Its that product testing time of year again. We’re raving about the Kill-A-Watt Electric Usage Monitor– a gizmo that monitors your energy usage and warns if your bathroom light is an energy-vampire. But first, a word about the totally useless Solio. Its a shame you cannot easily recycle the Solio charger, because it serves no useful purpose. It is billed as a powerful energy source capable of charging your cellphone in the middle of nowhere. But it does not have the oomph to do more than let you make a couple of calls.
In any case, a solar charger for cell phones and MP3 players can hardly claim to be an environmental product, since its made from a lot of (oil based) plastic and doesn’t save much power. The manufacturers would like us to believe it’s inspired by environmentally friendly technology but in fact its inspired by the desire to make lots of money. If you are still thinking of buying one, then be aware that it takes a long time to charge up the internal battery using sunlight — the manufacturer says 10-12 hours of direct sunlight (with no intervening glass). In our experience its more like 20 hours.
Now, back to the excellent Kill A Watt:- We have a strange way of consuming electricity: we use our gadgets and fridges without really knowing what they’re costing us. All we get is a monthly bill, with no breakdown. Imagine getting a long-distance phone bill that doesn’t tell you where you called or what each call cost. The Kill A Watt is a simple, inexpensive electricity monitor that helps you get a handle on your consumption.
First, plug the Kill A Watt into a wall outlet. Then, plug an appliance or lamp into the device. You can immediately read off the current consumption in watts or leave it on to let it count kilowatt-hours. Find out how much juice that new HDTV really draws!