Save Money on Your Energy Bills-Three Simple Ways
I was reading the news this morning and came across this article in CNNMoney.com that I wanted to share. The claim is that if you use these three products you can save approximately $500 a year on your energy bills. Their descriptions made the products seem very easy to use, but didn't list any pricing or reviews.
The claim of saving up to 30% of my energy bills seems too easy to be true. I went online to see how much I will have to lay out to save this much, and to see if others had found the products as useful and easy as CNNMoney claims. Here are my findings.
Energy Star is a Wealth of Information
Energy Star is a great site to get information about saving money on your energy costs. They give you tips on the most likely spots you will find leaks, how to fix them and even how to choose a contractor if you elect to have someone else do it for you. They even provide you with a checklist of questions to ask contractors before installing new equipment.
Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector
The Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector is a fairly new product. On Amazon there is one rating of 5 stars. The individual states that this item worked how it was supposed to, but was unable to state if they had saved any money because this was the first year using it.
The Black and Decker website claims the product came out in January 2009. The directions sound very simple. Just point the light at a wall to set the desired temperature. Temperature settings can be set to Fahrenheit or Celsius. Next set the change in temperature you would like to evaluate. You can set it to go off at 1, 5, or 10 degrees F of change.
Once your settings are programmed, just move the light around your house (as if it was a flashlight) and the lights on the back will change from green to red (for a hot spot) or blue (for a cold spot). This will alert you to a leak. The Leak Detector comes with a bonus booklet that will tell you different ways to seal the leaks. The ad claims that Energy Star states you can save up to 20% off you bills by sealing the leaks in your home.
I was unable to find any other reviews of people who had actually bought this product. There were several reviews done on it right before Christmas lamenting the fact that it would not be out until after the holiday season. Many people brought up the fact that this product can also test for leaks in your oven and refrigerator/freezer. As well as on any other surface or compartment you would like to take a temperature reading.
Henkel Home Energy Audit Kit
The only item I found remotely close to the Black and Decker product was the Henkel Home Energy Audit Kit. This one looks as if you actually scan it along the surfaces while watching the digital readout to look for differences in temperature. It comes with a worksheet that allows you to record different temperature readings and a manual to explain what the different readings mean. The manual also gives you easy to follow tips and suggestions on how to fix the identified leaks.
This one seems a little less user friendly than the Black and Decker model. You need to track and record the temperatures yourself instead of the point and read method of the Black and Decker. I could not find even one user rating on this product. Nor did I ever find it's manufacturer's page.
Honeywell 7 Day Touchscreen Programmable Timer
The next item CNNMoney advises you to buy is a programmable thermostat. They mention two; the Honeywell 7 day Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat; and the Ecobee Smart Thermostat. Let's look at the Honeywell first.
The Honeywell allows you to program your thermostat for up to 4 time zones for a 7 day period. I have a programmable thermostat and I will say this is very helpful. I set it to change after I have gone to bed, before I wake up, when I leave for work, and before I get home. This way I can maximize the energy efficiency, without having the annoying wait.
It is easy to see and has touchscreen programming. There is a model with button programming for those who prefer it. This model will keep its settings during power outages, automatically adjust to Daylight Savings Time (if wanted) and even tell you when it is time to change your filters.
The Honeywell is compatible with most heating and cooling systems. However, it is not compatible with electric baseboard heating systems. It comes in a box with mounting instructions and hardware, wire labels, wall anchors and a user's guide. This is an Energy Star rated product and comes with a limited one year warranty.
14 people have reviewed this product on Amazon. 10 give it 5 stars, 3 gave it 4 stars and 1 gave it 3 stars for an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. One person was unhappy with the shipping time, one said it makes a loud click when turning on, one had a hard time figuring out if it was compatible with their system, and one with the actual settings. 13 out of 14 found it very easy to work, and customer service was complimented by those who contacted it.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is also a 7 day 4 time setting programmable thermostat, with one big difference. You can access it from anywhere through a personalized web portal. It sells at Ecobee for $385. The programming wizard seems to be very easy to work and the entire system looks very user friendly. However, I cannot see spending over $300 more to be able to access my home thermostat from the office. Especially when I already have the ability to program in 4 different settings per day.
The initial cost of the unit includes the first year's $35 subscription fee, so I assume you will have to pay yearly after that to maintain the WiFi accessibility. In one review the writer said that you would probably need a HVAC technician to install it. I guess if you truly love new technology and have the money to afford it, this unit will make you very happy.
Kill A Watt EZ
The next item they recommend is a device that tracks real time usage of electronics and gives you a reading telling you how much they cost to run. The thought behind this is that you have visual reinforcement that encourages you to cut your usage back to what is necessary. I've read that not turning your computer off will cost you about $100 a year.
The first item is called Kill A Watt EZ. It will calculate how much it costs to run an item. Enter the cost you are paying the electric company per kilowatt hour and get a read out that will also calculate how much you spend per week, month and year. This is a great tool to use with kids. Challenge them to lower costs, make it into a game. Make saving energy fun!
148 people have reviewed this item on Amazon giving it an over 4.5 stars out of 5 possible. That is a very good rating, so it must work pretty well. It seems that one complaint is that it will not work on 208/220v items. One thing I never realized is that appliances will use power even when they are off. People have used this to device to tell how much power these idle appliances were using.
Black & Decker Power Monitor
The Black and Decker Power Monitor seems to be made to use concurrently with the Kill A Watt EZ. The Power Monitor can show you how much more you are spending when your central air conditioner, dryer or other 220v appliances are on.
The main device is attached to your outside meter. Installation seems to be very simple from what people say. Just don't forget to buy the 2 lithium AA batteries, as they are not included. This portion is enclosed in a waterproof housing. It transmits wirelessly to an indoor display unit. You program the display unit with your current cost per kilowatt hour and it will keep a running total of how much you are spending. You can also read it in energy used.
You can run it for an hour without the air conditioner on, then run it for an hour with the air conditioner on to see how much the air conditioner (or other appliance) is costing. It seems the unit updates itself every 30 seconds, so you do not have to run something for an entire hour to get accurate data. This unit also tells you the outside temperature.
31 people rated this device on Amazon with an overall rating of 4 stars out of a possible 5. It seems that some of them bought it expecting it to work like the Kill A Watt EZ. Some were unhappy that it only measures in 0.1 KWH, and they could not measure their smaller items. You will also need to check the wireless range and where your meter is if you live in an apartment or condo.
After researching these items I have decided that I should probably invest in them. I already have a 7 day 4 time programmable thermostat, so the others should be relatively easy purchases. I really can't wait to get my Kill A Watt EZ and my Power Monitor so that I can prove a few things to my kids. Maybe I'll let them stand for about 10 minutes looking into the refrigerator and then tell them exactly how much it costs for a year to do this.
I never could understand this long look. They know what is in there, and they should know that nothing is going to magically appear! I tell them repeatedly, "don't just stand there with the door open." Only to hear the standard reply, "I'm just looking for something to eat." This drives me crazy!