Knowing Power Use

Every month you get a power bill but chances are you have no idea what most of the devices in your home cost to run. While that might sound nitpicky to understand, by knowing where your power use goes you can make smarter choices about upgrades and appropriate settings to reduce use.

For example in our previous article about beer fridges it turns out a 90s fridge uses so much power you can save hundreds a year by replacing it. The same can be true for old AC units, some set-top boxes, older plasma TVs, etc. Rooting out power hogs can have a huge impact.

The Kill A Watt

My favorite device to assess power use is called the Kill a Watt. Its incredibly simple – plug it in, plug in the device you want to measure power use for, then come back the next day and see how much power was used. Its cheap (under $20), easy, and effective.

The downside of the Kill A Watt is not being able to measure 220v (like a dryer) or hardwired devices (furnace, hot water tank etc). But you can measure anything from a room AC unit to a set top box to know where your power goes.

I created a calculator below to help you take the output from a Kill a Watt and understand cost and CO2 impact.

What About Whole Home Monitors?

A number of whole home monitors also exist like Sense, TED, etc which can monitor whole home or per circuit use. TED can monitor per circuit but can’t identify power use per device on the shared circuits. Sense tries to identify loads to varied degrees of success. Either should be installed by an electrician and cost $300+ for the hardware. Needless to say you’ll need to be wasting a lot of power to make ROI on these.

Bottom Line

After you replace the obvious stuff (incandescent lights, electric hot water tanks) finding the power hogs takes a bit more digging. The Kill a Watt is a no-brainer that belongs in anyone’s toolkit who wants to save a few bucks on their power bill.

While I love the concept of the whole home power monitors – given the limitations of what they can actually detect and the high cost, unless you need insight into hardwired devices and have very high power use I struggle to see the value.

Disclaimer – the eco friendly cheapass may earn a commission from amazon if you purchase a Kill A Watt from our link.

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