Cut Your Electricity Costs With An Energy Monitor

by heather

Most of us know by now that cutting our electricity use is a great way to save money and go green. Cutting off lights, unplugging our computers and TVs when we’re done using them, and line drying our clothes are simple ways to do this.

But, what if you had more information to help you make better decisions about your energy use? For instance, what if you knew that your TV, DVD, and satellite console costs 30 cents per hour to use during the evening? Or, what if you knew that your dryer costs 20 cents in energy per load on the weekend, but only 10 cents per load during the weekdays?

Having real-time, accurate information like this would really help open our eyes to how much energy we’re using, and how much it’s costing us. And once we knew this information, we’d probably be more inspired to limit our energy use. At least, I know I would be. Which is why I decided to investigate the world of energy monitors.

What Is An Energy Monitor?

An energy monitor is a device that enables you to see just how much energy any electronic device in your home uses. You plug a device like a vacuum, clothes dryer, or coffee pot into the monitor, and then plug the monitor into the wall.

Then, you use your appliance. You vacuum the floor, dry a load of laundry, or make a pot of coffee. Once you’re done you can look on the screen and see exactly how many kilowatts of energy you just used, and how much it just cost you. Pretty neat.

Energy monitors run the gamut from the frugal, bare bones models that simply tell you how many kilowatts your appliance uses, to the super-expensive whole-home systems that automatically turn off appliances and predict your next energy bill. And, of course, everything in between.

As you can imagine, there’s a pretty big price range on energy monitors. Most start around $20 and go up into the hundreds or thousands for the whole house systems.

Is An Energy Monitor Really Worth It?

Well, I don’t own one (yet) so I can’t give a first hand account if an energy monitor is worth it or not.

Most of the energy monitor websites I checked out claim that you can save up to 10%-25% on your energy bill by using the device. And, I can see how it could be true.

For instance, if you knew for sure that the price per kilowatt goes up on nights and weekends, then you’d save money by doing big things like laundry during the day or late at night. And if you saw first hand how much energy your television sucks away overnight while it’s plugged in, then you’d probably make sure that you unplugged it before you went to bed.

All these little cuts could add up to a significant savings on your energy bill.

The Energy Joule

By far the coolest energy monitor I found is the Energy Joule, made by Ambient.

Courtesy of Ambient

Courtesy of Ambient

Now it may look a bit complicated, but it’s not. Here’s how it works…

The Energy Joule works by not only telling you how much energy you’re using, but also when your energy is most expensive. When peak times are in effect, the price of energy goes up. One quick glance at the display and you can decide if drying your clothes is a good idea right now, or if it’d be more cost effective to wait a few hours.

The green background is displayed when energy costs the lowest. Yellow is when energy is getting expensive. And red, of course, is peak cost. The bar on the left of the screen also helps tell you when you’re paying the most for energy. When the bar is at the bottom, your price per kilowatt is low. When it’s a peak rate, the bar goes to the top.

Another amazing thing about the Energy Joule is that it will count down to the change in energy cost. The yellow picture above, where it shows -23:01, is telling you that you have 23 minutes until the price of energy goes up due to “energy rush hour”.

You also get a clear picture of how much energy you’re using with the circular bar on the right of the the screen. When it’s low, your home is not consuming a lot of energy. Once it starts to spike, then you know you’re using more. This information is beamed wirelessly to the device from your home’s energy meter.

Ok, now that I’ve got you frothing at the mouth for the Energy Joule, here’s the bad news. This device is only available if you get your energy from Consumer Powerline. For the rest of us, we’re out of luck. I know, I know. I was grinding my teeth in frustration too.

So, why’d I even bring up this amazing green gadget? Because Ambient is urging people to contact their power company to request they start using this new technology. Only once the power company is on board can consumers have access to the Energy Joule.

You can bet I’m going to be contacting my energy company to request they start using the Energy Joule technology.

You can find out more information about the Energy Joule here.

Courtesy TED

Courtesy TED

TED Energy Monitor

The Energy Detective (TED) energy monitor is one that any of us can use because it doesn’t depend on feedback from the energy company like the Energy Joule.

TED’s cool because it gives you real time feedback. You don’t have to wait 10, 20, or 30 seconds while the console updates. If you open your fridge door, you’re going to see the energy spike. If you flip off an overhead light, you’re going to see it go down.

