Energy 101 – Measuring Electricity

March 01, 2023

What’s the difference between kilowatt-hours (kWh) and kilowatts (kW)? Even though they sound similar, and are related, they measure something different. Understanding how energy is measured is the first step in making smart energy decisions in your home or business.

A kilowatt-hour is a measure of energy. The amount of electricity your home or business uses over a period of time is measured in kilowatt-hours. For example, if you clean your floors with a 1,000-watt vacuum cleaner for one hour, you use one kWh of energy.

A kilowatt reflects your demand—the rate at which electricity is consumed at a given point in time. Very high peaks in demand push the power grid to its limit during busy times of the day or extreme weather events.

You can compare your energy use to a speedometer in a car. Imagine that demand  (kW) is like your speedometer and energy (kWh) is like your odometer. The speedometer tells you the current speed (your demand right now), while the odometer tells you how far you’ve gone (total energy used). 

To learn more about measuring electricity, visit our Kilowatts, Kilowatt Hours, and Demand page.