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5 Energy-hungry Appliances


Heating System

To save energy, upgrade to a programmable thermostat.
To save energy, upgrade to a programmable thermostat.
Photo courtesy of Energy Star

A home heating system is one of hungriest home appliances. It's also arguably the most necessary one.

The kWh range for heating devices is extremely broad, running from a measly 100 kWh per month to a shocking 3,500 kWh/month [source: MCEC] (if you live in a cold region, you've probably been shocked by your heating bill more than once). It all depends on which type of heat you use and how efficient your particular model is. Here are some approximate numbers for various systems:

  • Baseboard unit: 100-500 kWh/month
  • Portable heater: 200-300 kWh/month 
  • Heat pump: 900-2,000 kWh/month 
  • Electric furnace: 1,500-3,500 kWh/month
  • [source: MCEC]

Other factors include where you set the thermostat and whether you have a programmable thermostat to cut back on wasted heat. Upgrading to a more efficient heating unit is the best way to reduce your heat-related energy use -- there are furnaces out there that operate at 97 percent efficiency, while your model may only be 78 percent efficient [source: Peterson]. Short of an expensive upgrade, you can also help your system work more efficiently and lower your kWh if you:

  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat.
  • Make sure the thermostat isn't located near any sources of heat or cold that might mess with its reading.
  • Set the thermostat to the lowest temperature at which you're comfortable.
  • Seal and insulate your home's ducts.
  • Make sure nothing is blocking your vents.
  • Replace your filters regularly.
  • [source: Peterson]

And perhaps the best new habit to embrace: If you're feeling a bit cold, put on a sweatshirt.

For more information on appliance efficiency and related topics, look over the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Air Conditioner Efficiency Tips." Wolfe Plumbing. All Things Frugal.
  • "Dehumidifier and Humidifiers." Responsible Energy.
  • "Energy Calculator." Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative.
  • "Estimating Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use. Energy Savers." U.S. Department of Energy.
  • "Freezers." Health Goods.
  • "How Efficient is Your Refrigerator?" Hawaiian Electric Company.
  • "Operating Costs of Household Appliances." Cornhusker Public Power District.
  • Peterson, Josh. "High-Efficiency Heating Tips." Planet Green. Discovery. June 25, 2008.
  • "U.S. Household Electricity Report. Energy Information Administration." U.S. Department of Energy. July 14, 2005.
  • "Water Heating." Energy Savers. U.S. Department of Energy.


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