We’ve been working hard to keep our electric bill under control by making sure we turn off the lights when we’re not in a room, or by shutting off the television and other appliances when they’re not needed. But have you ever wondered just what all those electrical gadgets are costing to operate?
Our curiosity got so great that I gave my husband a handy little device that measures how much electricity an appliance uses and even computes the cost of use over a day, week, month or year. The one I bought is the Kill a Watt by P3 International Corporation. It’s an oblong grey box that you plug into an electrical outlet. There’s another outlet on its face, and that’s where you plug in the appliance. A readout tells you the voltage, wattage and cost.
Well, my husband was soon off to the races, checking out electrical consumption of every appliance in the house. You can see some of the measurements we took by clicking here. There were some real surprises, especially when he rolled the refrigerator out to get at the plug in the back and saw about five years of dirt and grime that had built up back there! (Yes, he cleaned it up!)
My general observation after using our Kill a Watt was that little things matter, and a lot of little things can ultimately matter a lot to your monthly bill.
Take our television set. It’s a 25-inch tube-style set made 10 years ago. (Please break down so we can buy a flat-panel model!) I thought it would be an energy hog, but it consumed a paltry 28 cents a day--and that’s if we left it on for 24 hours. Our set probably is on no more than 4 hours a day, so the cost to us for a month of usage is about $1.43.
The hog of the family? That’s our 16 cubic-foot refrigerator. Not big by today’s standard, but still a big user at $13.12 a month. Now we’re getting somewhere. I can see how the bill is adding up.
Then there are air conditioners. Our new 6,500 Btu window model isn’t all that bad at 44 cents a day. But let’s say you’re running it 12 hours a day in the summer. That’s $6.62 a month--for each unit!
Are you always telling the kids to turn the lights out when they’re leaving a room? If not, this may make you want to. A typical 60-watt light bulb consumes $6.81 a month, if left on all day. Well, almost nobody’s doing that, but say you leave five lights on unnecessarily for six hours a day. That will cost you $8.51 a month, or enough for a couple of nice coffee drinks a month at Starbuck’s.
It's better to use the new screw-in fluorescent lights. Even if you can’t get the kids to turn out the lights, those same five fixtures burning six hours a day will only cost $2 a month.
Another hefty energy user is the home computer. My husband’s iMac, plus accessories, uses $9.53 a month if it’s left on all day, and often it is! It might help to put it to sleep when it’s not in use. Interestingly, I learned that both Macs and PCs come equipped with an application that puts the computer to sleep at a set time.
Just for fun, say you go on vacation and you turn all your computing gear off, but you leave the modem and router running. Pay another $1.73 a month to the electric company.
What was the biggest surprise besides the dirt behind the fridge? It was the lowly light bulb. Ounce for ounce it’s one of the biggest energy wasters you have. Look at this: It costs you 22 cents a day to burn that 60-watt light bulb, half the cost of running our air conditioner!
The overall lesson? It’s easy to let everything run in the house, but it takes some effort and creativity to figure out how to start turning things off! Give it a try and let me know how it works out!