Audit your own electricity usage for $35

A few months ago, I purchased a P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor!

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

This nifty device allows you to see what kind of electricity your plugged-in appliances use. Simply plug the Kill-A-Watt into the your outlet and your appliance into the Kill-A-Watt and let it sit. It will show you the Kwh that your appliance uses in the time it’s plugged in.

This is very handy for seeing if some appliances have “ghost loads” – that is, they use electricity even when not in use. This is common in many appliances – especially those with “brick” plugs.

I have to admit, there’s two things I hate about this product (not enough to warrant not having one):

  1. Once you unplug the unit, the data you just recorded is gone, so make sure you write it down before you unplug it!
  2. There’s a rather obvious design flaw/annoyance where you cannot plug this and any other plug into a standard double outlet. I would highly recommend something like Power Strip Liberator Plus, 5 Pack to allow you to plug this into an outlet without interfering with other devices. These things are handy for those times when you cannot use all the outlets on power strips because bulky plugs take up to much space too!

I think this is $35 well spent since it will help our family unplug costly devices. Decide for yourself!

Money and Water Saving Showerheads

Recently, one of our showerheads broke. In shopping for a new one, I wanted to find a new showerhead that met several criteria:

  1. Affordable (no $100 showerheads for our family!)
  2. Energy Efficient (water conservation saves water and heating energy)
  3. Flexible – I am a tall guy, and we also have little ones. We need something that accommodates a wide range of sizes and positions.
  4. Quality – I chose Peerless because I’ve had good experience with them so far, they’re affordable, and best of all, have a lifetime warranty.

I could not really find an off-the-shelf solution I liked entirely. Most showerheads that include a flexible hose are 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) – water-saving yes, but not quite enough in my opinion. I really wanted to get 1.5-1.6 GPM. The showerheads that save more water don’t usually have any flexibility and are usually under-powered too. Also, my wife wanted to maintain having a flexible hose showerhead so that we could shower the little ones.

My solution? Combine several showerheads and/or parts. Basically what I did was combined some items from several off-the-shelf showerheads with some stuff we already had to get the best of everything for less than many showerheads would cost. Now, I have a showerhead that combines fixed and flexible, is adjustable, affordable, and energy-saving. We could reduce our water usage (for showers) up to 40% and reduce our hot water usage, thus saving some electricity.

I ended up purchasing the Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome which we scored from Walmart (we usually hate shopping there btw, but didn’t have time to wait for Amazon) for $9.98. This gem of a showerhead was not only less than $10, it also uses 1.6 GPM – a full gallon per minute less than most showerheads. Yet, it seems to have a powerful spray pattern equitable to a 2.5 GPM showerhead. Very easy to install!

I also picked up a Peerless 4″ Sunflower Showerhead with Arm. I love the arm idea because it allows me to be able to stand under the showerhead (at 6′ 3″, this is usually impossible and I have to do squats to wash my hair). My wife didn’t want to give up the hose-mounted showerhead that we already had for the kiddos. So, I combined them! I simply replaced the fixed head of the existing two-headed showerhead with the Sunflower unit. Now, I have an affordable solution that meets everyone’s needs. I plan on buying an additional Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome from Walmart and replacing the Sunflower head so that my fixed showerhead is 1.6 GPM and my flexible showerhead is 2.5 GPM. This is a good compromise in my opinion.

If one were to do this from scratch, it would be pretty simple. This would allow for efficient showers that accommodate all size people, but also more forceful showers when needed. Here’s roughly what you would need:

  1. Buy a Peerless Sunflower Showerhead with Arm ($24.98) – if I can find just the arm cheaper, I would do that but most I have found have been as much as the entire showerhead system above.
  2. Buy an affordable matching showerhead with a flexible hose ($12.98)
  3. Buy a Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome ($13 at Amazon)
  4. Buy a Alsons #861-237 MP Chrome Shower Diverter
    to your liking ($2.03)
  5. Optional: Flow Control Valve ($2-$10)- let’s you slow the water down, or shut off while shaving or lathering up yet without turning off or adjusting the hot and cold supply thus saving more $$$.

Total cost for an adjustable two-headed, water-saving, flexible showerhead?  $49.98-$59.98. I know there are cheaper alternatives, but I think this is a reasonable price to get so many features in a showerhead setup.

To put it all together, you would first optionally attach your flow control valve (item #5), follwed by the diverter (item #4). To the main outlet of the diverter, you’d attach the adjustable arm from item #1 above. Next, remove the showerhead from item #1 above and replace with item #3 – the water-saving showerhead. To the other diverter outlet, attach item #2.

Doing the above, you’d have one extra showerhead which you could sell, give away, or tuck away for a plumbing emergency sometime.

These are just some ideas for anyone who has a hard time finding the showerhead of their dreams without spending $100.

Ideas for Lowering the Electric Bill

To live a simpler lifestyle, we’re convinced that we need to lower our consumption of goods and services so that we don’t need the same financial resources to prosper. I’ve been thinking about this a lot – not in a fearful way, but with a desire to lower my expenses.

What we’re doing is building a list of the irreducible minimum expenses we have. Then, looking at what can be re-worked on that list to cost less money. For most people, some bills cannot really be lowered. Usually that is your rent/mortgage, car payment, student loans and perhaps some utilities. For now, we want to focus on lowering the electric bill. For us, that’s about $250/month.

Here’s some things we’ve heard, or are personally considering.

We’ve done the stuff that many have done – replaced inefficient appliances, installed CFL (Compact Flourescent) light bulbs, etc. Sometimes that’s not enough! Here’s some things we’re considering or have been doing:

  1. Unplug everything you can – seriously – unplug everything you’re not using that does not have to run. Many electric items (those that have power chargers especially) use power even when not in use. Unplug them and you’ll save money.
  2. Practice an energy “Sabbath” – We’re considering taking a 24 hour period of rest from using electricity every week. Heh, the Amish do it all the time, we should be able to as well. Of course things like the fridge and hot-water heater would stay plugged in, but we would otherwise not use any electricity. Light candles (carefully of course) and play games with the family. Start a fire in the fireplace (if you have one), be romantic (where appropriate), have a slumber party with the kids – etc. Of course there’s much gained here aside from a lower electric bill!
  3. Get on your electric company’s budget plan – this might not save money per se, but will make budgeting for electric much easier.
  4. Go outside and stay outside -Unless you’re bubble boy, being outside generally doesn’t require electricity. Endure the hot or cold and go outside for a few hours. While you do, you’ll be (assuming the above is true), you’ll be consuming less electricity. Sun light is free! While you’re there, do some hard work that will pay you back like gardening, composting, exercising, etc. Turn your time and energy into assets!
  5. Go somewhere else where and when possible – if you have the discipline to do so without actually spending more money, try going places more often that are already using power for heat, lights, etc. For example, turn down your heat or A/C, turn off your lights, and go spend the afternoon at the library, the mall, etc. There’s plenty of places that are public that one can go and be in a bright, warm environment! Of course, ideally it would be great if these places were more green in their use of these resources, but at least by you being there, they’ll be getting the most out of their use.
  6. As mentioned above, if you haven’t already done so, consider more energy efficient appliances and installing CFL bulbs in your home. Both will require initial expenses, but could also provide lower cost in the long run.
  7. Consider fun stuff like building a solar oven!

This is just what we’ve considered so far. There are likely tons of other ideas. If you have em’ please post them in the comments for all to see and benefit from.

Till then, best wishes on lowering your electric bill!