It’s important to track your energy usage if you’re interested in reducing it. A target such as 20% less electricity is much easier to obtain when you’re aware of how much power appliances in your home use. Even smaller appliances such as toasters and ovens can use more power than you expect, especially if you have already purchased energy efficient larger appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators.

One method of monitoring your energy usage is suggested by a blog post at the Energy Savers Blog at the US Department of Energy. A digital electrical meter can track the power usage for an individual electrical appliance and give you the precise information on how much electricity it uses. This is very useful if you are using older electrical appliances that do not clearly state how much power they use, newer Energy Star appliances may state their power usage on a sticker pasted on the appliance itself.

The blog post is about getting a digital electrical meter and installing it. The poster wanted to borrow an electrical meter from the library, but of course the library wants to lend out books and maybe videos, CDs, and DVDs, it doesn’t want to lend out home appliances. That’s actually an interesting concept that would be an innovative community project. There’s no reason a city like Ventura can’t loan out digital electrical meters, or even other energy efficient tools such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. This isn’t something most cities have done in the past, but libraries were not common around the nation either until Andrew Carnegie decided to support education around the United States by providing grants for US cities to set up libraries.

A web page at my alma mater, Humboldt State University, explains how digital electrical meters operate. Basically, it’s a device that plugs into an appliance. Instead of directly connecting an appliance to a wall socket, you plug the appliance’s power cord into the digital electrical meter, and then you plug the electrical meter itself into the wall socket. Be sure that you have extra power cords on hand in case the meter doesn’t come with extra cords when you buy it. Humboldt reminds you to take care of these power meters, using a soft cloth to clean the screen, instead of an abrasive paper towel. I’d recommend purchasing one rather than renting it as they sell for about $200, and you will want to keep one around the house to test out new appliances you purchase. As far as I know there isn’t a government rebate specifically for digital electrical meters like there is for energy efficient refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines, but there might be a program in the future.