For most of us knowing how much energy we’re using is the first step towards any program to reduce or conserve energy. There are more and more products coming out to address the measuring side of energy usage — and some of these are affordable!
I got a Kill-A-Watt meter recently and have had a lot of fun comparing the electrical usage of my toaster to my hot water tea pot to my MacBook Pro. You plug it into a wall outlet, then plug the device that you want to measure into it. You can read Watts, Amps, and Volts over time.
I was surprised to learn the range of power for different computers. A souped up gaming desktop computer can consume 200-300 Watts; a typical business laptop is more like 40-60 Watts; a power saving laptop can get down to 25 Watts; and the OLPC (One Laptop per Child), designed for use in the least developed countries, averages only about 4 Watts (more on that laptop in a future blog).
Understanding electrical usage is the first step to shutting things off, making intelligent decisions about retiring older equipment or buying new. I imagine more and more people will spend a little time reading energy usage labels just as they read the nutrition labels today.
The big difference between the 4400 Kill-A-Watt and the 4460 is that the 4460 device saves your data when you unplug it. With the 4400, you need to get your data readings off of it before unplugging it.
In both devices there is no back light on the LCD panel, so if you plugged it directly into a wall socket a few feet off the ground in a dark corner, you may need a flashlight to read it. You might want to use a small extension cord to bring the Kill-A-Watt closer to you for reading measurements.
The Kill-A-Watt can measure electrical usage for one device at a time. I’m starting to keep a list of common electrical equipment and typical energy use. I’m hoping to get that into a form that can be easily displayed and readers who are measuring their own products can add to it.
Another electrical monitor I have started working with can measure the whole house electrical usage (upcoming blog on TED, The Energy Detective). Since you can’t easily plug your furnace or dryer into the Kill-A-Watt, the whole house monitor can help isolate the electricity used by these larger pieces of equipment.
With these products (or others like them) you can really start to get control over costs associated with your electric bill. If you are measuring your electrical consumption, send me an email and I’ll post a list of household items and their energy footprint: kim at energyemp.com.