Kilowatts vs. Amps: What’s the Difference?

amps vs. watts

Kilowatts vs. Amps: What’s the Difference?

Electricity is one of the true marvels of modern history. Its usage enables much of what makes the modern world possible and powers everything from humble light bulbs to magnificently complex computers. For those starting to venture into electricity, however, there is a fair bit of knowledge to absorb.

In particular, this comes down to the many units of measurement present for electricity. There are many different possible units of measurement, and they all have various applications. With today’s guide, let’s take a closer look at the difference between kilowatts and amperes, or amps. These units of measurement are very common in electrical applications and this can help to dispel whatever misconceptions you may have regarding their usage.

Kilowatts vs. Amps: Side-By-Side Comparison

MeasuresThe rate at which power is consumed by a loadThe flow of electricity
Common applicationsMeasuring the power used by a circuitDetailing the current of a circuit
How is it calculatedWatts = Volts x AmpsAmps = Watts / Volts
Abbreviated askWAmps

Kilowatts vs. Amps: What’s the Difference?

It is important to note that these two measurements go hand in hand with each other. With most units of measurement in electricity, there is some overlap, and these are no different. They are very starkly different units of measurement, however, with entirely different purposes.

What are Kilowatts and Amps?

Both the kilowatt and amp are units of measure for electricity. As with many of the other units of measurement common in electricity, their names from real-world scientists with instrumental contributions to the progress of technology.

The watt gets its name from James Watt, an 18th-century British inventor. It has very little in common with the work done by Watt himself, who is responsible for the separate condenser and parallel motion components of the steam engine. The watt became a standard unit of measurement thanks to the SI in 1960 at the 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures. Since its standardization, it has been ubiquitous in its usage for electrical applications.

Andre Marie Ampere serves as the namesake of the ampere. Ampere, the scientist not the measurement mind you, did instrumental work in discovering the existence of the electron. Its discovery was a crucial first step in understanding how to implement electricity for practical applications. Amperes were standardized as a unit of measurement by the International Electrical Congress, in 1893, with widespread international acceptance occurring in 1908. It along with the ohm are the two first widely accepted standards utilized in electrical work.

What They Measure

A kilowatt is 1,000 watts. A watt is a store of power. If you have any sort of power tool, appliance, and so on, they will be measuring the store of power as a watt or kilowatt. Kilowatts are derived from multiplying the voltage of a circuit against the amperes of a circuit to get the final product. As just a basic example, let’s say you have an oven that draws 500 volts at 2 amperes. Using the same calculation it would come out to 1,000 watts or 1 kilowatt.

Amperes, or amps, describe the flow of current through a circuit. Higher amp values equate to higher current, as one might expect. Calculating a circuit’s amps is the reverse of getting its wattage. To obtain the amps of a circuit you’ll divide the watts by the volts. Using the same example from earlier, the same oven would be 1,000 watts divided by 500 volts, equaling 2 amps.

These measurements cooperate a fair bit, as you cannot calculate the kilowatts of a particular circuit without first determining the amps it is using.

amps vs volts
Amps describe the flow of current through a circuit. Higher amp values on the meter equate to higher current.


A Basic Overview of the Units of Measurement for Electricity

The average person isn’t familiar with the various measurements used in electrical contexts. So, let’s take a moment to consider the various units of measurement used in electricity.

When looking at any unit of measurement for electrical work, you can consider the actual flow of electricity to be akin to the flow of water through a pipe. From water flowing through a pipe, there are several things you can measure. This is likewise applicable to the flow of electricity through a circuit. Measuring the actual flow of the electricity, in this case, is done by amperes or amps.

Continuing with the water metaphor, the exertion of pressure on the pipe would be the voltage or volts. Voltage measures how much current will flow through the device itself, with higher voltage equaling more current to other parts of the circuit.

The rate at which power is consumed is measured with watts, as previously discussed. The final measurement to consider is the load, which is the actual supplier of current to the circuit itself. Think of the power outlet in any given room in your house, and that is just one of many different types of loads present.

Identifying the Kilowatts and Amps of Your Home Appliances

If you’re curious about the exact measurements provided by the manufacturer for your appliance, it can be relatively simple to find. Some appliances like washers, dryers, and ovens will have an information label attached somewhere physically on the appliance itself. Once found you can find the applicable information for that particular appliance.

You can also find these information labels on numerous other electrical devices in your home, like a laptop’s charging cable for example. If the information label is not readily available, most manufactured devices have the means for you to check these for yourself online. For most common use, this isn’t important. It does make for some room to learn more about the devices in your home and how they directly relate to an electrical device in the home.

how to charge apple watch
You can find the wattage for this adapter listed on top of the device near the plugs.


Kilowatts vs. Amps: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Both the kilowatt and amp are units of measure for electricity.
  • Watts = Volts x Amps, while Amps = Watts / Volts.
  • A kilowatt measures the rate at which power is consumed by a load and an amp measures the flow of electricity through a circuit.
  • The watt gets its name from James Watt, an 18th-century British inventor.
  • Andre Marie Ampere serves as the namesake of the ampere, or amp.

Kilowatts vs. Amps: Which One is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

As with any unit of measurement, it isn’t so much a matter of which one is the better one to use. If you work with anything electric, you’ll undoubtedly be using both of these units of measurement regularly. You regularly encounter these daily just by using the various devices and appliances in your home.

Every single electrical device is going to use watts, amps, volts, ohms, and every other measurement you can think of. So instead of thinking of what might be the best to use, especially given their disparate use cases, think of which one applies given the context of a given device.

So, you should choose what works the best for a given need, rather than which one is empirically better. After all, you can calculate amps off of kilowatts, just like you can do the same for kilowatts from amps.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when my power drill has a kWh rating for the battery?

Kilowatt-hours refers to how long it takes for the battery to fully discharge. It is denoted as a store of energy similar to how a kilowatt would ordinarily work, but it also functions as a measurement of the time for long it takes to fully discharge the battery during normal use.

How many watts would my 1000 volt microwave use?

Well, without knowing the amperes it is pretty difficult to calculate this. But, for the sake of demonstration let’s suppose the average microwave uses 8.3 amps. So, with this in mind, we have 1,000 volts and 8.3 amperes to calculate the wattage.

To come to the answer you would multiply 1000 volts by 8.3 amperes which gets you 8,300 watts or 8.3 kilowatts.

Why are there so many different measurement units for electricity?

Well, simply put, each of those measurements fulfills a different function. The usage of a watt is different than a volt, and they measure different aspects of a circuit’s signal flow. Each of the units of measurement is also vitally important as they can inform on the tolerances, resistance, and overall level of current flowing through an active circuit.

Do amps measure the resistance of a circuit?

The resistance, or impedance, of a given circuit, would be measured with ohms rather than amperes. They are directly connected of course, but amps refer to the actual flow of current through a circuit rather than the resistance introduced to the circuit itself.

What do the measurements for batteries mean?

There are two common measurements used for how much energy is stored within a battery. The first is kilowatt-hours, which you might more commonly see on something like an electric vehicle or electric riding mower.

The second you’ll see regularly is milliamp-hours, which is more common for mobile phone and tablet batteries.

They both refer to the same basic mechanism, a store of power in conjunction with a time duration. The measurements at play are vastly different however, as well as the stored current which will run through the circuit on a full charge.

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