Ameren Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, has added an interactive "Energy House" to its Web site, http://www.ameren.com/. The new tool helps customers understand the electrical energy demands and cost of using many home appliances.

Once "inside" the Energy House, customers can click on different rooms to view a list of typical appliances and the estimated monthly energy cost associated with each. The calculation of the monthly energy cost for each appliance is based on potential average use.

"The average family spends $1900 a year on energy bills, with the majority of that cost going to heating and cooling the home," said Ameren Chief Operating Officer Tom Voss. "However, a number of appliances add more to energy bills than many customers realize. With the Energy House tool, customers can determine which appliances are the biggest energy users in their home."

Another target for the new Web-based tools is "phantom load," electrical demand generated by appliances that consume energy even when they're not in use. The Web site includes a section devoted to phantom load, as well as many other energy-saving tips.

The average U.S. home has more than 25 appliances that operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This number is growing as consumers increase the number of new electrical devices they have in their homes.

Examples of phantom loads include CD and DVD players, microwaves, alarm clocks, computers, printers and television sets.

"Any appliance or charging device that has a cube-shaped transformer on the end of its cord is creating a phantom load," Voss said. "As a result, these technologically sophisticated kitchen or entertainment devices can add several dollars a month to your electricity bill. However, you can take some simple, low-cost steps to reduce or eliminate these phantom loads and save money."