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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where does the power go?

There is an increasing number of pocket-size power meters available for example on, and their price is not too high, considering that they usually include many other features besides just power metering.

Let's see how you can use them to increase the efficiency of your house or your office.

It is very common to hear people saying to turn off the lights to save money in your electric bill. That's a great idea. Especially because it help to understand that energy is not free (both for us and for the environment) and that personal habits must change towards a more sustainable way of life, it's not just a matter of buying top-class, energy-efficient appliances.

However, when it comes to save real money on your electric bill (and therefore avoid wasting energy), you have to do an accurate analysis of your house and understand where does the power (and the money) go.

Consider the following appliances and see how much power they need in a typical house.
  • lighting - 10 KWh per month per room of your house
  • microwave - 16 KWh per month
  • computer - 18 KWh per month
  • TV - 25 KWh per month
  • refrigerator - 190 KWh per month
  • dryer - 3.5 KWh per load
  • washing machine (warm) - 6 KWh per load
  • water heater (3 people) - 500 KWh per month
Quite interesting, isn't it?
You see that lighting is responsible for a very small part of your bill, probably not more than $6 for an apartment. The refrigerator, on the other end, costs something like $20 a month! Not to talk about heating water, which can easily cost up to $50 a month for a small familiy!

These are only estimates, and they might be pretty wrong. For example, in Europe most of the new refrigerators have an energy consuption that is less than 300 KWh per year, something unbelievable for American people...

That's why these pocket-size power meters exist. You should spend some money in one of those, check the power consumption of your appliances, and see where you should take action to reduce your demand. It's a nonsense to replace all bulbs with energy-saving lamps to save a couple of dollars, if your old refrigerator in the garage is costing you $40 a month.
Or even worse, you maybe have an electric heater when you could switch to a natural gas one with a little investment that is going to be repaid in less than a year.

As you can easily imagine, the cost of the meter is easily repaid in few months! And it's a good practice to get to know your appliances before real time pricing becomes reality in your area!