Green Gear: P3 International Kill A Watt EZ

A meter that calculates how much energy your electronics use each day
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A meter that calculates how much energy your electronics use each day

During the energy audit and renovations that I recently did at my home, I was trying to figure out how to drop my energy usage. Wash clothes and myself less, turn off lights, shower at night when the solar panels have heated my water and lay off the dishwasher were all obvious suggestions. But what I really wondered about was how much juice my computers, hard drives and related electronics were costing me and the planet. I'm good about slicking off the light switch. But those are the things that I often forget to turn off.

After chatting about this with my electrician, he showed up at my house one day with the Kill A Watt EZ, a consumer power meter. You plug any 110 volt device with a cord into the meter, and it actually tells you exactly how much energy any appliance you plug it into is using, as well as what it's costing you per year (it allows you to enter the rate your electric utility is charging you).

I followed the straightforward instructions to set up the unit (took less than a minute) and then plugged in my laptop (a MacBook Pro). It's costing me about $3 per month to run it. My all in one HP printer: cost $1.19/month. My desktop plus eight bay external hard drives are costing me $7.80 per month when they are on. Guess that's the power strip I really need to turn off. I am curious to note how much electricity they use when they are off.

The longer you leave your appliance plugged into the unit, the more accurately it will project the cost and kilowatt hour usage for that item. And if the appliance is sometimes on, sometimes off (like a TV or computer) for an accurate reading you want to leave it plugged in for at least a 24 hour period of typical usage. If you're measuring a device that's never turned off, the unit calculates pretty accurately within a few minutes of being plugged in.

It's an informative device, but not without room for improvement: My wish list of additional features: a battery backup so that the display can be read when it's not plugged in or a cord--tucked away outlets can be in awkward places to view the digital display. I'd also love the ability to plug and test 220V appliances like dryers. Dryers are supposed to be evil, which is why they are not even Energy Star rated. But I want to know the stats so that I always line dry, not just most of the time.

Buy it online for $35. I picked one up at Costco for $29.

-Berne Broudy