Some of the best deals on electronics always come on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. So I looked forward to seeing the ads on Thursday and planning my shopping. Usually I can pick up some DVD’s and electronic trinkets. I still bought stuff, but I think I did better for what I didn’t buy.
Last year I bought a Blu-ray DVD player by Panasonic. It is a good player, but unlike later players, it does not support an internet connection (lately I’ve started seeing Blu-ray players for around $129, so they are finally dropping in price). After I got it, I joined Netflix and was able to pay an extra $1 per month to get Blu-ray DVD’s (later they increased this to $3 per month for the 2-at-a-time plan that I usually do, so I didn’t do it). So I have seen some Blu-ray movies and they are impressive-looking on my big TV. But I have never bought a Blu-ray movie, mostly because they are just too expensive. Most of the DVD’s I buy are less than $10 after they have been out a while and I will get entire seasons of TV shows I like for less than $20, but Blu-ray movies have been around $25, even for older movies.
This summer, the Pixar/Disney movie, Up, came out. It got good reviews and I kept meaning to see it, but never got around to it. The DVD came out the day before my birthday, so I thought it would make a good birthday present to myself, and Walmart had it for only $20.
The Blu-ray version of the movie has 4 disks. One disk is the Blu-ray version of the movie with some extras. Disk 2 is also Blu-ray with some additional extras about making the movie. The third disk is a regular DVD version of the first disk, which is pretty neat in case I want to lend the movie to someone who doesn’t have a Blu-ray player. The 4th disk is a “digital copy” of the movie that can be unlocked and imported in to iTunes. That’s a pretty neat idea, though I don’t know if my nano would play a movie (I don’t see why not, but it would be awfully tiny, so I think I’ll wait until I get a Touch).
One of the extras that is included on the main disk is a set of calibration screens that help you set up your TV and home theater system to get the most out of watching the DVD. There are screens for setting brightness, contrast, balancing the surround speakers, etc. There are some games, but I think I need an internet connection for those.
The movie itself was good. Not really a silly movie like Toy Story or The Incredibles. It seemed almost a little too serious, but it gives the movie some emotional depth. The DVD extras really add a lot to the movie as you get to see the real place the movie was set in and the Pixar animator that the little boy is based on. They also point out things about the characters that I had missed. Also there was a featurette with Dug, a goofy talking dog from the movie, showing a side story about him that happened concurrently with the movie. I thought it was better than the sort of sad Pixar short with the stork (also included) that I am guessing they showed at the beginning of the theatrical release.
There are a number of tax credits available right now for installing energy-saving things in your house. You can get 30% of the price of energy-efficient windows and doors as a tax credit up to $1500 in 2009 and 2010. I started researching window replacements and when I got serious, I called Mom so that she would make it happen. She quickly found a window installer who came by to give an estimate and talk about windows. I knew the specifications for the qualifying windows were very high, possibly so high that the price of those windows would be more than $1500 above normal windows. But the installer also pointed out that the tax credit only applies to full window replacements, but I could replace just the sashes (the part that moves up and down) for a lot less money that would also be very efficient. That seemed to be the way to go.
I got my Kill a Watt device today and results are pouring in. It plugs in to the wall and the display shows how many watts are being used while something is plugged in to it. It also tracks kilowatt-hours that have been used since it was plugged in which could help when measuring electricity use by a refrigerator whose compressor only comes on every now and then. I should also note that just plugged in to the wall the device itself reads 3 watts, so I have subtracted 3 watts from all the results I’m showing below.
The first thing I tested was my HDTV receiver, which came in at 15 watts. On or off, it is the same. Then I tested my other home entertainment electronics. The VCR (which I haven’t used in years) measured 2 watts, but the receiver and DVD player didn’t even register when they were off. The VCR is pretty old whereas the DVD and receiver are newer and I think newer devices are better about not being vampires. The Dish satellite receiver uses 25 watts while it is on and only drops down to 19 watts when it has been off for a few minutes.
I figure that Georgia Power charges about 10 cents per kilowatt hour. So something that is on for 24 hours a day for 365 days per year (8,760 hours) costs 87.6 cents per watt. A 100-watt light bulb would cost $87.60 to run all year long. So that HDTV receiver costs me $13.14 per year to run. If I make good use of my remote control surge protector, it can pay for itself in 3 years. That’s not a great payoff, but I’ll take it.
I measured a lamp I have that uses a 23-watt compact fluorescent bulb in it and it came out at 22 watts. The timer I have that lamp plugged in to has a motor that turns the clock, so I have always worried that the timer uses more electricity than the lamp would if I just left it running all the time. But the timer only uses 2 watts, so that is a good deal (plugged in 24 hours a day it uses as much electricity as the light does in 2 hours; not great).
I moved on to the computer. I leave my DSL modem and wi-fi network running all the time. I also leave my Tivoli Model Two speakers on all the time as my computer speakers, even when the computer is off. I also have a charging station that has its own surge protector inside and plugged in to that are chargers for my Palm, iPod, and cell phone. All of that stuff plugs in to a surge protector and when I measured the consumption with the computer turned off, I got 17 watts. That’s not all that bad, I don’t think. Turn the computer and a monitor on and it bumps up to 151 (so the computer and monitor together are 134), but when starting a program like iTunes with the hard drive going full blast and the processor blazing, it bumps up to 184. I have a second monitor I only turn on when I need a bigger desktop and it uses 22 watts. My primary monitor uses 29 watts, but it is a nicer monitor and goes to standby if I’m not there.
My laptop measures about 20 watts when plugged in with a full battery, though it briefly spiked to 37 when I started iTunes. That’s still way less than the desktop. Asleep, after a couple of minutes, it dropped down to 1 watt. That’s pretty minimal. Just the AC adapter without the laptop plugged in, but the green LED lit, it registers 0. Want to save a lot of energy? Don’t use a desktop computer: a desktop uses about 6 times as much energy.
I tested my coffee maker as I made a cup of coffee. Once you flip the switch to start brewing, it spikes up quickly to 610 watts. I knew anything with a heating element would use a lot of watts. It did cut off completely once it was done brewing, though the heater would probably kick in every now and then to keep the coffee in the pot hot. The good thing is even though it uses a lot of watts, it doesn’t use them for long, so the total kilowatt-hours for a cup of coffee is 0.20. That’s only 2 cents, which is a price I’m willing to pay for hot fresh-brewed coffee.
I’ll post more results in a couple of days as I test everything else around the house. After that I won’t really have any use for the Kill a Watt, so I will lend it out if you are interested.
Jenny at work has a laptop she bought in 2007 from Gateway. This thing is huge, maybe 17 inches. While it was under warranty the hard drive failed so she took it back to Best Buy and they put a new one in. She lost all of the data (they said they could recover the data for $1200) and started doing backups more regularly. It may have failed again under warranty, putting her on her third hard drive. Now it is no longer under warranty and the hard drive has failed again. I took a look at it this weekend to see if there was anything I could do. Well, it wouldn’t boot up. So I tried to start it from the Vista installation CD (or DVD, not sure), bypassing the hard drive. But even this didn’t work. It would start, but as part of the boot sequence it would look for any hard drives and it would hang while it was identifying the hard drive (I think; it would hang on the screen with the status bar that says © Microsoft Corporation).