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From phones to fridges: the carbon cost of everyday appliances

Posted at 2024-02-19 19:47:16 by Matthew

Do you remember the countless times your parents scolded you for leaving the lights on? It's a lesson as old as time – saving electricity isn't just good for your wallet; it's good for the planet too. But have you ever wondered about the true impact of your choices when it comes to electrical appliances?

As the new year rolled in, I decided to embark on a mission to demystify our household electricity consumption. Using publicly available data and a bit of guesswork, I deconstructed our yearly electricity consumption by appliance.

The results were eye-opening:

Appliance kWh/year kWh/day kg CO2e /day
Fridge + Freezer 272 0.75 0.22
Stove + Oven 146 0.40 0.12
Laptops 142 0.39 0.12
Router 88 0.24 0.07
Dish washer 60 0.16 0.05
Washing machine 39 0.11 0.03
Lights 18 0.05 0.02
Phones 4 0.01 0.00
Weather station 3 0.01 0.00
TOTAL 772 2.12 0.63

Surprisingly, a whopping third of our emissions stemmed from our trusty fridge and freezer duo. With our penchant for home cooking and remote work, it came as no shock that the stove, oven, and laptops shared the second spot. Yet, what truly caught me off guard was the significant contribution of our humble WiFi router, quietly sipping 10 watts around the clock.

But here's the kicker – the dishwasher and washing machine, often feared as energy guzzlers, only made modest contributions. It turns out our conscious efforts to use them sparingly paid off more than we realized. And as for those lights we're so vigilant about switching off? Practically negligible, thanks to the marvel of LED technology.

So, what are the key takeaways from this deep dive into our electricity habits?

  1. Our consumption of ~800 kWh falls far below the German household average of 2600 kWh for a two-person household1. However, our water heating isn't factored into this, potentially adding several hundred kWh to the tally.
  2. Running appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine sparingly can yield significant energy savings. Plus, not having TVs, desktop PCs, or a tumble dryer further reduces our energy footprint. And living in a temperate region means we can skip the air conditioners and electric heaters, a luxury not everyone enjoys. A great resource for typical electricity consumption of all kinds of appliances can be found on Energuide.be2.
  3. Our daily emissions of ~0.3 kg CO2e per person is very modest when you consider the average daily food budget of 2.7 kg CO2e, it's clear that focusing solely on electricity isn't the silver bullet for reducing our carbon footprint.

So, as we journey through this world of household electricity consumption, let's remember that while every watt counts, there are bigger battles to fight on the road to sustainability. And armed with knowledge and a willingness to make conscious choices, we can navigate this journey with confidence and purpose.

  1. Energy consumption. (n.d.). Federal Statistical Office. (accessed 19-02-2024) 

  2. How much energy do my household appliances use? (n.d.). Energuide. (accessed 19-02-2024)