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Yikes! My hair dryer uses HOW much electricity?

Last week, I wrote about measuring the electricity my computer was using by plugging it into an electrical meter called a Kill a Watt.

Hair Dryer OffThis week, I decided to try my hair dryer with the Kill a Watt, and holy cow. So my computer was drawing about 92 watts. My hair dryer on low used 402 watts. Switch it to high, and it goes to 1440 watts!

Why is that number so high? Well, the hair dryer is producing heat, and that can consume a lot of electricity. Here’s a great list from the Department of Energy with the typical wattages of many appliances. Some of the big electricity users are obvious: your water heater, your refrigerator, dishwashers. But some of the smaller appliances on the list that are unexpectedly high produce a lot of heat: irons, toasters and hair dryers, for instance.

On the other hand, just because an appliance uses a lot of electricity while it’s on doesn’t mean much, because it all depends on how long you leave it on. Remember, your electric bill is based on kilowatt-hours, and that’s electric use over time. And while I use my computer for many hours a day, I typically spend five minutes or less drying my hair. So where am I using the most electricity?

Hair Dryer vs. Computer: Here’s How It Breaks Down 

So, I’ve left the Kill a Watt plugged into my computer for 10 days now, and the meter shows that during that time the computer has used 13.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Hair Dryer OnHave I used that much electricity over the last 10 days while drying my hair? Not even close. 1.5 kilowatt-hours is a better guess, because I've probably spent a total of an hour* drying my hair over the last 10 days.

So, yes, I’m using far more electricity with my computer than with my hair dryer.

Want to do some more math? You can find out how all that translates to greenhouse gas emissions here.


*Update 11/26/08 

OK, it's true. An "hour" was just a lazy guesstimate on my part. I didn't really intend to measure how long I spent drying my hair over 10 days with the Kill a Watt. I mean, these numbers are close enough, right?

But now certain family members have challenged whether I really spend only five minutes a day drying my hair. Maybe I'm using a lot more electricity with the hair dryer than what's recorded here. All right, so now it's on. I'm measuring the exact electricity use of the hair dryer with the Kill a Watt for 10 days to prove that yes, the hair dryer still winds up using less electricity than the computer. When I have an update, I'll post it here. Stay tuned!

Update: 1/19/09 

Well, I finally finished counting this up, and I'm happy to report that after 10 days of drying my hair, I had only spent a total of 32 minutes with the hair dryer on. The total on the Kill a watt was .68 kilowatt-hours. As expected, that's far less than the 13.5 kilowatt-hours my computer used over a 10 day period. So yes, I use far less electricity drying my hair than I do running my computer.

What's the point of this story? Just that if you're trying to understand how much electricity you're using, you need to know two things: the wattage of an appliance and how long you're leaving it switched on. Low wattage appliances or electronics can surprise you with how much electricity they consume over time.

Photos by Megan Phelps 

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .

5/10/2015 12:45:26 AM

Hi, I am doing a science project at school on energy and I have chosen to compare the efficiency of hair straighteners and hair dryers. I was just wondering if there was an energy star rating of a percentage on this product for it's efficiency. Thanks, Emma

1/13/2014 12:01:57 PM

Use of hair dryer may not look expensive after reading this article, but this product works for the evil of hair health. Almost every has instructions to avoid the use of hair dryer with it. The hot wind may make hair silky, but it will damage the keratin cells as well.

megan phelps
12/1/2008 9:40:38 AM

Hi Marty, I agree with you, measuring electricity use is just the first step, figuring out how to use less electricity (or how to get more of it from renewable sources) is what makes a difference from an environmental standpoint. But I have to admit, I'm interested in measuring electricity use for a slightly different reason: I don't think many of us have a good understanding of how turning on an electric appliance (whether it's a hair dryer, a computer, a refrigerator or whatever) relates to our total electricity use. Does that light consume a lot of electricity or a little? Does letting my hair air dry in the morning make a big difference in my total electricity use, or not? And how does all of that relate to my carbon footprint? To me, measuring the electricity use of a specific appliance is just a part of starting to understand the larger picture. But for anyone looking specifically for energy saving ideas, there really is a lot you can do at home. About a year ago, I wrote a short article with links to a few good resources for reducing your carbon footprint. You can find it here:

11/29/2008 8:39:11 PM

Megan, I commend your efforts to measure the electricity you use but, unless you take some definitive action that will result in a reduction of electricity generated, you are not accomplishing anything. A point which no one seems to consider is; the power companies must make enough power for peak use, as measured by our collective daily habits. It's not just how long you use your hairdryer that matters; it's the fact that millions of people are using their hair dryers, flatirons, irons for their cloths, toasters, etc, each using gobs of electricity at the same time every day. If we all could cut that out, the power company could cut back on the amount of energy they generated at that time of day. That would be a significant reduction in our overall carbon footprint. A more powerful message from you could be; "I quit using my blowdryer in the morning, you can do it too"!

ray duchesneau
11/26/2008 4:12:57 PM

I'ts not solely the wattage RATING of the device that determines how MANY watts, or how much energy, is being used. Your hair dryer and your fridge might have the same rating BUT your hair dryer will use MUCH less energy, or watts, than your fridge because the hair dryer is used for minutes and your fridge runs for hours every day.