I spend a lot of time helping clients to save energy in large-scale industrial plants. It’s not every day that those process control skills come in handy at home. But I’ve found a great tool…

I have installed a “whole-house electricity monitor”. This consists of two clamp-on ammeters, a transmitter and a monitor. The ammeters and transmitter go inside your electrical supply panel. I keep the monitor in my kitchen.

Basically, this device shows my real-time electricity consumption. After I input my electric billing rates, it even shows me instantaneous cost per hour for electric use. So I now know how much it costs to leave a light on (about $0.01 per hour), and how much the electric heater in the family room costs ($0.40 per hour). Knowing this info is useful, but the big benefit comes from knowing your baseline consumption, and recognizing when things are not normal.

I have three teenagers. They leave a lot of things turned on when they are not using them. But now, looking at my monitor, I can tell when things are left on. And yes, I can harass them to save some energy. But I have found that I can generate the most savings by simply paying attention to the power usage at certain key times:
* When leaving the house for the day.
* Before going to bed at night.
* Before leaving town for a trip to Grandma’s

After 3 months with the monitor, my results are in: 30% savings compared against the same months a year ago! That’s pretty significant for me, since I have electric baseboard heat as my primary heat source. I expect to save over $600 this winter. That’s personal, real, after-tax savings.

How much did it cost me? About $75. The monitor I use is called “The Energy Detective”, or TED. You can find it on-line here: http://www.theenergydetective.com/index.html . No, I don’t get a commission.

If you’re comfortable working with your home electrical wiring, it is pretty easy to install. Out of your comfort zone…call an electrician. It only takes about 20 minutes to install.

It’s very satisfying to be saving so much on energy costs. The kids are even paying attention on their own now…they’ll call me when the meter shows high usage. If you have a high electricity bill, this is a great way to start saving money. Good Luck!