Another cool thing about TED is that it calculates your bill based on what you pay per kilowatt (which you can find on your energy bill). You can see on the display the current per-month total of how much you owe for your energy use, as well as TED’s projection of what your bill is going to be. There’s no surprises.

TED retails for around $145. But with the energy cuts you can make using it, I’d imagine it’d pay for itself in a year or two.

You can find out more about The Energy Detective energy monitor here.

Kill-A-Watt Energy Monitor

By far the least expensive option when it comes to energy monitors is the Kill-A-Watt.

The Kill-A-Watt only works for individual appliances, which is a big reason why it’s so much less expensive than the first two.

And, you have to do your own calculations with this one; the Kill-A-Watt simply tells you how many killowatts each appliance is using. It’s up to you to drag out the calculator and figure out how much that energy is costing you.

But, the Kill-A-Watt can’t be beat when it comes to price. I saw prices online ranging from $14.95 to $21.00. And, it got really great reviews on Amazon, so I think this is the one I’m going to buy for myself.

Incidentally, as soon as I get The Greenest Dollar’s Green Store launched, you’ll be able to purchase the Kill-A-Watt right here on the site, so stay tuned for that!

Last Word….

So, is an energy monitor worth the investment? I definitely think they are. After all, knowledge is power. I’m really excited to get one ordered for myself because I’m sure there are places I could be trimming back.

My biggest bane is remembering to unplug my computer and monitor at night. I’m fanatic about lights and keeping the heat down, but for some reason I hardly ever remember to turn off my office stuff. But I’m hoping that once I see how much that vampire power is costing me each night, I’ll be more apt to “remember”. After all, losing money stinks.

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Aya @ Thrive March 11, 2009 at 11:10 am

I knew these things existed, but I never knew they could be purchased for personal use. I completely agree, knowing exactly how much you’re spending and where to cut down makes a difference than simply thinking “I know turning off my light will save money.” I’ll be looking forward to finding out how the monitor works out for you over the next few months. As for me, I’m going to go home and unplug everything tonight 🙂

heather March 11, 2009 at 11:18 am


Yeah, I knew they were around too, but I’d never really taken the time to investigate how effective they could be. I try to be aware of how much energy I’m using, but I think something that gives immediate feedback would really help me cut down on my energy use.

I’ll definitely post a product review after I’ve got one!

Jenn March 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm

This is a great post. Have you heard about THE ORB? It’s a bulb that goes red during peak demand times.

My own two cents on the Kill-a-Watt: it takes FOREVER to add up a whole kilowatt hour! Little household appliances, computers, printers, might take a whole day to register anything. I’d recommend Watts Up, but they are 10x more expensive…

Scott @ The Passive Dad March 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I’ve looked into buying the Kill A Watt and think I could justify the cost if a few friends went in on it together. I’ve got one buddy interested and we might might be able to cover the cost of it within a few months. I’ve been curious how much power our appliances use and if it makes sense to purchase newer ones.

heather March 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hi Scott,

I just ordered one last week off Amazon; I think I paid around $20 for it. It’s due in tomorrow, so I’ll be posting a part 2 to this article to illustrate what I found out after using it.

That’s a great idea to go in with friends; thanks for sending it in!

Abhinav March 30, 2009 at 12:57 am

Hey nice stuff.I too got a study lamp few days ago.Its World’s first ‘Safe for Eyes’ certified rechargeable study light.

Shirin Shah April 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Thanks for posting this.
Understanding the importance of energy efficiency is SOOO important for anyone REALLY wanting to get GREEN!

It’s actually really easy to get clued-in on how it works.
I wrote an article so those of us who don’t understand numbers and wattage, can easily get this! =)

check it here:

Anchal May 12, 2009 at 5:41 am

Go Green is the need of the hour , use energy saving and environment safe products . We can start with using LEDS which not only saves energy but are completely safe for the environment and our health in general.

Roman May 29, 2009 at 10:23 am

Just wanted to mention that TED5000 model is being released soon. You can check our site for more info on

Mark November 27, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Great tips.
There are some other good ways to help you out with your electric bill costs…
I came across this interesting site (they are pretty inspiring as far as what they do…)
They have all kind of solar gadgets.
They also offer to recycle your old solar lights, I could not find that anywhere else.

Have a green Day!

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