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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Smart Home

How a $50 gadget is saving $840 a year on my electricity bill

Instead of guessing which appliance is draining your wallet each month, this device makes it easy to figure out where your cash is going.

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Each month for the past six months, my electric company has sent me a letter in the mail to let me know my household uses more energy than my neighbors. (Shocking, I know.)

Out of the closest 100 homes, I paid more than anyone else. In other words, my home ranked dead last, at 100.

Soon after the first letter, I turned into my parents and hounded my kids each time I caught them leaving a light on. I installed LED bulbs and we switched our Xbox One's energy-saving mode on. The next month, our bill was no better, and my wife and I once again nabbed the 100th spot.

Putting our pride aside, we decided it was time to get serious and see just where our electricity (and cash) was being drained throughout our home.

How the WeMo Insight saved me $70 a month

IFTTT makes everything better

The WeMo Insight Switch IFTTT channel has plenty of free, useful recipes like this one.

Screenshot by Rich Brown

Using Belkin's $50 WeMo Insight -- a small device you can plug anything into to find out its energy costs -- I methodically went around the house, plugging various appliances into the gadget. I would leave each appliance plugged in for three to four days to get a generalized estimate of usage. Of course, the longer you leave something plugged in to Insight, the more accurate the cost estimate will be.

$2.50 a month to run this 10-gallon fish tank? I'll take it.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

I started with our fish tank and discovered it sets us back about $2.50 a month to run. Then I moved to an old refrigerator in our basement used for keeping boxes of Popsicles and random drinks cool for us. To my surprise, that old pile of scrap metal was costing us over $40 per month in electricity. We replaced it the next day with a deep freezer-turned-refrigerator that now costs us less than $1 per month.

Our main refrigerator was sucking $27 worth of electricity, and has since been replaced (I haven't had a chance to figure its monthly cost yet). Lastly, I discovered the small space heater I was using to make my office livable during the cold Colorado winters was averaging $98 per month to run -- an insane amount. I'll be replacing it when the weather starts to cool down again.

Belkin's product isn't the only device that can help you save money. iDevice's Switch does the same thing, and is priced around $40. Neurio takes a broader approach, attaching to your home's breaker panel to monitor the devices plugged into your grid for energy use.

Read more about what the WeMo Insight can do in our full review.