Measuring electrical use by appliances

Asked January 12, 2016, 4:01 PM EST

How can I determine if it is cost effective to replace an old appliance (e.g., refrigerator) with a new and more energy efficient model? My electric bill seems extraordinarily high.

Jefferson County Wisconsin home energy life cycle assessment

2 Responses

If your appliance is not too old, you may be able to find Energy use numbers on it from the manufacturer or from the Energy Star Product Finder. Just remember that older appliances may not be as efficient as when they were new. Gasket leaks, worn components, etc may waste some energy. there are appliances that use electricity even when they are off. The instant on appliances, like TVs, stereos, use electricity all the time. some folks will put them on a power strip or surge protector strip that has a switch to turn it completely off.

There are products that allow you to plug in your appliance measure the energy usage. Most have a digital display that shows the wattage use. nearly all are designed to plug into the wall and then plug a 120 volt appliance. Costs on these units are $15 to $70. Some whole house or wireless systems can cost hundreds of dollars. A simple internet search for home energy monitors or appliance energy monitors will bring you up a wide assortment of options. Life Hacker website has a couple of interesting articles on home energy use, How to Find Out What's Costing You Money on Your Electric Bill and How I Cut My Energy Bill By a Third with Tech and Common Sense.

While not as sexy as individual appliance meters, simple weatherization techniques provide the best return on you investment dollar. Something as simple as replacing incandescent light bulbs with CF or LED bulbs can put a small notch in your energy savings. Replacing a 60 watt incandescent with the equivalent 13 watt compact florescent or 10 watt LED can help the cause. LED are look more promising these days with costs as low as $2 to $5 per 60 watt equivalent bulb that lasts 10 to 20 years. The color quality of the light is much nicer now too.

Some of our publication include Energy Efficiency Inside Your Home and Home Energy Savings. Email me if you need more specific information. One more publication, Saving Energy and Money.

There are several resources that are also available at

One article that may be particularly interesting discusses research from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory that makes comparisons between the types of "investments" you are asking about against the historic performance of common investments like stock, bonds, CD's, etc.

To find out more about this study or tools to help you save, search the Internet for “home energy savers” or go to