Your Toaster Costs How Much to Run?? Interactive Graphic Gives Run-Down On Worst-Offender Gadgets

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Screengrabs via GE Visualization Tool

GE and Pentagram's Lisa Strausfeld have come up with a fantastic way to visualize how good or bad our appliances and devices are when it comes to using up our home's energy. We know that homes suck up about 20% of all energy in the US, but the question is where that energy is funneled off to once it reaches our homes, and how much it's costing us to run that ceiling fan or that electric blanket. The interactive tool tells you how much energy that appliance or device uses in watts, dollars, or gallons of gas, as well as what one kilowatt hour yields for that device, and even better, it will rank each device so that you can see at a glance which you want to unplug. Strausfeld told Fast Company, "The hardest challenge was finding the right data, and making it engaging--ie, What the hell is a watt? It started out as a visualization of home energy consumption across the U.S. and became, essentially, a calculator."

We sympathize with how difficult it can be to visualize energy consumption - it was hard enough for designers to help people visualize one ton of carbon, but to visualize a unit of energy so that the lightbulb goes off in people's heads, so to speak? That's tough work!

So, the tool on Home Appliance Energy Use appliances and devices quickly, based on your criteria, including what state you live in (since power is more expensive in some states than others) and if you want to see the most expensive or the most energy intensive.

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You can then click what items you're paying for and calculate what it's costing you to run them. I did a run through of the handful of appliances and devices I use on a daily basis and gulped hard at the total. While there is little surprise for which are the worst offenders - the refrigerator, oven and other big appliances obviously come first - there's some surprising rankings among the smaller devices like toasters, hair dryers, satellite dishes and other things we don't think about as much when we flip them on.

While I can't do much about my refrigerator since I'm an apartment dweller, home owners will find one more feature of the tool handy when they're looking at ways to trim down the big totals. The tool not only shows you the break-down cost of running your devices, but if there is a version available with Energy Star qualifications, it will tell you how long it'll be before that device pays for itself.

"Energy consumption in the home is relatively opaque. But by attaching some new stigmas to old, "gas-guzzling" appliances, our hope is that Americans become as familiar with kilowatt hours as they are to degrees Fahrenheit," says Strausfeld.

This tool isn't much different in what it calculates - there are more energy consumption calculators than you can shake a stick at - but the magic is in how it displays the calculation. It's simple, but very effective.

Of course, if you want a really accurate assessment of how much each device in your home is consuming, there's a somewhat more time-consuming but very interesting way to do that - pick up a power monitor and start plugging in your gadgets. You'll see the real story of your energy consumption in no time.

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