ENERGY CONSUMPTION
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Welcome to Energy Consumption (someday: direct to the wiki!).

Q: I'm in a hurry and want a decent watt meter

A: Buy a Kill-A-Watt EZ (generally available at an orangish store in a nearby big box lot :), program it to your highest electricity rate, and plug it into each appliance for a day in the "monthly average cost" mode.

Additional Watt Meters (see sidebar)

Whole House Energy Monitors

  • The Powerhouse Dynamics eMonitor appears to be the first whole-house meter with per-circuit breakdown.
  • Efergy's e2 is pretty great (simple, low-power, with downloadable data).
  • The Black & Decker Power Monitor ($100) looks an awful lot like Blue Line's PowerCost Monitor model 28000 . The earlier-model PowerCost Monitor (25100) is still widely available and appears to have a more complex display. However, the BLI 28000 is the latest.
  • The Cent-a-meter ($150) clips around your incoming electric wires and "acts as a speedometer for electricity usage."
  • PowerCost Monitor ($115)
  • The Energy Detective (TED; original $120; TED 5000 w/Google Power Meter $200-$500)
  • Ewgeco is a whole-home/business measurement system that includes electricity, water, and gas!
  • The Wattson is a limited-edition product similar to TED except that it looks cooler.
  • More at PowerMeterStore.com

Other Products

Stores

Plain old links

  • savingtrust.dk has excellent ideas about using less electricity.
  • Popular Science once had a world-wide renewable energy map in Flash. My link went stale.
  • WattStopper makes a variety of auto-off switches.
  • Mr. Electricity talks about whole house meters too!
  • METER MAIDS article from Wired (scroll down). [thanks Ned]

Q: Did I hear paper junk mail can be stopped?

A: Yup. In the U.S. all postal mail has your address on it and the folks at the other end must stop mailing you if you ask them too. This handy junk mail reduction guide will help you get rid of the most common mailings. Once you realize how easy it is, you'll go after anything that remains.

Q: WATTS UP? or KILL A WATT ... which should I buy and from where?

A: I got my first KILL A WATT for $40-something at Radio Shack. I own four kinds of watt meter now, but the KILL A WATT and WATTS UP? are the two readily-available products. The KILL A WATT is a consumer-oriented device designed to plug flush to the wall. It has some interesting outputs like power factor, hertz, and "VA" (vs. the sine-waved "watts" average that you actually pay for) that the original WATTS UP? lacked. The WATTS UP? is built tougher, originally for the classroom, has a nice 6 foot cord, can be programed to your electricity costs, and features a dollar readout. The Pro model even collects data over time and makes it available over USB (Windows software or OS X-compatible command line tool required). It costs more than twice as much, but the WATTS UP? 2.0 seems accurate to a tenth of a watt (above a watt or so, depending on Power Factor, etc) and now (in the 2.0 version) has even more geeky readouts (like duty cycle) than the KILL A WATT.

Not to be outdone, The KILL A WATT now has an "EZ" version that calculates costs over time and costs much less than the Watts Up?. While the math is easy enough to do, you will gather significantly more useful data if you buy the EZ or Watts Up? 2.0 which do math for you (e.g. running average cost/month).

The Brand® folks claim that their meters are superior at lower wattages (<=10W?). That may have been true (particularly of the original non-tenth-of-a-watt Watts Up? 1.0 which is truly confused by low wattages and distant-from 1 power factors), but my tests showed no significant difference between Brand® meters and the KILL A WATT or WATTS UP? 2.0. In my experience and testing these two readily-available mass-produced meters are good enough to figure out what you want to know: should I -- perhaps automatically -- switch off the power strip to this thing when I'm not using it? How much does my entire entertainent system/computer desk draw ... even when it is off? For small, lower wattage devices, I cross-check the amount of emitted heat: power bricks in particular are usually warm at 2-5W. Energy Star appliances, including some replacement power bricks from Radio Shack do not get as warm / don't waste as much energy.

If you just want to measure your stuff and then share it with friends, a KILL A WATT is great. If you think you'll be helping others, spring for the WATTS UP? 2.0. I've found both in retail stores (like Fry's), but usually you have to order them online (see links at the left). FYI, EC.org supporters have had bad service experiences with SupermediaStore.com and the Brand® folks (who, at least in the past, built their own meters -- with not the best qualitiy controls).