Our local Multnomah Public Library lets patrons borrow a Kill A Watt device to use in their home. This device measures how many watts your fixture or appliance uses. You just plug the appliance into the device, and the device into an outlet. You can also measure phantom energy loads, which is the amount of energy an appliance uses even when it's technically turned off. You know that little red light that says your TV is off? Or the digital clock on your trusty microwave? The Kill A Watt can tell you how much energy those little things are using, too.
The best solution for saving phantom energy is to plug a cluster of appliances into a power strip, then switch off the power strip when those appliances are not in use. This is especially helpful around the media console - TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. - where it's a pain to turn everything off one at a time. I know those digital clocks are reset every time they are unplugged, but do you really need 13 synchronized digital clocks in your kitchen? I didn't think so.
The device has been around for a while, but what got me excited is the fact that my library lets me and everyone else check it out and use it. Not everyone needs to own a Kill A Watt, but I bet many people want to try it out for a few weeks around their home. Find out if your local library has this device or something similar available, and if not, it would be worth requesting it.