Residential electricity meter located in Canada
|Unit system||Non-SI metric|
|Symbol||kWh or kW⋅h, kW h|
|1 kWh in ...||... is equal to ...|
|SI units||3.6 MJ|
|CGS units||3.6×1013 erg|
|English Engineering units||≈ 2,655,224 ft⋅lbf|
|British Gravitational units||≈ 85,429,300 ft⋅pdl|
The kilowatt-hour (kWh, also kW⋅h or kW h) is a unit of energy equal to 3600 kilojoules (3.6 megajoules). The kilowatt-hour is commonly used as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers by electric utilities.
The kilowatt-hour is a composite unit of energy equal to one kilowatt (kW) of power sustained for one hour. Expressed in the standard unit of energy in the International System of Units (SI), the joule (symbol J), it is equal to 3600 kilojoules (3.6 MJ).
Other abbreviations and symbols may be encountered:
- "kW h" is less commonly used. It is consistent with SI standards. The international standard for SI states that in forming a compound unit symbol, "Multiplication must be indicated by a space or a half-high (centered) dot (⋅), since otherwise some prefixes could be misinterpreted as a unit symbol" (i.e., kW h or kW⋅h). This is supported by a voluntary standard issued jointly by an international (IEEE) and national (ASTM) organization. However, at least one major usage guide and the IEEE/ASTM standard allow "kWh" (but do not mention other multiples of the watt-hour). One guide published by NIST specifically recommends against "kWh" "to avoid possible confusion".
- "kW⋅h" is, like "kW h", consistent with (and preferred by) SI standards, but it is less commonly used in practice.
- The United States official fuel-economy window sticker for electric vehicles uses the abbreviation "kW-hrs".
- Variations in capitalization are sometimes seen: KWh, KWH, kwh, etc.; these are inconsistent with the International System of Units.
- The notation "kW/h" is not a correct symbol for kilowatt-hour, as it denotes kilowatt per hour instead.
Electrical energy is typically sold to consumers in kilowatt-hours. The cost of running an electrical device is calculated by multiplying the device's power consumption in kilowatts by the operating time in hours, and by the price per kilowatt-hour. The unit price of electricity charged by utility companies may depend on the customer's consumption profile over time. Prices vary considerably by locality. In the United States prices in different states can vary by a factor of three.
While smaller customer loads are usually billed only for energy, transmission services, and the rated capacity, larger consumers also pay for peak power consumption, the greatest power recorded in a fairly short time, such as 15 minutes. This compensates the power company for maintaining the infrastructure needed to provide peak power. These charges are billed as demand changes. Industrial users may also have extra charges according to the power factor of their load.
Major energy production or consumption is often expressed as terawatt-hours (TW⋅h) for a given period that is often a calendar year or financial year. A 365-day year equals 8,760 hours, so over a period of one year, power of one gigawatt equates to 8.76 terawatt-hours of energy. Conversely, one terawatt-hour is equal to a sustained power of about 114 megawatts for a period of one year.
An electric heater consuming 1000 watts (1 kilowatt), and operating for one hour uses one kilowatt-hour of energy. A television consuming 100 watts operating for 10 hours continuously uses one kilowatt-hour. A 40-watt electric appliance operating continuously for 25 hours uses one kilowatt-hour. In terms of human power, a healthy adult male manual laborer performs work equal to about one half of one kilowatt-hour over an eight-hour day.
To convert a quantity measured in a unit in the left column to the units in the top row, multiply by the factor in the cell where the row and column intersect.
|1 J = 1 kg⋅m2⋅s−2 =||1||2.77778 × 10−4||2.77778 × 10−7||6.241 × 1018||0.239|
|1 Wh =||3.6 × 103||1||0.001||2.247 × 1022||859.8|
|1 kWh =||3.6 × 106||1,000||1||2.247 × 1025||8.598 × 105|
|1 eV =||1.602 × 10−19||4.45 × 10−23||4.45 × 10−26||1||3.827 × 10−20|
|1 cal =||4.2||1.163 × 10−3||1.163 × 10−6||2.613 × 1019||1|
Watt-hour multiples 
All the SI prefixes are commonly applied to the watt-hour: a kilowatt-hour is 1,000 Wh (kWh, also kW⋅h or kW h); a megawatt-hour is 1 million Wh (MWh, also MW⋅h or MW h); a milliwatt-hour is 1/1000 W⋅h (mWh, also mW⋅h or mW h) and so on. The kilowatt-hour is commonly used by electrical energy providers for purposes of billing, since the monthly energy consumption of a typical residential customer ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand kilowatt-hours. Megawatt-hours (MWh), gigawatt-hours (GWh), and terawatt-hours (TWh) are often used for metering larger amounts of electrical energy to industrial customers and in power generation. The terawatt-hour and petawatt-hour (PWh) units are large enough to conveniently express the annual electricity generation for whole countries and the world energy consumption.
Distinguishing between kilowatt-hours (energy) and kilowatts (power)
For example, a battery stores energy. When the battery delivers its energy, it does so at a certain power, that is, the rate of delivery of the energy. The higher the power, the quicker the battery's stored energy is delivered. A higher power output will cause the battery's stored energy to be depleted in a shorter time period.
