Killing Watts

I’ve spent some time playing with a great new toy. It’s called the Kill-A-Watt, and if you’re into conserving energy, or saving money, or you’re the handy-person around your house, you really need to try it out.

Even better, it’s easy to use. You simply plug it into an electrical outlet, and plug a lamp, laptop, appliance, cell charger, or any other 120-volt device into it. (Note: pretty much everything in your house is 120-volt, except for your dryer, oven, and your larger direct-wired things like the A/C or water heater).

The device instantly tells you how much electricity you’re using.  If you want to leave it plugged in, it will accumulate the watts you’re using, to give you Kilowatt-Hours (kWh), which is the unit of electricity that shows up on your AEP bill.  We pay a little over $0.11 for every kWh.

Here’s some interesting things I found.  My entertainment system (TV, speakers, receiver, cable box) uses 220 Watts.  That’s with the the full electricity-guzzling glory of HD and surround sound.  All-in-all, it really doesn’t cost much, since we don’t watch an extraordinary amount of TV.

But when the system is completely “off”, it still uses 26 Watts.  That’s because “off” is really standby, as your machines and cable boxes sit around and suck juice while waiting to be turned back on.  In conservation lingo, these are referred to as “vampires”.  24/7/365, turning the meter.  Doing the math, I found my entertainment vampire costs me almost $30 annually.

I also did some experimenting with our computers.  We use laptops with wireless service for the portability factor.  My newer laptop runs all out, streaming video and music, at 30 watts.  But it sits idle at only 1 watt.  Peanuts, relatively speaking.  But my wife’s older laptop idles at 20 watts, costing us another $25 a year.

I’m sure there’s other vampires in my house.  Cell chargers are notorious suckers.  The basement freezer is an extravagance, and I might just stick my head in the sand rather than check the old basement window A/C unit we use in the summer to control humidity.  The thing probably costs me a small fortune to run.

The Kill-A-Watt is cool.  And easy.  And you can try one free of charge, thanks to the good folks at the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition.  They loan them out to anyone.  If you’re interested in giving it a test run, e-mail me at  While you’re at it, check out the other great programs the Cool Cities offers, at

2 Responses to Killing Watts

  1. KIRK says:

    me,me,me,me.. i’d like to try one out! Thanks — Kirk

    • chadbraby says:

      Kirk: Sure – you can swing by my house after 5 pm to pick up, or I could meet you downtown with it. Let me know when and what works for you.

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