Amps, Volts and Watts: What it means for energy efficiency

electric guy

If you’ve ever purchased any sort of electronic device for your home, odds are you’ve come across the terms amperage (amps), voltage (volts) and wattage (watts). But what exactly do all these terms mean, and why do they matter? In short, having an understanding of amps, volts and watts can help you save money on your monthly electric bill and be a more informed shopper. Check out the following guide to get a better understanding of what these terms mean and how they can impact your monthly electric bill.

A guide to understanding: amps, volts and watts

A good analogy for understanding what these terms mean is to think of them like water flowing through a hose. With that in mind let’s review the definitions for each of these terms.

Amps – This is the measure of how much electricity is flowing through an electrical line, which is like the amount of water flowing through a hose.

Volts –  This is the measure of how strong or the force of electricity flowing through an electrical line, which is like the pressure of the water flowing through a hose. Most devices in the US are rated at 120 volts, with large appliances sometimes using 220 V, like clothes dryers. Effectively, this means those appliances can suck more power per minute than appliances rated at 120 V.

Watts – This is the result of multiplying amps and volts together (amps x volts = watts), which is the working capacity of the electricity.

Check out these videos to get a better idea of how amps, volts and watts work:

Now let’s take a look at how these three things are used around your home and how they impact your monthly electric bill:

Every month your electric company sends you a bill for the amount of electricity that you use, and this is determined by the amount of kilowatts (1 kilowatt = 1,000watts) your home consumes. Therefore, the more amps and volts your electronics and appliances require to operate, the higher your monthly electric bill will be. It’s just that simple.

It’s important to note that even when some of your appliances and electronics are “turned off” they could still be drawing a small amount of power (watts). This is referred to as either vampire power or a phantom load, and these extra watts will add money to your monthly electric bill. It’s a good idea to go around your home with a watt-meter and identify which of your appliances are drawing this phantom power. Once you’ve identified them, try installing a smart strip or unplugging them all together when they’re not in use. This will reduce your home’s phantom load and save you money every month!

If you’re curious about other ways you can save energy and money around your home, check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Atomic Toasters.







About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

5 comments

  • At night, my incoming voltage zooms to 251, very, very close to the edge. I’ll bet I can’t even see a proper rating if I tried. During the day, the voltage will go down to about 246, or so, so I’m high-rated incoming power constantly.

  • Something seems wrong about this water analogy. The sink analogy demonstrates that more water is escaping the punctured hole with the increased weight. Good analogy for voltage but what is the water? Electrical current, amperage? Yet we know that higher voltage reduces amps. THis is confusing me.

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