There was a time when I was keenly aware of how much electricity I used: None. For nine months, I lived so far off the grid in Nepal the very idea that an invisible power could travel through skinny lengths of flexible metal to make a flame-free fire that could light up the night seemed nothing short of magical.
When the monsoon let up, a friend and I made an arduous three-day trek from Lake Rara to the home of a Peace Corps volunteer who had running water and occasional electrical power supplied by a generator. We arrived at dusk to hear the sound of urgent voices coming from his home. Crisis! Blackouts! Declared state of emergency! I thought we had coincidentally arrived back to civilization on the very brink of its collapse. I panicked. I wanted to run. I suggested we head for the hills again. Turns out, Armageddon was actually a fairly routine broadcast of BBC radio. It took me a while to to get used to being, once again, plugged-in. For weeks, I was living lyrics of yet to be written Talking Heads tune: tense and nervous, couldn't relax, a real live wire.
I swore I would never take electricity for granted again.
But of course, I have.
Now comes a little gadget called the Kill A Watt energy monitor to raise awareness and lower bills. It's a cool tool. Say you want to know how much energy that old fridge is sucking. Plug the monitor into an electrical socket and the fridge into the monitor. It tells you how much energy the appliance uses in kilowatts hours. Plug in your smart phone, TV, hairdryer, or electric nose hair clippers. The idea is to become aware of energy use and identify potential energy suckers, including devices that kill the watts even when they are turned off and can account for 5-15 percent of your total electric bill.
A handy whatchamacallit, right?
So how much is this little monitor going to set you back?
Nada. The Energy Trust of Oregon teamed up with 150+ public libraries in Oregon so you can check-out a Kill A Watt monitor in the same way you check out a book. For details on how and where check this out.
And when you are feeling all smug about your energy savings you can — and probably should — celebrate with this dance. And post the video.
Vivian McInerny is managing editor of Oregon Home.