Household Electricity Use

CAR analysed data from the largest survey of household electricity use ever carried out in the UK. We helped the Government Departments BEIS and DEFRA to understand the data so we can bring in policies to keep the country’s lights on.

The Household Electricity Use Survey was the most detailed monitoring of electricity use in the home ever undertaken in the UK. The data offered an unparalleled source of two-minute electricity profiles for households and individual appliances.

Working with Element Energy and Loughborough University, we examined the scope for demand shifting, baseload electricity demand, changes in the size and efficiency of appliances, and how different socio-economic groups and ages use electricity. We also mined the data to help draft the National Monitoring Strategy using smart meters.

How the highest and lowest social classes use most electricity

We found that households in the highest and lowest social classes – the wealthiest and the poorest – use more electricity than any other type of household. While the upper classes tend to leave more lights on at night, the lower social classes tend to leave the TV on for longer – even when they are not actually watching it.

Our summary report, ‘Powering the Nation 2’, brought together the main findings from six separate reports we wrote for the Departments over 18 months. We found that upper and middle classes are most likely to leave lights on overnight. Social classes A, B, C1 leave lights and appliances on in empty rooms for more than one hour a day, wasting 62 to 250 kWh/year per home each year. Across the population as a whole, nearly one in three of us leave lights on overnight and many more leave TVs, computers and lights unnecessarily on during the day and at peak periods.

CAR also found that households from lower social grades were more likely to watch TV for longer, and have the TV on in the background while performing other tasks. New TVs with programmable auto-off periods (which switch off when there is no interaction with the remote control) could bring significant savings here.

Our work revealed a surprising number of homes with very high electricity use for fridges and freezers, and particularly households with old freezers (15 years old or more). There was evidence suggesting around a fifth of old freezers are faulty, with the thermostat not cycling on and off as normal. These freezers consumed 330 kWh a year more than they should – more than double the usual energy consumption, at a cost of £43 a year more than usual.

You can see our reports on the Government’s website here.
Or download them directly below.

Our reports made it onto the front page of the Telegraph, and were also reported in other parts of the national press, here and here. The press coverage sparked further debate in Carbon Brief.

We also developed a tool for people to generate 24-hour profiles of different household types.


Jason Palmer
01223 460475