Unplug your battery charger.

"My battery charger uses the same energy in four hours to 'top off' my rechargeable batteries as it does to charge depleted batteries. It just keeps charging," says Maryo Mogannam, owner of the Postal Chase, a full-service packaging and mailing company. "If I can get to the outlet for my old Denon stereo I'd like to see what that puppy uses... It's always warm. It could justify buying a new stereo."

We enlisted him to test out the Kill-A-Watt Power meter sent to use by retailer Cableorganizer.com. He's got more things plugged into walls than most anyone I know.

The holidays are fast approaching, but it's still not easy to buy green. A Tesla Roadster? Out of reach for most budgets. A bottle of the CleanWell organic hand sanitizer? There's no better way to say, "Merry Christmas, I think your hygiene could improve." The Lite2Go from Knoend, a lamp whose packaging turns into the shade, is pretty cool, but it's only available in a few stores if you want to see it live first.

So why not the Kill-A-Watt power meter? It only costs $29.95, most people can figure out how to use it, and everyone can find a use for it.

In general, he says it's a buy, but it may not be for everyone. What follows are his comments on the power meter.

User interface: "I like information on volts, amps and watts, but Hz [hertz cycles]? Who really needs that? The unit could use more flash memory or a laptop feature for comparing the power consumption from several appliances or from several short usage tests with one appliance versus one long test with one appliance."

Surprises: "It takes the same amount of power to heat up 16 oz. of water in the coffeemaker as it does to boil 16 oz. of water in an electric kettle, and the kettle is much hotter/faster. Who knows? Maybe Starbucks instant coffee can be a green alternative."

"Another hidden energy waster is my entertainment center which eats up 0.02 kilowatts per hour in idle mode, which is the same a 12-bulb Christmas-style night light that I use for my kids."

Payback: "If I unplugged the entertainment center and put the nightlight on a timer, these two items could save me:

  • 0.02kw x 20hrs x 30 days = 12.0 kWh
  • 0.02kw x 16hrs x 30 days = 9.6 kWh
  • At $0.11531 per kWh = $2.49 per month

"The machine could pay for itself in one year. Could you imagine if I applied this to a large appliance?"

Future features: "If It could just convert kilowatt hours easily to a therms equivalent for gas I would be ecstatic. We are negotiating whether to get an electric dryer because we're goingsolaror a gas dryer because it's net effect may be less due to the 10-year ROI."

Overall: "The Kill-A-Watt is a great educational tool as well as enlightening as to what things consume. It was fun to play with and learn. But how it will do in the mass market? I don't know."