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Plug and pay

Plug and pay

Before you leave the house, you probably flip off the lights and make sure you didn't leave on the toaster. But do you also make the rounds of rooms to unplug your television, DVD player, camera charger, computer, and every other energy-sipping item? If not, then you might fritter away 10 percent or more of your energy bill on electronics that aren't even turned on.

TVs, set-top boxes, and printers are notorious household energy hogs, according to studies at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As the Economist recently pointed out, by keeping sleeping gadgets plugged in, Americans waste energy equivalent to what 18 power stations produce each year. Who knew that a microwave uses more power over time on its clock than it does to heat your TV dinners?

While you wince at those lingering utilities costs from the past winter, you can take simple steps to shrink your future bills. To start, check out our TV power consumption guide to see how your flat screen rates. And consider one of these smart power strips to help reduce the energy eaten by all those other devices around your digital home or office:

  • Plug a gadget into the Kill-a-Watt or Watts Up, which plug into the wall. These tools spell out how much energy you're using, and they ring up how much it's costing you.
  • You should flick off power strips whenever connected electronics lie dormant. But who wants to add all that bending over to the household chores? An infrared motion detector on the surge-protecting WattStopper can tell when you're in the area and will respond by turning electricity on or off to six of its outlets.
  • Plug your PC and peripherals into the Mini Power Minder, which senses when you shut down the computer. It then cuts the power to the devices connected to your PC.
  • The similar Smart Strip Power Strip comes with more outlets and flexibility. You can use it to cut power to peripherals when a PC turns off, to shut down a cable box and DVD player when the TV turns off, and so on.