05/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

5 Ways To Monitor Energy And Money Use

We all know we need to use less energy to save money. But we work best with goals -- how much energy, exactly, should we save? Easier to work in dollars, right?

Well, Michael Graham Richard over at Planet Green reports that there's an easy conversion:

Eric Drexler, a great scientist and engineer who also recently started blogging, noticed something interesting about the average electricity rate in the US ($0.115 per kilowatt-hour): One watt for one year costs one dollar.

Why is this interesting? Because most of us aren't really good at estimating our energy usage and what part of our electricity bill comes from what.

So, armed with that knowledge, here's how to get started monitoring the speed at which money and energy are leaving your home.

Coolest ways to monitor your energy use:

Plug it in, plug your appliances into it and do some math (or don't, with the EZ model) -- and you'll know how many watts you're using.

Monitor energy use from afar! Maybe you want to spy on your roommates to make sure they don't crank the A/C while you're out of town. Or maybe you're less crazy and you just wonder about natural fluctuations during the day. Either way, combining Kill-A-Watt and Twitter can keep you posted on your appliances' energy draw.

Where Kill-A-Watt reports on energy use of specific appliances, the Meter Reader (runs about $200) will monitor your whole home's energy use.

An incredibly cool (and immodest, if you watch the video) device that monitors home energy use via your home's energy meter. It's like the Meter Reader, but looks much cooler -- and it knows it.

This is not for your average consumer, but it's pretty incredible. When this house uses too much energy, the whole world knows -- because big, illuminated orbs outside the house will glow red!