Energy hogs in the home

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Brown family loves their electronics, but not all their toys are battery-operated.

A laptop, big-screen TV and DVR make up just a portion of Emily and Andrew's electric bill, which was $320 in April.

“I'm a stay-at-home mom so we're home a lot,” she said. “We're not out, we're here, we're using energy.”

Even when they're not actually using energy, many items are left plugged in. The couple said it's just more convenient.

“It's easy to just go over and wiggle a mouse and wake the computer up,” Andrew said.

But with appliances like the refrigerator, they say they have no choice but to keep them turned on.

So just how much are these energy leeches sucking from the Brown's budget each month?

That's what 3 On Your Side wanted to test with the Kill-A-Watt, a device that measures energy consumption.

We started our unscientific test at the entertainment center.

“You can see how we have this jammed with electronics,” Emily said.

We plugged in the DVR to the Kill-A-Watt first, then into the outlet. The Kill-A-Watt gave us an instant reading, and after doing some math, we discovered the DVR used the same amount of energy in the 'on' and 'off' position.

The cost? About $17 a year just by leaving it plugged into the wall.

The Browns have a newer model DVR so we wanted to test out an older version to see how much more energy it sucked up. Turns out, it’s quite a bit more, $38 per year compared to $17.

Between cartoons and movies, the Browns big-screen is turned on about four hours a day. At that rate, the Kill-A-Watt indicated it costs them nearly $19 a year to use.

As for the convenience of keeping that laptop plugged in, it will cost you $22 a year.

What about gaming consoles, like the X-Box or PlayStation 3? Those worked out to about $24 a year if they're turned on an average of six hours a day.

The Kill-A-Watt is too small to test the Brown's biggest energy leeches: the A/C and the pool pump.

But we did use it to test another big power sponge. According to the Kill-A-Watt, the Brown's spend well over $115 for their refrigerator. That's because its energy usage doubles every time you open the refrigerator doors.

“The cycling of that refrigerator just to cool it back down from that little bit of time the doors were open, just amazing to me,” Emily said.

We also tested an oscillating fan which, if left on eight hours overnight, would cost nearly $18 a year to use.

Even smaller items like an iPhone and iPad charger cost about $1 per year and $1.50 per year, respectively, to use.

Emily says she's surprised at how fast all the little things add up.

“So we will try this summer to be a little more efficient in how we use our energy,” she said. “Now that we kind of know how things use energy, I think we'll be that much more able to do that.”