Saving Lots of Watts by Sleuthing

You probably can guess at what are the big contributors to your electricity bill each month; things like the lights, the fridge, and the dryer are all known to use quite a bit of juice.  Take the dryer, for instance. In my house, we dry about 4 loads per week. It takes about 1/2 hour per load, or 2 hours a week. Using my PowerCost Monitor, I can see the dryer uses 7500 Watts when the heat’s on, and 200 Watts when just tumbling, and that the heat is on about 1/2 the drying time. That means that the dryer alone is adding about 46 Watts to my household’s lifestyle.

But, the big items are not the only things to consider.  I did a bit of sleuthing around the house and made some small changes that ended up saving a lot more electricity than the dryer.

Stereo? We have a receiver that we use for our TV — we turn it off whenever the TV is off … or, so I thought. One day I realized that it was a bit warm to the touch and a tiny little indicator on the front was lit – even when “off”. It turns out the receiver has the ability to handle three “zones” (which we don’t use) and tiny black buttons for the unused zones were pressed on. Turning off those zones saved 85 Watts (as measured with a Kill-a-Watt).

A little heat and a little indicator light were my clues.

Server? I had an old desktop computer running in a broom closet next to our router and printer (I’m a geek — having a “server” is almost a requirement). When my wife complained of the noise from the fan and how hot it made the closet – I looked into it. It turns out that the whole setup drew 108 Watts. I was able to replace it with an Apple Time Capsule that draws only 12 watts. Net saving: 96 Watts.

A little noise and some heat were my clues.

Transformers? How about all those “bricks” that electronic things use: cell chargers, wireless phones, computer speakers, and all the rest. New ones (called “switching transformers”) use barely any electricity. Older ones (usually much bigger) suck watts all the time, hence the nickname “vampire” transformers. Touch them — if they’re warm, they’re old ones. I unplugged or got rid of five that we didn’t need. There are a few from computers that I do need, but only when the computer is being used; so, I put them on smart strips. Those changes equal 45 Watts saved.

A little heat gave it away.

Standby? I thought our @#%$ Windows XP computers were set to go into standby (and hibernate) modes automatically. But, it turns out that doesn’t really work in many cases. I figured out how to make XP hibernate, but also got into the habit of manually setting the computer to standby. For the three computers, I estimate about 200 Watts saved.

The clue? Made by Microsoft. And noise and heat.

It Adds Up. Currently, we’re paying $0.20 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), according to our electricity bill. For every 100 Watts saved, we save about $14/month (100 W * 720 hours in a month = 72 kWh * $0.20 ~= $14). So, my four little changes alone save 426 Watts and $59/month.

No doubt the PowerCost Monitor and Kill-a-Watt helped me identify how significant these things were. But, if you don’t have them, look for lights, listen for sounds, and feel for heat – with a little sleuthing and some small changes, you can watch your electricity bill go down.


WattzOn Labs is always innovating ways to engage people to save water and energy. It showcases the WattzOn products under the WattzOn Labs private-label. We don’t market these products, but use this small-scale direct-to-consumer experience to constantly evolve and learn. Then we apply the findings to the rich, private-label products used by all our customers at WattzOn.