From reading an electricity meter to paying a fee to offset your home's emissions, we've got the info you need to make sustainable energy choices.

By Allen B. Bunting
March 26, 2008

Green Power
Get a head start on phasing out fossil fuels by buyingelectricity produced by sustainable resources such as wind, water,and sun. Texas and New Jersey offer alternative energy atcompetitive prices through retail providers. Many utility companiesin other areas now offer green pricing programs for homeowners whochoose to pay an additional monthly fee to support their provider'ssustainable energy advances.

If your area doesn't offer one of the above, consider RenewableEnergy Certificates (RECs). Available to anyone, anywhere in theUnited States, RECs are essentially contributions made to fund theadvancement of sustainable energy. Though you still pay yourtraditional electric bill, for a relatively small (andtax-deductible) payment you can offset your home's emissions bysupporting green power projects. You can purchase RECs from Websites such as According toChoose Renewables, buying 900 kWh of RECs each month (only $14.99)can offset 100 percent of the electricity used in the average home.For more information, visit

Calculate Your Savings
If you've ever wondered how much of a difference changing afew lightbulbs can make, try this: Multiply a lamp's wattage(usually found on a sticker or on the cord) by how many hours youuse it a day, then divide by 1,000 to find the daily kilowatt hour(kWh) consumption. For example, a 100-watt incandescent bulb that'son for six hours a day uses 0.6 kilowatt hours (kWh) ofelectricity. Replace the bulb with a compact fluorescent (CFL)-aCFL equivalent to the 100-watt bulbs uses about 23 watts-and youcan reduce the lamp's daily kWh expenditure to 0.138. If yourutility company charges 10 cents per kWh, then the simple switchcould save you nearly 46 cents a day, or almost $170 per year. Nota math wiz? Web sites with online calculators make it easy andoffer tips for potential savings. Check out the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency and the Departmentof Energy's Home Energy Yardstick.

Learn to Read (an Electricity Meter)
Can't believe you used that much energy last month? Learningto read an electricity meter can prevent shock when next month'sbill arrives. If you're lucky, your home has a digital meter. Ifnot, here goes:

Looking at a standard meter, you'll see a series of dials. Readthe dials right to left. Note that some dials turn clockwise andothers turn counterclockwise. The correct reading of the dials inthe photograph is 529. If the pointer is between two numbers, writedown the lower of the two numbers. For example, if the pointer isbetween 6 and 7, write down 6. (Exception: If the pointer isbetween 0 and 9, write down 9.) For a more thorough explanation,check out your power company's Web site.

If that sounds too complicated, invest in a home energy monitorsuch as Blue Line Innovations' PowerCost Monitor ( digital display is easy to read and shows your energy use inreal time.