Attacking The Electric Bill, Pt. 1

With electric costs soaring, we started to take steps to reduce our electric bill as best we could. Several years ago we replaced the bulbs in all of our most-used incandescent light fixtures to CFL (compact florescent lights). We also put most of the electrical devices I know use power when they are plugged in – whether or not they are in use. This included my computer equipment and our media system (TV, satellite receiver/DVD, Wii, audio receiver, etc.). When they are not in use, they are all switched off. It helped us cut down on our power use about 15% at the time.

Recently the bills have been climbing again, so I invested in a Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor that lets you plug in any electrical device, and, given your area’s cost per kilowatt hour (in East Hawai‘i it’s currently about $.45 per kwh), it tells you how much your device costs per hour, day, week, month, or year of use. I tested a few devices around the house, and was surprised by a few things.

First, the power supply for my MacBook Pro cost approximately $5.20 per month / $63 per year when plugged in. Plugging in the MacBook Pro did not register any sigificant difference. I had heard for years that these kind of block power supplies do use a significant amount of power when simply plugged in. I have a separate power supply for its monitor, and along with a few other computer related devices, they are all on a switched outlet strip that is turned off when I don’t use them.

The power supply for my Droid X consumes little power, and no difference whether its plugged into the Droid or not. Kept plugged in, it used $1.95 a month or $23.85 a year. My CPAP has a large block power supply that is in turned plugged into the CPAP. Plugged in but not with the CPAP itself not turned on, it only uses $.32/mo or $3.95/yr. Turned on is another story – $1.52/mo. or $19/yr.

I had always been told that televisions used up large amounts of electricity whether turned on or not, so the devices in our entertainment center were the first I put on switched outlets. Our Samsung flatscreen (not LCD) uses on $3.95/mo. or $3.95/yr when not turned on. I was quite surprised it was that low. Turned on, the Kill-A-Meter showed its use as $40/mo. or $484/yr. A nickel per hour of use. That seems more like it.

The biggest suprise so far was our DishNetwork satellite receiver/DVR. Plugged in but turned of it uses a whopping $17/mo. or $204/yr. Turned on it’s just slightly higher – $17.50/mo. or $212/yr. Fortunately this is also on a switch box, though I must admit we occasionally do forget to turn it off at night. I’ll be a bit more diligent about doing so. Powering this unit off means that it takes about five minutes for it to boot up and re-acquire the satellite signal. It’s worth it.

I was also interested to hear about the Google@Home automation system that is under development, and need to keep a closer eye on that. It runs, or will run, Android, so I’m hoping it will allow me to control and program home automation from my phone. Wouldn’t that be a hoot.


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