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This paper investigates the effects of using a realistic discrete power model in cluster-based communication for wireless sensor networks (WSNs). Four different clustering protocols are evaluated by incorporating a model compliant with Crossbow MICAz motes. The energy consumption model takes into account the discrete transmit power levels of the CC2420 radio chip used by MICAz sensor nodes. The radio propagation path loss is modeled by using the lognormal shadowing model. The significance of discrete power model is demonstrated by a comparison with the conventional model using metrics such as transmission cost, network lifetime and mean energy consumed. The simulation results demonstrate that realistic assumptions can affect the system behavior drastically in comparison with the results obtained under ideal conditions.