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The price of an energy sleuth

A little box shows how much energy your house consumes.

I was psyched when a reader said this little box can show in dollars and kilowatt-hours just how much every last lightbulb, TV, and forgotten camera charger in your house costs you. The Energy Detective, or TED, will flash an alarm when your hourly or monthly power consumption reaches painfully expensive levels, and when spells of high or low voltage might damage connected gear.

The Energy Detective

At $150, TED costs the same as the Kill-a-Watt and its ilk, which can measure only one gadget's power hunger at a time. You could recoup that cost in a tax refund and then some, when you consider the future utilities bills TED might help you shrink. Its maker, Energy, Inc., says TED only takes 15 minutes to set up--15 minutes with an electrician, that is.

So, I asked an electrician for a sight-unseen estimate. "Nothing takes 15 minutes," said Bill Ferrerra of Ferrerra Electric in San Francisco. "To give you a price at this time would be a wild guess." His company's rate is $158.00 to show up and then $99 per hour after that.

Poor TED is looking less thrifty after all. However, its price might be a drop in the bucket if you're renovating, or if the energy bills for your McMansion are forcing you to consider another interest-only mortgage.

(Photo: Energy, Inc.)