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It would have been just another Tuesday night...

…except that I just got an awesome toy/tool – the kill a watt! It’s pretty simple, just plug it into an outlet and plug something into it and it will read off pretty much any metric you want concerning electricity usage. Volts, Amps, Volt-Amps, Watts, and KWh (measured over however long you leave it there). After opening it and trying it out on a few random items, I realized I couldn’t put it down until I had measured everything in my house that attaches to an outlet. Luckily, I live in a very, very small house. I didn’t find anything too outlandish, but I’ll publish my results anyway, just for fun. An engineer’s version of fun.

Altec Lansing Subwoofer + 2 speakers – While this is sold as a 120W amplifier, I cranked some music (almost) as loud as I could, and never got it to draw more than 12 W. But, it did qualify as a candidate for unplugging when I found out that it draws, while completely off, 5 entire watts. Day and night, for the past few years, it has steadily and needlessly burned precious energy from the world’s supply. At my current electricity cost of 11.87 cents/KWh, it costs me 0.059 cents/hour. That’s $5.20 per year, or maybe $20-$30 total over the years I’ve owned it. Not terrible, I suppose, but definitely unnecessary.

Toaster – While off, this actually draws an unmeasurably low amount, which is good. While in use, it draws 721W, which is evidently the necessary amount to blacken two pieces of toast in just under 2 minutes.

Microwave – This one was a little bit intense. The microwave is rated at 1200W, but when I plugged it into the kill a watt and began nuking a glass of water, the device began beeping and screeching and blinking while reporting a draw of 1,860W. I assume it was warning of some measurement ceiling that was about to be surpassed, but it seemed to be saying something more along the lines of “situation unstable: vacate the premises while microwave is in use!”.

Fridge – While on, it draws 165W, and with the door open at the same time, 199W. While “off”, it still draws 8W, or ~$8/year. If I assume that it spends about half of its time on (cooling), it is costing me about $86/year. Considering that much of my food is courtesy of the Trader Joe’s freezer section, that seems like a pretty fair deal.

Besides a couple lamps, a phone charger, a laptop charger, and an electric heater, none of which gave particularly interesting or unexpected results when subjected to the kill a watt, that is the complete list of my pluggable appliances. I guess now I will have to leave the subwoofer unplugged for 4 years in order to recover the cost of the kill a watt, but at least now I know that my microwave is 50% more powerful, and therefore awesome, than it claims to be.

2 comments to It would have been just another normal Tuesday night…

  • hah, very cool! i must get one. if my altec lansing set has been doing that, what a complete waste. i probably use it a couple times a week.

  • joel

    i think it’s safe to assume that, yes, all altec lansing subwoofers across the world have been drawing unnecessary power since their inception. time to unplug! :)

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