Device detects energy guzzlers

February 6, 2008 7:47:29 PM PST
Everybody's focused lately on how to reduce energy consumption. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has a great way to find out what's really using up power in your home.

This story could have you going around your house and unplugging everything. But if you're curious about what's jacking up your electric bills, we found a great gadget that can detect what's guzzling energy in your home.

Mike Ketterman of San Francisco couldn't believe how high his electric bill was.

"$290 dollars for electricity's pretty high," says Ketterman.

He wanted to know why so he bought a gadget called Kill-A-Watt. It's a meter that plugs into the wall, and then into your appliance, and tells you how much juice your item is using and the cost.

So we played detective, starting with a little lamp. It turns out it would cost $14 dollars a month to leave it on all the time.

"It makes you start paying attention to what you plug in and what you leave on," says Ketterman.

We looked for more things, including Ketterman's computer.

"It's up to $10.68 already," says Ketterman.

The final tally? Fifteen dollars a month to leave it on all the time.

Ketterman suspected his cell phone chargers were the culprits, but he was wrong. His satellite TV box was the bank breaker. Even when it's off, it's still using power. It costs $12 dollars a month just for being plugged in.

"That's a lot of electricity," says Ketterman.

7 On Your Side also visited Lori DeMartini in Lafayette.

"I bought high efficiency appliances, dishwasher, washer, dryer ... changed out light bulbs," says DeMartini. "Still my bill is the same. So it's very frustrating."

Lori's electric bill came to $718 dollars in January. We asked PG&E's energy guru Gary Fernstrom to bring his wattmeter over to Lori's house.

We start with the obvious culprit, the extra refrigerator. It's using 108 watts.

"So about $10 dollars a month for this refrigerator," says Fernstrom.

But the shock came at the flat screen TV.

It's using as much power as a 90-watt light bulb, even though the TV is turned off.

"No. That can't be," says Fernstrom.

It turns out the TV was actually in sleep mode.

"That mysterious thing we just found? $283 a year, for getting absolutely nothing," says Fernstrom.

"Nothing" seems to cost a lot for just about everything in her home. Like her iPod.

It's using eight watts sitting in the dock. And when he turns it on?

"It's only drawing 10 watts," says Fernstrom.

This Xbox isn't even on and it's using about 18 watts. Lori figures there is a solution.

"I envision myself going around to every room and unplugging everything," says DeMartini.

The lesson here is gadgets with LED lights are drinking power even if you're not using them.

PG&E loans out wattmeters.

To find out how to borrow a wattmeter from PG&E, click here.

To buy the Kill-A-Watt, click here.

To see PG&E's list of commercially available wattmeters, click here.