Bruce Karney loaned me his Kill-A-Watt meter so I could see where my power goes. The idea is that once I know what uses power in my home, I can change my habits so that they use less power. When he showed this meter to me, I immediately became curious about where my power consumption was. Here is what I found out:


When the fridge is just sitting there it uses three Watts. When the motor is running it uses about 168 Watts. Since the duty cycle is low, that adds up to 2.4 KiloWattHours (KWH) per day (I only left it plugged into the meter for eight hours before I took the above picture). Doing the math, that means I spend about $8.64 a month chilling the stuff in it. In the summer that is something like a third of my power bill.


The glue gun, night light, answering machine, and camera charger all use very small amounts of power when they are running. The only one that spends a lot of time on is the 5 W light in the bathroom, which ends up costing less than 29 cents a month for power. It puts out plenty of light for things like going to the bathroom. I only use the bright overhead light when I'm doing something like taking a shower or trimming my beard.


Reading under the bedroom light uses a bit more than a third the power of reading in the living room. Reading a book probably costs me something between 5 cents and a quarter for the electricity used. The most fuelish of these lights use less than a third the power of using my most fuel efficient computer when it is on.

Comparing my computers:


Plugged into the Mac, with the circuit breaker in the off position, the Mac uses no power.

In standby mode, the Mac and the light above it together use 24 Watts.


Using the Mac, it uses 82 Watts, including the light above it.

When printing, power consumption goes up to around 140 Watts.

The Mac is good compared to my Linux box. As you can see below, it uses much more power.


With the breaker open, the Linux box also uses no power.

Standby mode, it uses 35 Watts, including the light above the desk.


In normal use, 154 Watts to 168 Watts are consumed. That's about twice what the Mac used.

When printing, this machine gobbles at least 450 Watts. That's more than three times what the Mac station uses. I think the difference is mainly because this is a LaserJet, whereas the Mac uses an InkJet. Paper comes out of this machine warm. Paper comes out of that one slightly damp.

Based on this comparison, I should use the Mac as much as possible when it's up to the job.


The coffee maker draws some power, but when all is said and done a pot of coffee doesn't even cost a cent to make. Making toast (not shown) adds up to about two cents per toasting.


The vacuum draws an impressive amount of power while it's running, but when all is said and done cleaning both the bedroom and living room adds up to less than four cents worth of power.


The stereo at a comfortable volume draws 17 Watts. Loud enough that I can comfortably hear it in the bathroom or kitchen, it draws 19. Way, Way, WAY too loud, the momentary power consumption goes up to something like 61 Watts, but at those volumes the number in the display jumps around a lot. Trust me, that is much louder than I want it to be for more than experimental time frames.


The above is the power consumption of my TV set. The only light fixture in my home that is likely to draw any more power than it is the one in the kitchen, which has four 25 Watt florescent bulbs in it. I think about things like that when I see a political leader on TV discussing some shocking political development. (The above picture was taken when former Vice President Al Gore was telling Gwen Ifil why he wrote his new book, The Assault On Reason, or maybe it was taken when he said he had no current plans to run for President in the same interview.) I wish I'd taken a screen shot during the technology story when they talked about how those new high efficiency LED light bulbs really would "change the way we see the world." That would have been on topic with this page. A screen shot of anything else would have taken just as much power. Ninety minutes of TV news (as much as I wanted today) doesn't even cost me two cents.

I remember reading in some glossy magazine that Al Gore uses way more power than I do on a daily basis. I don't feel responsible for that. I am responsible for my own power bill. Maybe I am responsible in some way for that of the people whom I influence the buying decisions of. Certainly over the years I have suggested to many people that they adopt less fuel consuming habits. How many have taken the advice to heart? Probably more than one. How many were already "on the same page"? Certainly more than one. I think about that because it seems that the only way I can really prevent significantly more pollution than I cause is to talk other people into using less energy than they would have without my efforts. When all is said and done, it would be nice to know I didn't do this world any harm by living on it. My grandparents would have liked that.

I think about it because of the global nature of the internet. You, dear reader, could be anywhere, and any time after about 1 AM on June 20th, 2007. Is the framework around you different from mine? It can't be that different or you wouldn't be able to read (meaning see and comprehend) these words. That's the best way I can explain my understanding of the political role of regulation in culture. I'd love for "green politics" to have an ecojustice component, but it's not going to happen until we reach critical mass. That's not going to happen until we develop a sophisticated understanding of what the term "moving forward together" really means. I say that because I've seen "I don't mind so it doesn't matter" work for too many people in too many different contexts to think otherwise.

My net bill for the 212 KWH shown above was $25. I'm not sure how much power the stove, microwave, and built in lights use, but I suspect they add up to at least a third of my power consumption. I'm guessing part of the power consumption rise from last year is from aging of the seals on the fridge, which I should replace. Another factor is that last year I was running for office, which meant I was out a lot more than I am now. Even so, my power consumption is only 58% of the baseline usage for homes like mine. My neighbor thinks "everybody uses more than baseline". I guess that makes me nobody in her world. Anyhow, I use all the power I want, and then some when I forget to turn something off. I have no idea why she would want to use more...

I long ago figured out that it's okay to use less power than I do, but you have to work to do so. I'm sure that there are people whose power consumption is smaller than mine. If you think you are one of them and you commute, don't forget to include the power you use at work which your employer pays for in your actual consumption footprint. The above power bill includes all of my website development and email, in addition to my other lifestyle requirements. If your total power usage is lower than mine, I salute you!

Tian Harter