Measuring the Watt

First we need to measure and quantify how much electric power we use. Power is the rate at which energy is used or work is done. Some units of measure for electric power include horsepower, watts, kilowatts, or megawatts.

Power is typically measured using a meter or a monitor. In realtime or over time. Utilities typically use a 30 day billing cycle to collect and bill for kWhr energy used. This tends to make it difficult to track specific energy use around the home and even creates a disconnect between cost and usage.

Research shows that over 40% of residential (houses, mobile homes, and apartments) energy use is wasted. So it isn't surprising that by providing feedback using a real time kWhr energy monitor there is a potential to capture and eliminate more than 30% of this wasted energy.

The majority of wasted energy falls into the following categories:
A. Heating/cooling of un-occupied rooms (13%)
B. Overheating/cooling due to temperature variations (3%)
C. Leakage/standby power (2.5%)
D. Appliance choice (15%)

These can be controlled and monitored by using a combination of the following:
A. Programmable thermostats

B. Zone heating/cooling

C. Appliance monitors

Waiting until the energy bill is delivered is typically too late to allow for a consumer to react. Real-time in-home feedback can help the consumer minimize their energy usage.

Real-time monitoring provides a window into what is happening in our homes and can answer questions like:

How do we know if our refrigerator is using more than it should?
How much can we save by unplugging the 2nd refrigerator?
Does the old freezer have a hole in it?
Is the well water pump working properly?
Is there something running that we can't hear?
Is it time to have the HVAC checked?
What is it costing to run that portable electric heater?
What is it costing to run the dehumidifier or humidifier?
How much was saved switching to CFL bulbs or turning the lights out?
Many many more...

Next we will look at specific energy monitors and the installation of these devices.

Energy use data

Evaluating energy performance requires good information on how, when, and where energy is being used. Collecting and tracking this information is necessary for establishing baselines and managing energy use.

Collect data

The data must be complete and accurate because it will be used for analysis and goal setting. Inventory all energy purchased and generated on-site (electricity, gas, steam, waste fuels) in physical units (kWh, mMBtu, Mcf, lbs of steam, etc.) and on a cost basis. Assemble energy bills, meter readings, and other use data.

Use a Tracking System

A system for tracking performance can range from a simple spreadsheet to detailed databases and IT systems. The following website offers a lot of great advice as well as a "Free Utility Bill Tracking Spreadsheet" for tracking your energy data.


Once you have your yearly data totals it is recommended that you divide the units by 365 to get your average daily usages. This will be very helpful in setting daily targets for energy reductions. The next step is to install real-time energy monitors so that you can track and monitor on a daily basis.

Good Luck!!!

Categories of energy usage

The energy usage in a typical home falls into these eight categories. Space heating and or water heating energy might be from gas or electric. Reducing energy usage can be accomplished by targeting one or more of these areas for conservation and energy efficiency measures. To start with you should track and measure your energy usage.