Mar 08 2009

Trying to save a few dollars…

Category: Go GreenPhil @ 7:33 pm

I always wanted one of those electric monitoring devices, but always found enough skeptical reviews that I never went through with the purchase.  After talking to a friend who was going green, he mentioned that he had purchased a Kill a Watt device. It will monitor the electric consumption of anything (110V) that is plugged into it. So, following his lead, I went ahead and eBay-ed myself a Kill A Watt EZ. The EZ version will actually compute the electricity consumption in dollars per day, month, or year; based on the cost of a killowatt-hour charged by the electric company.

I have only had it for a couple of days, so I can not report too much at this point. It is very interesting to watch (from a geek perspective) how much electricity a TV consumes in stand-by mode, verses when it is actually turned on. I need to let my wife know this, as she likes to listen to the DirecTV music stations, with the TV on! Another friend said I might turn into the “Electricity Police”, you never know, if I have some numbers to back up my arguments, the kids might actually listen!

Here are a few things that I have monitored thus far:

  • A wall mounted water fountain. I just has little water pump that runs 24×7.  This was not too bad, only about $5.37 a year.
  • The 12 year old refrigerator. Only monitored it for 3 hours, and it ran up to $108 per year.
  • My computer, 24″ LCD, and HD DirecTV DVR, on a UPS, all of which also run 24×7. This totaled up to about $124 a year!

It will take some time, but there are lots of little things I’m curious about; such as the cordless phone chargers,  two printers in stand-by mode, the freezer, the washing machine, etc… I still have some big things too look at.

So what can I do with these numbers? Well, I popped over to, picked out a new 21 cubic foot refrigerator, just to check out the Energy Guide information. The new appliance had annual operating expense of only $45 dollars, using 10.65 cents a kWh. I was using 6.3  cents a kWh! I find this way to hard to believe, if I recalculate the cost of the new refrigerator to the 6.3 cent rate, the annual operating cost drops to only $27, which would save me about $81 per year.  Quite a bit of money, but would still take quit a bit of time to recoup the cost of a new appliance, assuming that a new refrigerator would cost at least $1,000.

I honestly don’t think I can make that many changes to save money, without actually unplugging things or replacing the big consumers; time will tell! My family wants to put solar panels on the roof and sell the excess electricity back to the power company; I’m sure that is a small investment!

Feb 17 2009

Interesting Electric Company Ideas…

Category: Go GreenPhil @ 6:26 pm

Have you ever wondered how much electricity you use, compared with your neighbors?  Well, I do!  I’m on a monthly averaging plan, but every month, the bill seems slightly higher than the last one.  I basically know what is consuming most of our electricity;  we have about a thousand things plugged in that are in stand-by mode!  Our refrigerator and washer/dryer are about 12 years old; presumably they are consuming more juice than they should be.  I would really like to know what I could do to minimize my usage, without having to resort to power strips or the manually unplugging all of the power vamps!

I would just like to know how inefficient my house really is! I saw this really cool story on the news, about the Sacramento Municipal Utility Districts (SMUD – great name!) attempt to make its customers more aware of the energy they were consuming. They started comparing each customer to their nearest 100 neighbors. Then they gave each one a grade, happy faces or frowny faces.  I think the story made national news, because people actually got mad when they were given the “frowny” face. Personally, I think it is rather funny.  Interestingly, SMUD removed the faces, but left the comparison bar graph. Apparently, this comparison data is having an impact on how people are managing their usage. Households that were using 3 times more electricity than their neighbors, received a real wakeup call and started to change their habits. A good thing all around, both for the environment and the pocket book.

I going send this note to my power company and see what they have to offer. Maybe they can run a custom report for me, I am just so curious about my consumption. Maybe I really don’t want to know!  I promise to report back the results, should I actually hear from them.

Here are two more interesting links I discovered… The quote, taken from the site, applies to my day job in software development too….  “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” %G—%@ Lord Kelvin

  • Live monitoring of your electrical consumption, a SMUD service.
  • Live monitoring, the Energy Information Initiative