Energy audits coupled with efficiency upgrades are some of most sensible things a home or business owner can do to lower utility bills and contribute to a cleaner future. Not every one owns, and many who do are hesitant to make the initial investment in solar panels and weatherstripping, but with these smart tools and an electricity audit you can get in on the savings.
Auto-timed powerstrips allow you to deny power to gadgets for the times they're not in use. This is especially good for TV sets and computers which draw the most electricity when "off" and are likely to be idle during daytime hours. Some entertainment system burn 720w/day in this way. The 8-outlet plug (listed here for $20) is one of the easiest ways to reduce your load. If you prefer to buy locally, you may want to call ahead, because not many stores carry these.
Opt for CFLs, LEDs & task-oriented lighting. If you haven't already, it's time to nix the halogens. Also look around your home and work space, some rooms may be overloaded with overhead lights all connected to the same switch. At 60 watts each, you could be burning 14 watts just to get a glass of water. Switch to CFLs or LEDs and consider a digital dimmer.
Timer switches are the perfect way to "turn off the lights behind you" (or your forgetful loved ones) and they can be mixed with motion sensor lights, so you're not left in the dark. The modlet has a modern design and is sold in beginner bundles; other styles are available at the hardware store for about $12.
Appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, desktops and televisions draw power from the grid even when they're switched off, but just how many kWh are lost to these energy vampires? To exercise the awesome powers of monitoring your electricity use by appliance, consider the Ted series, eMonitor, Envi, BlueLine or eGauge. These smart meters have the ability to further sort your personal data into categories like current usage (kW or $/hr), electricity consumed that hour, day, projected for that billing cycle (kWh or $/hr). And for a spend-thrift way to apply these concepts, choose WattVision's "Kill-A-Watt". This unit plugs into gadgets individually for a real time account.
Electricity monitors won't demand a lifestyle change, but they will show you where your waste is. Many include applications that will fit your mobile lifestyle, provide feedback, and help you make the meaningful behavioral changes that will save you even more greenbacks. For serious savings and inspiration, this is the way to go.
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Image Credit: mrraineth (via flickr, cc)