wikiHow to Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs

Two Parts:Kilowatts and Kilowatt-HoursCalculating Cost

Ever wonder how much that light bulb is costing you? Is it really worth switching to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs? All you need to find out is the bulb's wattage, and the cost of electricity in your building. Replacing your incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient options typically saves a few dollars in the first year, and more over a longer period of time.

Part 1
Kilowatts and Kilowatt-Hours

  1. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 1
    Find the wattage rating of the bulb. The wattage is often printed directly on the bulb as a number followed by a W. If you don't see it there, check the packaging the bulb was sold in. The watt is a unit of power, measuring the energy the bulb uses each second.
    • Ignore phrases like "100-watt equivalent," which are used to compare brightness. You want the actual number of watts the bulb uses.
  2. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 2
    Divide this number by one thousand. This converts the number from watts to kilowatts. An easy way to divide by one thousand is to move the decimal point three places to the left.
    • Example 1: A typical incandescent bulb draws 60 watts of power, or 60 / 1000 = 0.06 kilowatts.
    • Example 2: A typical fluorescent bulb uses 15 watts, or 15 / 1000 = 0.015 kW. This bulb only uses ¼ as much power as the bulb in example 1, since 15 / 60 = ¼.
  3. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 3
    Estimate the number hours the bulb is on per month. To calculate your utility bill, you'll need to know how much you use your bulb. Assuming you receive monthly utility bills, count up the number of hours the bulb is on in a typical month.
    • Example 1: Your 0.06 kW bulb is turned on for 6 hours a day, every day. In a 30-day month, that's a total of (30 days/month * 6 hrs/day) = 180 hours per month.
    • Example 2: Your 0.015 kW fluorescent bulb is on for 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. In one month, it will be on for roughly (3 hours/day * 3 days/wk * 4 wks/month) = 28 hours per month.
  4. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 4
    Multiply the kilowatt use by the number of hours. Your energy company charges you for each "kilowatt-hour" (kWh), or each kilowatt of power in use for one hour. To find the kilowatt-hours your light bulb consumes per month, multiply the kilowatt use by the number of hours it's on each month.
    • Example 1: The incandescent bulb uses 0.06 kW of power and is on for 180 hours a month. Its energy usage is (0.06 kW * 180 hours/month) = 10.8 kilowatt-hours per month.
    • Example 2: The fluorescent bulb uses 0.015 kW and is on for 28 hours a month. Its energy usage is (0.015 kW * 28 hours/month) = 0.42 kilowatt-hours per month.

Part 2
Calculating Cost

  1. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 5
    Calculate the cost of running your light bulb. Check your utility bill for the cost of each kilowatt-hour of electricity. (Average costs are roughly $0.12 per kWh in the US, or €0.20 per kWh in Europe.[1]) Multiply this by the number of kWh your bulb uses each month to estimate how much you pay to power that bulb.
    • Example 1: Your power company charges 10 US cents per kWh, or $0.10. The incandescent bulb uses 10.8 kWh/month, so running it is costing you ($0.10/kWh * 10.8 kWh/mo.) = $1.08 per month.
    • Example 2: At the same cost of $0.10 per month, the low-use fluorescent bulb costs you ($0.10/kWh * 0.42 kWh/mo.) = $0.042 per month, or about four cents.
  2. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 6
    Save on lighting costs. Light bulbs account for about 5% of the electricity bill of the average US household.[2] Although other energy savers will have a larger effect, replacing incandescent bulbs is always worth it in the long term:[3][4]
    • Replacing a traditional incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light (CFL) will typically pay for itself within 9 months. It will also last nine times as long before burning out, saving you even more money in the long run.
    • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are even more efficient and have a lifespan of 50,000 hours (almost six years of constant use). Over their whole lifespan, they save about $7 US per year.[5]
  3. Image titled Calculate Kilowatts Used by Light Bulbs Step 7
    Choose the right replacement. Consider the following when shopping for energy-efficient lighting:[6][7][8]
    • Poorly made CFL bulbs can burn out quickly. The best options have an EnergyStar logo in the US, or a rating of A+ or higher on the European Union energy label.
    • If you're lucky, the packaging will list "lumens," a measure of brightness. If not, use this estimate: a 60 watt incandescent bulb, 15 watt CFL, or 10 watt LED are all roughly the same brightness.
    • Look for a color descriptor. "Warm white" is closer to the yellow glow of an incandescent. "Cool white" heightens the contrast, which may feel harsh in living spaces.[9]
    • "Directional" LED lights focus light on a small area instead of illuminating a whole room.


  • Watts are a measure of power, not brightness. A 15W fluorescent bulb can be as bright as a 60W incandescent bulb, since fluorescent bulbs are more efficient. LED light bulbs are even more efficient, and can produce the same brightness for less than 8 watts of power.[10]
  • Do not believe the myth that leaving fluorescent lights on saves money. Although turning on the light does take a small amount of extra energy, leaving the light on between uses will use much more.[11]


  • Check your light fixture label before switching to a higher wattage light bulb. Each fixture has a maximum wattage. Using a light bulb that draws more than the maximum wattage can lead to short circuits and other damage.
  • A light bulb made for a higher voltage than your socket will use less wattage than stated on the label. This will slightly reduce the kilowatt-hours used, but the light output will be dimmer and yellower.[12] For example, a 60 watt, 130V bulb powered by a typical U.S. 120V household circuit will draw fewer than 60 watts, and produce dimmer, yellower light than a bulb labeled 60W and 120V.

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Categories: Electrical Maintenance