Your television is off, but it may still be sipping energy and running up your utility bill. Using one of 49 energy meters available for free checkout from the Hennepin County Library system, you can now find out how much your appliances are costing you.
Library users can reserve the hand-held power check energy meters online and pick them up at any Hennepin County library for a three-week check-out, thanks to a partnership between Hennepin County and Xcel Energy. (See Hennepin County Library Catalog – keyword Power Check)
Xcel officials were looking for a way to get the meters into their customers’ hands, but didn’t have a system in place for checking them out, said James Catalano, market manager for the utility company.
“We’ve done some great partnerships with the libraries in the past to demonstrate energy efficiency options and they did a wonderful job with this,” he said.
The hand-held meters come with a five-foot electrical cord, a USB cable and instructions on how to use them. Users plug any household appliance into the meter, then plug the meter into a wall outlet. Two buttons and a digital display on the meter let users see how much energy their DVD player, lamp or other appliance is using while on or off, and how much that appliance is costing them per hour or per day.
The USB cable allows users to plug the meter into their computer, and a free software download can allow them to add up and track their appliances’ energy use over time.
The meter check-out program is part of Hennepin County’s “Cool County Initiative” designed to reduce energy consumption and has proven popular since it began last October, said Carla Knutson Biermaier, Hennepin County Library spokeswoman.
Already, 274 people have checked out the meters, and the online waiting list has grown to 720 people, she said.
The library system even provides an online video courtesy of Xcel Energy that shows people how to use the meters.
In addition to identifying high-energy use appliances and determining how much those appliances are costing customers, the meters also allow people to weigh the potential cost savings of replacing them with more energy-efficient appliances, Catalano said.
People can also see how much energy some appliances use when plugged in, even when they are turned off or in standby mode, he said.
“It’s really an eye-opener for people,” he said.
The meters are only available through the Hennepin County Library system currently, but Xcel hopes to expand the program to other service areas through similar partnerships in the near future, Catalano said.