Lots of people are concerned about how much it costs to heat and power their homes, and the impact they have on the environment. So it’s always interesting when some new products come along that can help us better understand how our homes work, and what changes we can make to improve things.

Monitoring power usage

As part of their Energy Series, Black & Decker has developed the Power Monitor (Model EM100B, $99.99). This unique and easy-to-use device allows you to monitor power usage anywhere in the house, so you can truly see the cost of running an appliance, or see how much replacing standard light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones will offer in energy savings.

The Power Monitor consists of an indoor digital display and an outdoor sensor unit. Each one operates on two AA batteries (not included). The outside sensor unit attaches to your electric meter with a simple band clamp. No electrical wiring is required, and there’s even a little information tag on the unit to let your meter reader know what it is and what it’s doing there. The interior display unit is freestanding, and there’s no wiring required between the two units.

The instructions are quite good, with clearly illustrated setup and adjustment details. They’ve also included three separate booklets, each in a different language, rather than making you wade through confusing instructions where all the languages are mixed in together — a feature I would really like to see more manufacturers adopt!

The outdoor unit has an LED sensor arm that "reads" changes in the meter. This information is then relayed to the interior display, and instantly shows you changes in electrical usage. For example, with the indoor display unit in hand, you can turn on your oven or your microwave and see the increase in power usage relayed directly from the electric meter. You can turn the lights on or off in a room, or turn a hair dryer or a television set on, and see how much power it consumes. The display reads in either dollars or kilowatts, and you can switch easily back and forth between the two.

According to the manufacturer, the sensor unit is compatible with approximately 90 percent of the electric meters currently in use. On their Web site, www.blackanddecker.com, there’s a handy electric meter compatibility guide that lets you check your particular type of meter before you decide to buy the monitor. …CONTINUED

Find those energy leaks

Also from Black & Decker is the Thermal Leak Detector (Model TLD100, $49.99). This instrument is both easy and fun to use, and it can provide you with a lot of important information about how to make your home warmer and more comfortable this winter.

The digital, pistol-grip Thermal Leak Detector operates on one 9-volt battery (not included). Simply install the battery and the unit is ready to go, without any additional setup or calibrations.

To use the Thermal Leak Detector, simply aim the unit at a reference point that you think has a fairly constant temperature, such as a wall. Press the "On" button, and the screen lights up and the detector projects a green spot at your reference point. On the digital readout screen, you’ll see two temperature readings — "reference" and "scan." Now move the detector over the surfaces you want to check for leaks. The reference temperature, which is the temperature of the surface you initially pointed the detector at, will remain constant. The scan temperature will change to reflect the temperatures of the surfaces that you’re checking.

The detector continues to project a green light to show you exactly where the unit is reading. When the temperature of the surface drops in relation to the reference temperature, the light changes to blue. When the temperature increases, the light changes to red. The sensitivity of the reference light can be changed using a simple slide switch on the back of the detector. You can set it to read small changes of 1 degree, moderate changes of 5 degrees, or more substantial changes of 10 degrees or more.

Within minutes, you can get some very accurate readings of where air leaks might be located, or where hot and cold spots might be. You can see if your weatherstripping needs to be repaired, or if some areas need caulking. You can also really see just how much heat those old single-pane windows are leaking. And to help you tighten things up again, there’s also a handy little Home Energy Repair Guide booklet included with the detector.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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