Go Solar, and Kill-a-Watt!

Hello! My name is Mario Visinoni and I go to Paradise Intermediate School in Paradise, California. I am in 8th grade and have a strong interest in Earth Science, including solar energy. Solar can minimize your energy bill in many ways. Even if you do not have solar energy, you can save energy through conservation. A kilowatt meter is one way to check how many watts your everyday appliances use.


Kilowatt meters are extremely easy to use. You simply plug your meter into the wall and then plug your appliance into the meter. My particular meter has four buttons: volt, amp, watt, and kilowatt-hours (kWH).

By pressing one of these buttons you can view how much an appliance is using. The most common brand of kilowatt meters is the KILL-A-WATT®. The meters can range in price anywhere from $30.00 to $40.00. Buy.com, Amazon.com, Shopping.com, and Bizrate.com are all online warehouses that carry kilowatt meters.

Many people believe that when an appliance is plugged in but turned off that it doesn’t use any energy. This is not true! An Epson® Powerlite Projector uses 4 watts when turned off and 240 watts on. By the type of the appliance the wattage will obviously increase and decrease.


Using a thousand watts for an hour equals one kilowatt-hour. So if lights are on for two hours using 1,000 watts per hour, it would use two kilowatt hours (kWH.) At Evergreen 6, a PG&E Solar School, our system will make about 7 kilowatt-hours on an average summer day. So the lights would use up a little less than a third of the solar energy brought in that day.

Many people don’t realize that almost every appliance in their house uses some sort of energy, even being turned off. One eMac® computer turned off for a weekend will use 144 watts. Every year that same computer will use 6,912 watts (about 6.9 kilowatt hours.) Paradise Intermediate School has about 70 eMac® computers. All energy combined for those 70 computers turned off for one weekend, the wattage would be about 10,080 watts (10.08 kilowatt-hours.) For every year that equals 193.8 kilowatt-hours!

The following list shows appliances at our school and how many watts they use:

  • A Panasonic® Microwave (OFF): 123 watts
  • An eMac® PC (OFF): 4 watts
  • Conair® Hair Dryer (ON HIGH): 1497 watts
  • Motorola Talkabout® charger (charging): 123 watts
  • Yacker Tracker® Plugged in: 6 watts
  • Goldstar® mini-refrigerator (see picture): 86 watts while running, approximately 1kwh every 2 days
  • A Power Strip with following appliances: eMac®, RCA® Boom-Box, and a Panasonic® VCR (OFF): 18 watts
  • kill-a-watt-and-fridge.jpg charger1.jpg kill-a-watt-and-powerstrip.jpg

    Using this data, we can figure out approximate costs. Mini Fridge: Approx. 15kwh/month, 180kwh a year. At $0.10 a kwh, that equals $18 a year. When you multiply that by 272 teachers, it costs the district $4896 a year!

    If each of those teachers has a power strip that is “on” with the above plugged in appliances turned “off” for a year the following energy use would result:

    • 18watts x 24 hours =‘s 432 watts x 365 days =‘s157.68 kwh x 272 teachers =‘s 42,888.96 kwh x $0.10 =‘s more than $4288! Remember, that is when the appliances are OFF! WOW! That is REAL money!

    As you can see, the amount of energy used can decrease significantly by just turning off power strips when they are not being used. Remember, even the smallest thing can really make a big difference in your energy bill.


    -Submitted by Mario Visinoni

    Thanks Mario for the great lesson in conservation! So many people are focused on going solar that they skip the simple steps in reducing their energy use. Often times, it is much cheaper to find “leaks” in your system to save energy…and sometimes going solar makes all of us look for these leaks to make the solar go even further. The “off” power strips are often referred to as “phantom loads,” or “vampires.” These suck energy with no real benefit.

    Depending on your television, you might use more energy on standby than using the TV. For example: You watch television 2 hours a day, using 100watts of power on so the total = 200watts. Off, your same television uses 10 watts per hour. Over the other 22 hours, you use 220 watts!

    Especially at schools, where some electronics are not even used weekly, by all means unplug them or turn off the power strip. By being careful about your energy use, you may be able to get a much smaller solar system to meet your new and improved energy needs. Happy watt hunting!

    9 Responses to “Go Solar, and Kill-a-Watt!”

    1. Luke Says:

      Nicely done! Mario writes better than most adults I know. 😀

    2. Sue Morgan Says:

      What a great article you have written! Informative, interesting, to the point and an environmentalist’s dream… Now you must see if you can get this same article published in your local newspaper. I am sure 90% of the world has truly no idea that even OFF there electronics are using precious energy.
      Thank you very much for sharing what you are learning …..

      Sue Morgan
      Oakland CA

    3. Marge Wood Says:

      Hi Mario, I’m so glad to see your enthusiasm about conserving energy. If I can, I’ll get one of those Kill A Watts. Great idea. I bet teachers in my grandson’s school would like to try it out. I KNOW that Austin Energy, my local utility, would appreciate it. We have a solar water heater, use CF bulbs, got our house insulation and other efficiency updated but need a new more efficient refrigerator. We also hang out our laundry (no drier), have a solar cooker (which we don’t use enough) and drive a small Toyota. Keep it up! I’m so proud of you.
      Best, Marge Wood in Austin, Texas

    4. Frank Lee Says:

      Great job. We have a section in our home energy audit called “Hidden and Continuous Energy Loads”. You have nailed the effective use of the Kill-o-watt meter!

      In our area (BGE) a kWh costs almost $0.14. Typically a traditional meter wheel turns 10 times for a kWh.

      When testing a Refrig or aquarium, or home office, I tell people to leave the device or plug strip thru a KiloWatt meter for a day or two, then do the math and see the operating cost for one year.

      Can we use this link to your blog on our website?

    5. sarah hullender aka current student at E6 Says:

      WoW Mario,
      Thank you!
      I am doing the report on this at our solarbration this year Mr. Holman told me to check this article out to get some more notes. Thankyou for writing a great report it helped alot on my research!!!!

      Sarah Hullender

    6. mario VISINONI Says:

      incredible to find a namesake in clifornia. may brother carlo lies there in aptos nr.carmel. ciao mario

    7. Pete Tomaszek Says:

      I have been searching everywhere online for the wattage of minifridge. Not only did I get the answer I read a great paper.
      Keep up the good work.
      Pete t

    8. Rosanne Says:

      This is a great article Mario! I’ll be sharing it with my family and friends who are interested and taking steps in reducing our electric consumption.



    9. Ralph Says:

      Wow thanks Mario. I am designing a solar battery back up system and I found your data very informative and useful. I have been researching solar energy for some time now and I have had quite a bit of frustration looking for wattage and or amperage of various appliances and have been less than successful in finding this information online. I have been hesitant to purchase an amp meter due to cost. I was unaware of such a product that would measure both wattage and amperage at such a reasonable price. I read your article last night and I purchased a Kill-a-Watt meter today for about $20. So far I am more than happy with the meter’s performance. I would recommend anyone interested in alternative energy, energy conservation, or simply lowering your monthly power bill to follow Mario’s example and get one of these neat easy to use little meters.

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