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Being smart about electricity can be good for the wallet

<p>There are tangible rewards to being an environmental investigator.&nbsp; </p>

There are tangible rewards to being an environmental investigator.


The culprits in question are escaping heat loss, phantom power, and leaking water to name a few.


Your special agent kit comes with a number of tools.


A watt meter is an electricity usage monitor. You can plug the meter in an outlet and then plug electronic devices into it.


Many watt meters also have a dollar function which allow you to put in the electricity rate (listed on your bill) to see how much money you are spending.


Use the watt meter to detect phantom power, which is electricity that is still being drawn even though the device is off. To avoid phantom power, put devices on a power bar that you can shut off. These meters are available for loan from Public and Community College libraries across the province They are also available in many hardware stores.


Some low tech ways to find heat leaks include using the back of you hand or a candle flame. Put your hand near an outlet on an outside wall and you will realize why you can buy insulating foam cutouts for wall plugs.


You can also buy hand-held thermal leak detectors that use temperature differentiation as a detection method.


You can call in the big guns, energy auditors, who use tools such as a blower door test. Here a fan is mounted on an exterior door. Inside air is pulled out and then outside air flies through cracks and holes. Thermal infrared imaging cameras can also be used to show heat losses in building structures and systems.


Participate in the Energuide program and qualified energy auditors perform an energy assessment on your house which includes a blower door test. They provide you with recommendations.


If you make changes within 18 months or before March 31, 2011 you could be eligible for up to $6500 in rebates. Check out http://www.conservens.ca/energuide/.


In and on your house, you also have a water and power meter.


To check for water leaks and the amount of consumption, stop using all or some water consuming items. Check your meter for changes. Water is measured in m3 which is 1000 litres.


Your water bill shows how much you are charged per m3. You can also read you outdoor power meter or on the market now are relative power meters that are hooked to an outdoor meter or electrical panel to show real time data on a unit and/or through the web.


Rochelle Owen is director of sustain­­ability at Dalhousie University. She has worked in the environment and sustainability field for 19 years; rochelle.owen@gmail.com.