Monitoring and Reducing Your Electricity Usage

The Ottawa Public Library has over 150 electricity meters available for the public to borrow for one week for free. To find out how much electricity an appliance uses plug the watt meter (in this case a “Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor”) into a regular outlet and then plug the appliance into the meter. The watt meter will then display, live, the watts that are being drawn by that appliance.

To borrow a Kill A Watt meter go to the Ottawa Public Library’s on-line catalogue and search under “title” with the phrase “Kill A Watt”. Although the catalogue will list your branch as having several of these meters “checked in”, my experience was that you cannot just go to a library and pick one up. Instead you have to “request it” and wait for the library to call you back to tell you that it is in and you can pick it up. This took a couple of days, so order it ahead of time if you want to use it on a particular occasion.

Using your Kill A Watt meter you may be surprised to discover that many of your appliances use electricity even when they are turned off (televisions, stereos and computers are particularly prone to these “ghost draws”). To avoid wasting this electricity plug these appliances into a power bar and turn off the power bar when they are not in use.

Many appliances use different amounts of electricity over the day. Fridges, for example, range dramatically in terms of how much they use. For these appliances leave them plugged into the meter on for some representative length of time (at least 24 hours for a refrigerator) and then press the button on the Kill A watt meter to display the accumulated kilowatt hours used, press the button again to find out how long the meter has been monitoring, then simply divide to find out how many watts per hour the appliance is using on average.

Another interesting experiment to do with your watt meter is to test the difference in electricity usage for a computer left on or put to sleep. My eMac uses around 95-105 watts when it’s on. When it’s sleeping it uses only 6 watts. Since seeing this demonstrated to me via the Kill A Watt meter I have since set my Apple computer to go to sleep if unused for 3 minutes. When I need it again I just hit the space bar.

I actually get a kick out of checking up on my appliances, but then I’m a bit of a nerd. Happy watt-metering everyone!

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