WINTHROP — When Carl Swanson joined the town’s Green Committee in 2009, his thoughts turned to Vending Misers.

Vending Misers hook up to vending machines to cut their power consumption.

Within the year, said Swanson, a retired electrician, the devices will save the town more than $1,200 in electricity costs. “These units paid for themselves in about six months,” he said.

Swanson said he read a Kennebec Journal story about the installation of the devices at the YMCA in Manchester. He said Bowdoin College in Brunswick had switched to vending machines that allow people to pay for items by swiping their credit cards, so the college was selling its eight Misers for $89 each.

“I was very fortunate to be able to buy the seven Vending Misers from Bowdoin College in good, used condition at half the usual $180 price,” he said. “We approached the (Winthrop) Board of Education and they approved it, so the town treasurer wrote out a check for over $600.”

Swanson installed Misers on a machine in the grade school, one in the middle school and five in the high school.

He also checked to see if any other town-owned buildings had vending machines. The ambulance garage was the only one. So he got approval to purchase another Miser and installed it on that machine.

Priscilla Jenkins, Green Committee chairwoman, said her group will do all it can to help save energy and limit the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Her committee is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 with a week of activities.

“As taxpayers, it’s a major concern,” she said. “(The Miser) definitely is helping to reduce costs and energy use, so I love it. The equipment has more than paid for itself already.”

Swanson said he borrowed a Kill-A-Watt Energy Detector from Winthrop’s Bailey Public Library to calculate the savings.

Tim Vrabel, EfficiencyMaine deputy director, said his organization, a program of the Public Utilities Commission, sent out Kill-A-Watt Energy Detector kits to most Maine public and school libraries last year. Patrons can sign them out along with the latest best-sellers, he said.

A person plugs an appliance into the monitors, which are plugged into electrical outlets, to get a readout of how much electricity the appliance uses. The person can then calculate how much money it’s costing to run the appliance.

Vrabel said more information on saving energy can be found on EfficiencyMaine’s Web site, www.efficiencymaine.com.