Kill-A-Watt and an Amp-Probe current meter

Energy audit—how to conserve energy

As our first step in the audit process all light bulbs were replaced with compact florescent bulbs, the heat was turned down for the winter and up for the summer, a programmable thermostat was installed and a water heater blanket was installed. Air filters in the furnace were changed and are now checked every three weeks.


The second step was to do a power audit to see where our real and phantom loads were. This was an eye opener and showed very quickly where we could further reduce our consumption.


I purchased a Kill-a-Watt meter from Harbor Freight for $29.98. This was used to confirm the power consumed by one room in our home and to check out where we might further conserve. I also had an amp-probe that I used to measure current. .


To use the amp-probe I made up a special extension cord (parts from Home Depot – about $5.00)  that I use to run the Kill a watt as well as the amp-probe  The kill-a-watt has a current measurement capability  for 120VAC but the amp-probe  was necessary for 220vac.  I also like to use it on the AC panel box to confirm what each circuit in the house is drawing (not recommended unless you are an electrician and know what you are doing – this is dangerous as the panel has lethal voltages present)


I have checked my TV and satellite set top box for current draw and found that I needed about 200 watts to make them operational. I also noted that in the off position, the combined draw for the TV and satellite box was 60 watts. Translated, I have a 60 watt light running 24 hours a day if I leave the TV and satellite system plugged in.


I have also checked our computer and wireless network set up. The computer draws about 240 watts when in operation and in the standby mode, about 60 watts. This is the second largest consumer of power in the off state that we have. I have not checked the network printers but here too, it looks like we have numerous devices that all consume power despite their off status.


The survey, while hardly complete, showed that if I turned off the TV, computer, printers, and microwave, I could save almost two hundred watts every hour of every day. This power goes to no place but our electric bill.


I can run our den using a single 800 watt inverter with two deep cycle batteries. The power required is around 300 watts at the peak so I have plenty of overhead.


Update—August 10, 2008


The original audit showed several places we could conserve but I was not focused on doing a complete audit. Subsequently I did a complete audit of the office and found, to my dismay, that even with everything in either the stand-by or off position I was still consuming a bit over 100 watts. That was quickly solved by adding a plug strip with an on-off switch. In addition I found the Ham Station also consumed 60 watts despite the fact everything was off ….. Again a plug strip was installed to eliminate this draw.


Now all the lights in the house are CF’s and I installed a cut off switch for the microwave to eliminate that unnecessary draw.


A small air conditioner has been installed in the bedroom and is run in the evening. This cools our bedroom and allows us to keep the central air unit set at 85 degrees for the evening.


We have also eliminated the use of our electric dryer and now hang cloths on a line in the back yard.


All of these conservation efforts as well as running our den on solar have paid dividends. In June of 2008 we reduced our bill by 19%, in July we reduced it by 30%. While these savings are impressive what is more impressive is that we felt no sacrifice in making the minor changes required to achieve the reductions.


Translated—small changes can bring larger rewards on a personal level and if everyone did the same changes the amount of energy saved is staggering.

Updated August 10, 2008

Herb & Barbara our interests and family