Eric, we are in England but it sounds like we have a similar approach (though a smaller house). All our heating and hot water is gas, cooking electric. I have insulated walls and loft, and improved the windows and draughtproofing but stopped short of external insulation as the payback just isn’t there. We also keep certain areas of the house much warmer than the others.

        What is up with those degree days? I’m used to metric. Are they in Fahrenheit? Is the base 65 F?

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    • Tony

      I’m looking for an accurate average household use in Canada, wondering or calculating how much natural gas I would burn, it’s cost, to run the appropriate generator?

      Essentially, would the cost of natural gas be cheaper the an electric bill from my local coal polluter?

      There is a 100+ year surplus of natural gas in the Alberta Province.

      It was never my idea, someone else suggested it be used to also add to the grid. House hold to house hold a fail proof system could be devised.

      Any suggestions?


      • Lindsay Wilson

        These figures are pretty accurate? As for using gas, due to economies of scale I’d be baffled if someone can make their own electricity cheaper. Large power plants have huge efficiency advantages which I’d imagine outweigh distributional costs

    • Kanika Gulati

      We use electric water heaters in every bathroom like most houses in India that are switched on when needed and an electric oven that we use occasionally. We have AC (all 5* rated – I hated the thought of having to buy them, but it’s getting hotter every year) in all bedrooms but due to the moderate weather we tend to use it not much more than 1 month in the year. The washing machine runs daily (2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 grandparents at least 6 months in the year), but no dryer. Last year’s consumption = 5084Kwh. We recently acquired a dishwasher and I’m wondering what to cut in order to not increase the energy consumption. Switch off appliances? Recently started leaving set top box on 24 hrs to record programmes, which I earlier used to switch off when not in use. Also started leaving modem and router on with guests in the house, you never know when it’s needed. Feeling a bit ashamed that we’re >5 times national average per household and any advice on how to do a detailed analysis of our energy consumption and ways to reduce it would be appreciated.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        Hey Kanika. No point in feeling ashamed, your house sounds completely electric. Air-con is a reality in some climates. I’m doing a program about this soon, but essentially you need to try and tackle standby (set-top box may be high), switch off when you go to be and get a energy monitor to work out what can be made more efficient and what you are stuck with. If you start using an energy monitor you’ll be able to work out the major loads. I’d imagine most is the water heater and AC, in which case you’ll only be able to tweak how you use them. Cool family unit!!! 2:2:2

      • http://digitalblogindia.in/ Kunal

        First of all don’t compare your consumption to national average as India is not very urbanized and not every has modern living. Your living is more or less westernized. My modem is on 24 hours and takes up only 10W of power. Thats 240W in entire day which is not too bad. Your set top box will also won’t use up a lot. The main stuff is fridge, oven, a/c, dishwasher, washing machine etc. Two things you can do to save electricity are – try installed gas based water heater if possible in the bathroom. We have this in our house in india and works great. Second wash clothes in cold water…most Indians wash clothes in warm water.

    • CriticUKGermanComparison

      Well I installed Finnish quadruple glazing throughout my house. It was an extreme thing I did to overcome the liberal laws in this country (UK) which permit dog owners to annoy neighbours by keeping barking dogs. I did it for sound insulation. What I noticed was that as I bought the stuff directly from Scandinavia I saved many thousands of pounds over buying it in the UK. I had the same experience buying a German kitchen it cost me half in Germany as the same exact thing in the UK. Having installed the windows days prior to that very cold winter that we had, I noticed that my consumption of gas went down to half, it was way lower than before these windows (I had double glazing). At first the windows looked very strange and opened inwards but now I value them because it keeps the outside world outside where it should be, annoying drivers and neighbours away from my sophisticated and educated self. Another advantage of such windows is that one can fit blinds behind the inside window and before the outside window. Each window operates its own Venetian blind which is very cool. One can also fit a third window that is like a mosquito net (these windows open inwards not outwards “alla Anglais”). This third window stays put when you open the other two allowing fresh air and keeping any insects outside. I discovered that my choice led to many nice consequences. I also got doors from France which are thermal, sound and fire proof and these complemented the windows to result in a much improved British detached house dwelling.

    • Clayton Boye

      Are there any requirements that a landlord provide insulation, insulated windows, and energy-efficient appliances? I rent a 1,400-square-foot two-story townhouse with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, a gally kitchen, small dining room and an average size living room. Four people live here. It has an electric water heater and an old heat pump for heating and cooling. My total usage in 2013 was 25,171 kWh — or 2,096 on average, compared to the national average of 975 a month, which includes many homes that are much larger. In the current cold snap in Virginia, usage has reached 3,141 kWh per month, and yet the temperature in the townhouse was 57 degrees and the pipes in one bathroom froze.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        Oh that sounds horrible. In the UK there is legislation to regulate landlords slowly coming in, but I’m not sure of much with teeth in the US. You are unlucky to be stuck on electricity for everything. Electric heating is normally confined to the most southern states in the US. Nat gas is dominat, heating oil in north east. Really not sure what to say, only good thing I guess is having four people to split the bill and relatively low electricity prices on a global scale http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/average-electricity-prices-kwh

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    • litesp33d

      It is interesting to note that the USA, Canada and Australia are accused of high electricity consumption. However these are nations that have extreme climates of both heat and cold. Has anyone done any comparisons of a US state where it has less temperature variation like Virginia and heating and cooling may be less significant?

      • Lindsay Wilson

        It’s just data, not an accusation. The first thing to look at is really house size rather than climate. Then climate, fuels, income . . .

      • MrL0g1c

        Americans are incredibly wasteful according to the numbers, the average household uses about 4.2kWh a day on lighting, whilst some others in this thread manage do do everything with that much power.

        Really the charts should be per capita, not per household.

    • atish

      We live in the Bay Area, California. Thanks to the great climate, we rarely use AC or Heater. All of the light sin my house are CFL or LED, with sensors. We do use electric stoves. My house uses 5,000 KWH/year for a family of four people. This brings the per person consumption to 1000 kwH/year roughly the same as Russia.

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    • barth

      I live in the Netherlands, Single person household. Last year I used 2400 KWh and that was too much. An average single household in the Netherlands have a consumption of 1800 to 2000 kwh per year. So I am cutting my electricity consumption. It will be less than 1400 kwh this year.
      Right now it is about 22 to 26 kwh per week. But that’s without heating.
      The heating is by gas. I also try to lower my gas usage.

    • William Kevin

      I am surprised about Canada…

      Yes we have extreme climate shifts but we also build our houses accordingly…things like R40 in roofs is standard. Double pane argon filled windows etc…means our AC and Heating is much more efficient.

      must be the internet and porn.

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    • Tavuk Che

      I don’t these comparisons are fair. In the UK many of us use gas to heat our homes – British Gas estimates 13,000 kWh per household. In the US and France many homes use electricity for heating (which is admittedly less efficient), I don’t think many conclusions can be drawn about the figures from the graphs. I think that if you included all energy use – gas in the UK, and perhaps the very polluting solid fuel options that developing countries use, there would be less of a differential in the figures.

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