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Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Thursday 21 January 2021
Current Time-of-use pricing is: medium at 19.393¢/kWh
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Published Columns: November 2006
Curbing Your Consumption:
Read the Manual, Read the Meter

By John Ford

Heading in to the holiday season, it's time to think about shopping and decorations well in advance, and time to mention the savings from LED decorative lights. A 70 bulb string of LEDs uses the same (or less) amount of electricity as just one of the old bulbs. Meaning that there's almost no point in using a timer unless you have a large number of strings, since the timer may use more electricity than the bulbs would while on all the time.

Use the opportunity of the shopping season to read manuals for products you want to buy as gifts. Extend the idea to digging out and reading the manuals for products you already have. Look for energy saving features such as timers, hidden real off switches, and low power modes that products may have that you many not have known about. Flip to the back of the manual where the specifications will tell you how much energy it uses in different modes. Buy the most efficient device for the use planned. Check out the labels on the back of appliances to see how much energy they are supposed to use, and compare with newer appliances when you're out shopping.

Take the exploration of your old and new stuff to another level and pick up a meter to measure energy use. It has been previously mentioned that the Ottawa Public Library has P3 Kill-A-Watt meters for loan at no cost, buying one is about $50. There is also another meter available at a local retailer, called an EM100 for about $25. This meter has the added feature of a battery backup to retain readings when unplugged, and allows the entry of the cost of a kWh (10.6¢/11.6¢ from November 1, 2006) so that an increasing cost total can be displayed. Both of these meters are small devices with a standard three prong plug on the back and an outlet on the front. Get together with neighbours and buy one together for rotating use. Or buy one as a gift for a relative and borrow it back when they're bored with it.

After plugging the meter into the wall you plug the device to be measured into the front. You can use a power bar to measure a bunch of devices at the same time such as a computer, monitor, and modem. Using one of these for all your appliances around your house for 24 hour periods will give you a complete picture of where all your electricity is being used. Plug in the washer to see how much a load of laundry uses. Check the fridge to see the difference between winter and summer consumption. For a real fright, plug in your ancient basement beer fridge and see how much energy it sucks in.

John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy conservation business, and the Energy Advocate for the Green Party of Ontario.