Electric energy production and consumption are sometimes reported on a yearly basis, in units such as megawatt-hours per year (MWh/yr) gigawatt-hours/year (GWh/yr) or terawatt-hours per year (TWh/yr). These units have dimensions of energy divided by time and thus are units of power. They can be converted to SI power units by dividing by the number of hours in a year, about 8766 h/yr.
Thus, 1 GWh/yr ≈ 114.08 kW.
Misuse of watts per hour
Power units measure the rate of energy per unit time. Many compound units for various kinds of rates explicitly mention units of time: for example, miles per hour, kilometres per hour, dollars per hour. Kilowatt-hours are a product of power and time, not a rate of change of power with time.
Watts per hour (W/h) is a unit of a change of power per hour, i.e. an acceleration in the delivery of energy. It is used to measure the daily variation of demand (e.g. the slope of the duck curve), or ramp-up behavior of power plants. For example, a power plant that reaches a power output of 1 MW from 0 MW in 15 minutes has a ramp-up rate of 4 MW/h. Hydroelectric power plants have a very high ramp-up rate, which makes them particularly useful in peak load and emergency situations.
Other uses of terms such as watts per hour are likely to be errors.
Several other units related to kilowatt-hour are commonly used to indicate power or energy capacity or use in specific application areas.
Average annual power production or consumption can be expressed in kilowatt-hours per year. This is used with loads or output that vary during the year but that are similar in each year. For example, it is useful to compare the energy efficiency of household appliances whose power consumption varies with time or the season of the year. Another use case is to measure the energy produced by a distributed power source. One kilowatt-hour per year equals about 114.08 milliwatts applied constantly during one year.
The energy content of a battery is usually expressed indirectly by its capacity in ampere-hours; to convert ampere-hour (Ah) to watt-hours (Wh), the ampere-hour value must be multiplied by the voltage of the power source. This value is approximate, since the battery voltage is not constant during its discharge, and because higher discharge rates reduce the total amount of energy that the battery can provide. In the case of devices that output a different voltage than the battery, it is the battery voltage (typically 3.7 V for Li-ion) that must be used to calculate rather than the device output (for example, usually 5.0 V for USB portable chargers). This results in a 500 mA USB device running for about 3.7 hours on a 2500 mAh battery, not five hours.
The Board of Trade unit (BOTU) is an obsolete UK synonym for kilowatt-hour. The term derives from the name of the Board of Trade which regulated the electricity industry until 1942 when the Ministry of Power took over.
- Thompson, Ambler and Taylor, Barry N. (2008). Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) Archived June 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine (Special publication 811). Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology. 12.
- "Half-high dots or spaces are used to express a derived unit formed from two or more other units by multiplication.", Barry N. Taylor. (2001 ed.) The International System of Units. Archived June 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine (Special publication 330). Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology. 20.
- http://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_en.pdf The International System of Units (SI)] Archived April 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. (2006, 8th ed.) Paris: International Bureau of Weights and Measures. 130.
- IEC Electropedia, Entry 131-11-58 Archived March 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- See for example: Wind Energy Reference Manual Part 2: Energy and Power Definitions Archived November 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Danish Wind Energy Association. Retrieved 9 January 2008; "Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)" Archived March 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved 9 January 2008; "US Nuclear Power Industry" Archived November 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine www.world-nuclear.org. Retrieved 9 January 2008; "Energy. A Beginners Guide: Making Sense of Units" Archived November 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Renew On Line (UK). The Open University. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
- ASTM SI10-10, IEEE/ASTM SI 10 American National Standard for Metric Practice, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2010, [www.astm.org] "The symbols for certain compound units of electrical power engineering are usually written without separation, thus: watthour (Wh), kilowatthour (kWh), voltampere (VA), and kilovoltampere (kVA)"
- "Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI)" (PDF). physics.nist.gov. National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
Reference [4: ISO 31-0] suggests that if a space is used to indicate units formed by multiplication, the space may be omitted if it does not cause confusion. This possibility is reflected in the common practice of using the symbol kWh rather than kW⋅h or kW h for the kilowatt-hour. Nevertheless, this Guide takes the position that a half-high dot or a space should always be used to avoid possible confusion;
- Standard for the Use of the International System of Units (SI): The Modern Metric System. (1997). (IEEE/ASTM SI 10-1997). New York and West Conshohocken, PA: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and ASTM. 15.
- Chicago Manual of Style. (14th ed., 1993) University of Chicago Press. 482.
- Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) p.12 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- "Electric Vehicles: Learn More About the New Label". fueleconomy.gov. US Department of energy. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, U.S. Energy Information Administration, April 2018
- "Understanding Electric Demand" Archived June 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, National Grid
- Useful data - Cambridge repository website repository.cam.ac.uk; see page 328.
- "The Board of Trade 1621-1970". Archived from the original on 2010.
- "Get enlightened about electricity". The Financial Express. December 20, 2004. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "BHEL manufactured units generate record power". The Hindu. Press Trust of India. July 24, 2008. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2009.