How to monitor energy consumption in your home

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This blog post marks the beginning of a series of energy savings blog posts we’re going to create over the next few months. We’re going to cover a wide range of topics, including: energy-saving lightbulbs, proper disposal of electronics and appliances, smart thermostats, sustainable landscaping, water bill reduction and many other interesting subjects.

We thought the obvious place to start when it comes to energy conservation would be to look around the house and figure out where we’re using the most energy. Later on, we’ll get into how to reduce the energy consumption we find. For the purpose of this blog post, I used an energy usage meter, which we stock at This meter is great for figuring out where you’re using the most energy and eliminating any phantom loads (electric power used by appliances and electronic devices while in standby mode).

This meter plugs right into a wall outlet and measures the wattage being used by anything plugged into it. I used this meter to measure the wattage being used by everything plugged in at my house.

energy usage meter

My findings were rather interesting. I did discover a device that sucks a substantial amount of energy when it isn’t doing anything. Our satellite dish receiver box uses 46 watts while in standby mode. This makes sense I have our dish DVR set up to record various programs, so obviously the dish box needs some energy flowing to it at all times. Now, to figure out the damage of this phantom load, a little math:

46 (watts used) / 1000 (to convert to kilowatts) = .046 kilowatts

.047 kilowatts x 24 hours (the amount of time the box is on per day) x 365 (the amount of days in a year) = 411.72 kWh (kilowatt-hour) of energy per year.

In Michigan, energy is currently priced around $.13 per kWh of energy used. So to finish off our math problem:

411.72 kWh x .13 dollars/kWh = $53.52

So, if I keep our dish box plugged in all year, it will cost us $53.52. That does not include the price of actually turning on the dish and watching TV! Don’t let our little math problem get you down though, because that was the only phantom load in the house. Leaving various electronic chargers plugged into the wall does not use energy. Night lights and fans that are turned off, contrary to popular belief, do not use electricity. Nothing else in my house gave off a substantial phantom load (electrical devices with displays on them will use small amounts of electricity all the time, but it is not substantial).

Once I discovered that phantom loads are not much of a problem, I realized that the majority of our energy consumption comes from the larger appliances and heating and cooling equipment, with all of them using hundreds of watts while running.

Have you discovered any energy hogs in your home? Please share in the comments below.

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