Cold drinks are nice in the summer, but what if the old fridge in the garage that you’re using to chill them costs at least $90 per year to run? That’s what one family discovered by using an electricity monitor, which measures electricity consumption in real time. Once the monitor made them aware of the cost of that fridge, they decided to switch to a smaller, more efficient model that allowed them to save electricity.

 

Hand-held energy monitors plug into the wall first, and then you can plug your appliance or electronic device into the monitor. A display screen shows how many kilowatts are used every time you run that coffee maker or blow-dry your hair. Technically the device doesn’t do anything more than share data, but in this case knowledge truly is power.

 

“If you give customers information about their electrical usage, they make better reduction decisions around the home,” says Peter Porteous, CEO of Ottawa-based Blue Line Innovations. Monitors can help people conserve energy — which saves electricity and money, lowers carbon pollution and reduces your environmental footprint.

Getting energy feedback lets you monitor the real cost of your habits — such as leaving the TV on when no one’s watching — and decide whether or not those choices are worth the cost. Once you know the energy consumption of your dishwasher, for example, you may choose to run it only when it’s full instead of once a day, or to upgrade to an Energy Star model, which uses less electricity and water than conventional models.

“It’s not about no longer doing things, it’s about being fully aware and, where possible, doing those tasks during the least expensive rate period,” says Porteous.

Most people are especially surprised by how much power is being used at night when they think the house is “turned off.” Television receivers, gaming units, chargers and computers are a few devices that constantly pull power.

“If you don’t want to unplug them, invest in a power bar with a timer,” suggests Charlie Fudge, general manager for the energy efficiency specialists Sustainable Housing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. When your house is asleep, strive for a base load of 100 to 300 kilowatts — base load being the amount of power needed to meet a home’s minimum demands.

When shopping for an energy monitor, look for one that translates kilowatts into dollars and cents. “Seeing kilowatt consumption won’t have the same impact as knowing what the appliance costs to run every month,” says Fudge.

Some monitors even let you monitor usage remotely with a smartphone application. The app sends you energy-use data and lets you turn appliances on or off from your mobile device.