Power OutletCredit: Attribution: Peebidj (Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.)

It doesn't show in my profile, but I live in the Philippines. Perhaps you've heard of it. We're a developing country rich in natural resources and steeped in culture. We're also part of the 10 locations in the world that have the highest electricity rates (right alongside Cyprus, Kansai (Japan), Germany, Hawaii, Malta, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Singapore.)

One of the side effects of having such costly electricity is that people tend to come up with all sorts of ways to save on electricity (I mean, other than simply minimizing usage), here are some of the weirdest, and why they don't really work:

Power Saver Devices

These power saver devices go by many names, but they mostly come as either little units that can be plugged in to your outlet or hardwired into your breaker box. The power savers are usually pitched as devices that "clean up your power."

The main problem about these power saver devices is that they are basically power factor correction units. And they work, as far as correcting power factor is concerned. Unfortunately for you and your electricity bill, residential users aren't really charged by the utility companies for bad power factor. Only large commercial users like factories, malls, or any large building lots of running motors (like air conditioners, factory equipment, etc.) are fined for bad pf.

Over time, the sellers of these devices adjusted their pitch and started describing the power savers as power factor correctors. They also recommend attaching it to outlets that are occupied by appliances with motors like fans, air-conditioning units, and refrigerators. This means people who try to search for info on the net will come across the explanation above and think that the device really works (since there's a basis for the concept).

The truth is that even if the utility company does charge you for bad power factor, the devices still won't do a thing because many modern appliances in people's homes (like the aforementioned refrigerator and air conditioning units) already have power factor correction built in. What's worse, many of these power saver devices have little blinking LED lights that actually consume power. And since users are likely leaving it plugged 24/7, they are actually increasing their consumption.

Sprinkling Sugar/Coffee/Salt on the Power Meter

Some people actually do this. They sprinkle sugar, or coffee, or salt on their power meters, under the misguided idea that ants or other insects will infest and break something inside, resulting in a nonfunctioning meter. If the meter isn't functioning, they can consume as much as they want without getting billed for it. Genius, right?

No. The meters are sealed, so none of those foreign materials nor the insects will get in, where they can do damage. There is a reason why those meters still function even when it's been rained upon.

Attaching Magnets to the Power Meter

Since Manila's sole power distributor uses mechanical disk meters instead of digital ones, some people resort to attaching magnets to the outside of the meter, on the principle that the magnets will add to the drag resistance of the internal disk resistance magnets, which in turn will reduce the rotation and ultimately, lower the monthly bills.

Of course, it won't work because utility companies are not stupid. The power company can easily detect attempts to tamper with their meters, and some newer models can already detect and compensate on their own. What's worse, tampering with the meter actually crosses the fine line that separates "saving" from "stealing" as far as electricity is concerned. When (not if, mind you) you get caught, you can expect to pay so much in fines that you could have actually saved more money if you just used the electricity normally. You may even go to jail.

Tying Packs of Coffee to the Cords

This is a fairly new one, but there are people these days selling coffee in aluminum foil packages, with the sales pitch basically stating that it's healthy AND will save on electricity. How? By tying it to the cords of your appliances.

Honestly, I don't even know how to explain this one. There's simply nothing scientific or even logical about the concept. I pocketed a couple of packs that the seller was offering as samples, but I didn't even bother testing if it will reduce my electricity bill. I was mainly interested in the taste, and luckily, the coffee tasted good. A little bit too sweet for my taste, but hey - at least it's good for something.

There are a lot of people who swear by these magic electricity-reducing coffee packets, and I'm chalking it up to the placebo effect. Anybody who can come up with an explanation, feel free to use the comments. I would be happy to be proven wrong. I already love coffee, I would probably love it even more if it can lower my utility bills.

Replacing Old CRT TVs with Large LCD Ones

I saved this for last, serving as a sort of footnote, because it's the one method that actually works. That is, if they did it correctly. It's actually become a common pitch from people selling TVs or people who just want you to replace that old CRT in your room: LCDs consume much less power than CRTs - and it's true. On the average, CRTs consume as much as 200% power compared to an LCD of the same screen size.

Notice how I underlined the word "same"? It's because more often than not, I see people replacing small sized CRTs with gigantic LCDs. From personal experience, a former roommate of mine once replaced her 17-inch CRT TV, which is rated for 90 watts, with a gigantic 42-inch LCD TV rated for 187 watts. I'll let you do the math.

Not that I have anything against replacing the 17-inch with a 42-inch model with better clarity. By all means, I've always wanted to watch movies and see all the pores in Hollywood actresses' skins. I'm just bothered that people are going about things from the wrong end.

The Real Problem with These Electricity Saving Methods

My main beef with these failed electricity saving methods is not the fact that people were duped. Instead, what troubles me is the fact that all of these methods are shortcuts. The people that are being duped are people who wanted quick fix solutions instead of learning how to properly control their electricity consumption.