Monday, December 11, 2006

Monitor your power usage

I got a new toy to play with today for my tech column.
It's a PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovations.
A special monitor hooks to your power meter outdoors which sends information to a reader inside your house.
I've been doing some un-scientific experiments to see how the thing works and to see just how much power I'm using.
My loft has four florescent bulbs in the main living area. With those four on and things like my refrigerator, stove, microwave and stereo system plugged in I'm pulling only 4 cents an hour in cost. Run all of that 24 hours a day and you end up with $28.80 for your electric bill.
When I went and turned on all the lights, lamps and fans in the loft my cost shot up to 34 cents an hour. That equates to $8.16 a day or $244.80 a month. Luckily we don't do that.
Add the AC to that (granted its not running hard its only 59 degrees out) and the price jumps to 38 cents a day or $273.60 a month.
And here's an interesting statistic.
I figured out that using four 100 watt bulbs costs me a nickel an hour. Figure that out to a monthly cost and it's $36 a month to run the lights on my ceiling fan.
Compare that to 1 or 2 cents an hour to run the fan on high. That only costs $14.4 a month.
I decided to go buy four 15 watt florescent bulbs at Target. They cost me $16. As I figure it, they barely make a dent in my hourly rate. They cost less than a penny an hour or $4.32 a month.
What a difference. I'd say the light is fairly similar. Not as bright, but GE advertises it's 15 watt florescent bulbs as equivalent to a 60 watt bulb. So definitely enough light for a bedroom.
Now if I just change all the bulbs in the house we might see a big difference.
I am seeing a couple oddities though with the monitor.
I assumed my laptop would pull a lot more wattage but it doesn't seem to make a dent in my cost.
And apparently my ice box kicks on about every 30 minutes or so and pulls roughly .17 kilowatts (or $2.50 an hour).
But the device costs $50 or so (I think) and helps make you fully aware of where your monthly electric bill is going.
It also keeps a total account of how much you've spent since the last reset so you don't get a huge surprise at the end of the month.

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