Watt a Merry Christmas!

Both our girls made it home for Christmas. We lit some candles and exchanged a few presents on Christmas Eve. The highlight is a custom we picked up in the Netherlands, where the present exchange came with quirky, poems that hint at the object inside the wrappings and tease the person unwrapping it.

..How to keep a green Christmas can be puzzling.

Ideally, the poems would be crafted at one’s leisure in the weeks leading up to the ritual, but in practice a flurry of high literature is produced during the morning and afternoon of December 24.  Reading the poem before opening a package  lets each gift to be savored and puzzled over and laughed about and enjoyed with gusto.

Here is one I wrote for Doug:

Knowledge is power, as we all know

Knowledge of power and where it flow

Will help us decide what stay – what go.

So let the experiments begin

And watch the dials and numbers spin.

The more we know – the more we win.

That bit of elevated verse accompanied a Kill-A-Watt energy monitor.

..Tip for using: Plug this into an extension cord rather than the wall, then you won't be down on your knees trying to read it.

We’ve been talking about getting one for a while.  A LOT of electricity runs through the ancient wiring in our 1920s house even though  I have retrained myself to see a darkened house as soothing, and  I am trying to remember to keep the toaster and other such appliances unplugged when not actually in use.  My protocol is as yet far from perfect, but I look forward to making strides in 2010 – thanks to our new device.

Another Christmas tradition around here is music, music, music!  We have been building our Christmas collection since cassette tapes were the cutting edge.  From the day after Thanksgiving to December 26, we only play Christmas music, and we have interpretations of the old chestnuts for every mood from Ella Fitzgerald to Chicago.  This year we added Sting’s new album If On a Winter’s Night. (a fine addition)

So, where else to begin learning the bitter truth from Mr. Kill-a-Watt than with our stereo system?

The news wasn’t good.  Our stereo has amps that play in the living room and the kitchen – who can cook without music?  Horrors! Our system is sucking down 110 watts to operate on soft, and when we crank it up, it can go to 200 watts.

We have two electric waffle makers, and we got them out for Christmas breakfast.  One makes thinner, heart-shaped waffles and one makes thicker circular ones.  Evidently the thinner waffles are a better energy choice.  That iron cranks them out with 550 watts while the thicker waffles require 850 watts.

..Made on the energy sucking waffle iron, but with all local ingredients, including local flour, yogurt and berries frozen last summer.

The TV with nothing turned on is quietly sipping 7 watts just to keep all its internal clocks and gizmos happy.  Turning the TV on jumps to 120 watts.  Turning on the DVD player adds 18 more.  We have a separate sound system to capture every nuance of noise, and that amp takes 20 watts – gulp – another 20 when turned up loud.

I wanted to bring a Kill-A-Watt into the house so we could learn how to be more mindful energy consumers.  There are more gadgets to test, and gradually we will get to them all.  It’s a great mental exercise.  What a pile of electricity eaters they would make if I stacked them all outside in the yard.

I ordered Doug’s Kill-a-Watt on line, and it was here in days for a price in the low $20s.  It was remarkably easy to let this little trouble maker into the house.  What I’m learning is a little less easy.

Sometimes I feel like Cinderella’s step sister – trying to fit my big, fat footprint into that tiny, little idealized glass slipper.  I’m not there yet.  Not even close.  But I don’t need to go stomping around in oversize army boots either, and the Kill-A-Watt seems like the perfect sculpting tool to whittle that foot print down a size or two.

If you have ventured into wattage testing, what are your big surprises?  Please share.

6 replies

  1. We have only checked ratings online. What we like most at our house is having a clock that’s not wired to the electrical grid. We have frequent power outages here, and it’s so nice to hear that old-fashioned tick, tick that let’s us know that time moves on, even when the electricity does not!

    • Oh, I totally agree about the sound of a ticking clock. I remember spending the summers with my grandparents and playing quietly in the living room listening to their mantle clock tick so authoritatively. I actually have a ticking clock on my mantel and by my bedside — but they both run on batteries now. I wonder why we gave up winding clocks so willingly to pay for an endless stream of batteries.
      I really believe that some of our “conveniences” have robbed life of some of its most grounding chores, and winding the clocks is one of those.
      Thanks so much for your comment.
      and speaking of the passage of time —
      Happy New Year

  2. Happy New Year! I’d been trying to decide if I should invest in a hand-crank food processor and spice grinder. They are, after all, not things that I need. Over the holidays I was at two relatives’ homes, both of whom used electric can openers. Such a waste of energy! We spend so much time trying to stay fit, when half of it is just using our own energy to do what electricity does for us. Yes, I’m definitely thinking about the hand processor and hand grinder now.

  3. If you find a source for a good hand grinder, let me know. I like to use my own power when possible. I like to beat egg whites and cream with my old rotary beater.
    I’ve never understood the logic of hiring someone to do your lawn and then running off to the gym for exercise. And while I’m ranting — what is wrong with a rake? I think leave blowers are an abomination. And don’t get me started on snow blowers and rider lawnmowers for little yards and short drives.
    Well, as I say, let me know if you come across any cool hand-powered tools.

  4. We got a Kill-a-Watt several years ago and have learned a lot from it. Our old refrigerator, for example, used 3 times more electricity per day than the new one.


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