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Free Kill-A-Watt Lending Program Helps Customers Save Energy

By Tracy Correa

PG&E’s Dave Christensen shows Bakersfield residents Charles Devin, Virginia Devin and Michael Cariker how a Kill-A-Watt meter measures energy consumption. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)By Tracy Correa

BAKERSFIELD – Kern County residents have a new way to monitor how much energy their home appliances and gadgets are using – and, it’s free.

Through a partnership between PG&E and the Kern County Library system, local residents can now check out a Kill-A-Watt electric usage monitor. The device is an easy to use, plug-in tool that measures how much energy most common household appliances use during a specific period of time.

A kick-off event was held today (July 17) at the downtown Bakersfield Beale Memorial Library where patron Michael Cariker was among the first to snag one of the monitors.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

“My wife strongly suggested we come down here and get one,” he said.

Checking an older refrigerator

Specifically, Cariker and his wife want to hook up the Kill-A-Watt to an older refrigerator and a freezer. And if it turns out the two appliances are costing too much to operate, they will consider replacing them with newer, more energy-efficient versions.

The Carikers have been working to make their Bakersfield home more energy efficient and recently added CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs. “We’re into saving money. The baby dolphins, we will worry about later,” Cariker said.

The program began generating a buzz even before today’s event. Residents began calling about the Kill-A-Watt lending program immediately after the library posted information on its website a few weeks ago, said Andrea Apple, public services librarian.

With a valid library card, customers can “check out” the Kill-A-Watt for up to three weeks and it’s a fairly simple process. “It’s the same process as checking out a book,” said Apple.

The Kill-A-Watt meter is a small plug-in device that can measure energy consumption and the cost to operate most common household appliances. The meter is available for lending at a number of county library systems – including Kern’s — throughout PG&E’s service territory.

Plentiful supply and bi-lingual instructions

About 50 Kill-A-Watt monitors are available through the county’s 25 library sites and from the county’s two bookmobiles.

The kits – available with instructions in English, Spanish and Chinese – will help residents determine the energy usage of many common household devices and can identify “phantom” or “vampire” loads consumed by appliances or electronics when they are switched off or in standby mode. It also can determine the cost to run the devices, for example, during a 24-hour period.

About eight Kill-A-Watts were checked out within the first hour at the downtown library and Charles and Virginia Devin were among the first to get one. Charles Devin said he relies on a chest freezer in his garage for storage after he goes deer hunting and he wants to know whether it’s time to invest in a newer model. Adds his wife Virginia Devin: “Everything is going up in cost, but our income isn’t.”

Showing how it works

In the library lobby, David Christensen, PG&E’s senior program manager for local government partnerships, demonstrated how the Kill-A-Watt works. He plugged in a hair dryer, lamps and holiday lights.

“Leave it on for 24 hours. It will tell you how much that refrigerator is costing,” he said to the crowd that had gathered.

Afterward, Christensen explained why the Kill-A-Watt is helpful: “I think that people are concerned about their energy consumption. You have to understand what things are costing you so you can make educated decisions.”

The Kill-A-Watt monitors are available at more than a dozen library systems throughout PG&E’s Northern and Central California service area, including in Santa ClaraFresno and San Luis Obispo counties, just to name a few.

E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.