Energy Monitors for the Home

August 2, 2011 View all articles in Home

We've told you all about the effects of vampire energy and how it can be prevented, but what if you could monitor how much energy your electronics are costing you when they're in use and when they're left plugged in? (Other than watching the panic-inducing spikes on your energy bill.) A home energy audit is good for revealing where energy can be conserved, but it doesn't let you track improvements. A home energy monitor, on the other hand, not only lets you measure how much energy is being used for individual electronics or for your entire home, it calculates how much money you're saving by making small changes, like turning off a light. There are lots of home energy monitors available, so to help make the decision a little easier, we've provided some specifications for the more popular brands currently on the market.

WATT METERS

Smart Plugs or Smart Power Strips empower you to save hundreds on electric bills by assessing how efficient your electronics are. The Kill-A-Watt, for example, gives you immediate feedback on how much energy is being consumed and can help you locate the most wasteful devices and appliances (or “phantom electronics”) in your home. Just plug any appliance into the watt meter, plug the meter into an outlet, and the meter starts counting wattage use for as long as the appliance is plugged in for. According to the manufacturer, it comes with an LCD display; has a cumulative kilowatt-hour monitor; displays volts, amps, watts, Hz, and VA; forecasts your costs; and has 0.2 percent accuracy. So not only can it show you how much energy individual electronics use, it can tell you how much they cost you on your energy bill, and then how much you've saved by replacing them with more energy-efficient alternatives.

WHOLE-HOUSE ENERGY MONITORS

Products like the Home Joule and the Cent-a-Meter monitor the energy usage in your entire home. By calculating information about the devices monitored as well as information about your energy bills, these monitors will tell you how much electricity is being used and what it's costing you. The Home Joule, for example, plugs into an outlet and receives real-time information about your local utility, time-of-day energy costs, and local weather, then merges this with your home's energy consumption. The Home Joule's colored circular screen tells you when your bills going to spike or when your use is particularly high. The Cent-a-Meter works as an electricity speedometer by clipping onto the wires at the electrical panel and displaying the cost in dollars and cents. Studies have shown that Cent-a-Meter generally reduces consumption by 20 percent because you can see the immediate impact of small changes in money spent: switch off a light and se the cost go down. The Cent-a-Meter is available online for $145, while the Home Joule can be found in hardware stores for $100.

The easiest way to settle on an energy monitor for your home is to decide the level of monitoring you want to accomplish, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to save. The bottom line is these products will help you save money on rising energy bills and potentially slash your carbon footprint at the same time, so they're worth looking into more thoroughly.

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