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Before solar panels, a reality check

EnergymonitorReader Rich W. has given me two good ideas regarding my quest for a solar-powered home:

1. Learn more about photovoltaic systems and design my own, then hire an installer.

2. Find out how much power I’m using in my house, and where all those watts are going.

This is good advice. I’ve long heard that decreasing usage is the first step in weaning myself from the power grid. I mean, why buy a system twice as large as I really need just because I’m blind to wasted power usage in my home?

As an American not used to limitations, my fear is that with awareness of what I’m doing, I’ll begin to live a compromised life, sitting in a dark, cold house and not using my computer.

But, I’ve decided to go forward anyway and face reality. And to do that, I’ve ordered a P3 International Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor from Amazon for $20.98 (eligible for free shipping).

With this meter, I’ll be able to calculate just how much it costs me to keep my desktop computer set to standby, and how much it costs me to recharge my batteries, and how much it costs to run that 60-inch flat-screen TV that has taken over our living room.

At this point, I’m in pure ignorance about what the $100 or so I send to the power company every month accomplishes.

I’ll fill you in on the results when I get them.

In the meantime, have you measured energy use in your home, and what did you find out?

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