If you are trying to work out what power supply you will need to live off-grid, or trying to reduce your grid-connected carbon footprint, or just save money, it pays to know exactly how much power your are using in your home.
There are now a wide array of energy use calculators which let you see the cost and environmental impact of each appliance, as well as giving you an overview of your total power consumption down to the last light bulb. We list some of the best, but please send us your favourites, or add them as a comment at the end of this story (you’ll need to register and be logged in to comment).
Home energy costs have been climbing for 40 years. They reached an all time high in 2004 according to a recent study from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. In some areas, energy price inflation is double digit.
The US government launched one of the first tools for calculating energy use in the home at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Punch in a ZIP code, and the Home Energy Saver lets consumers find out what the average power bill in their neighborhood is and how long it would take to recoup investments in high-efficiency appliances. Use the Federal Govt. calculator here.
Want to know how much power it takes to run a home office? San Diego Gas & Electric lets customers use a similar calculator to see how energy hungry any given office is. SDGE Calculator here.
Energy provider Entergy offers a Home Energy Calculator, Appliance Calculator and Lighting Calculator to determine how much power you are pulling off the grid and its cost. By answering 16 questions about the structure of a home, types of windows, heating sources and the number of occupants, the calculator will generate an approximate annual heating bill. Entergy heating bill calculator.
Entergy also lets customers estimate the energy used by each household appliance, from light bulbs to fridges. A ceiling fan used for just a couple hours each day tacks on around $11.13 a year to energy bills. Each 100 watt light bulb used for nine hours a day will add $35.48 a year to your bill. Entergy Appliance calculator. Entergy Light calculator.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. offers a “Home Energy Analyzer.” By answering its questions you receive suggestions about the best ways to save energy. See the PG & E analyzer.
One of the most useful comes from the Japanese solar panel maker Kyocera. Their panels are excellent and so is their web site. Consumers interested in renewable energy upgrades for their home such as solar power can use their ZIP code to determine both the cost of adding solar technology and the state and federal tax credits available in a particular location. Check out the solar site.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides power to nearly 8.5 million homes, will mail customers a “Home e-Valuation.” A few weeks after filling out a questionnaire and sending it back, homeowners receive a customized report suggesting ways to boost heating, cooling, lighting, and appliance efficiency. Visit the TVA site.
By doing the data entry required you’re increasing your sensitivity to the ways you are using or wasting energy. But online tools and calculations come with a margin of error.
Entergy says their calculator is “not intended to be extremely accurate, but rather, to provide a comparison platform.”
The Harvard report finds that rising home energy costs typically don’t lead homeowners to make significant investments in energy-efficient improvements, unless costs remain high for several years.
For many, deciding whether to invest in more energy-efficient windows or upgrade a heating system the biggest question is what it will do for the resale value of their home.
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