8 Gadgets that Help You Save Energy
Reducing the amount of energy your household consumes can save money and the environment. The obvious targets are heating and cooling, but it's also important to monitor your gadgets and electronics gear.
The average US household has approximately 65 devices that are always drawing power even when they are turned off and the U.S. spends $19 billion on this vampire power, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That translates into about $140 spent annually on powering these products that are turned off or in standby mode. Depending on where you live, that number could be more than double that.
We've gathered eight devices that will help you determine where you're losing money, keep your consumption of energy down, and ensure you keep spending under control.
Save money on heating & cooling
Thermal leak detector
You'll see big savings on your monthly energy bill when you stop heat and air conditioning from leaking out of your house. A thermal leak detector, like the Black& Decker TLD100 can show you where your home's leaks are. Once the device has read the ambient temperature, you can start checking around windows, door frames and other places air could be escaping. The light will change to red for warmer spots and blue for cooler spots. You can set the temperature tolerances to one, five or 10 degrees.
Price: $30.88, check price on Amazon.com
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat (5th Gen) is smart enough to know when you're away, not only from its built-in sensors but also with SmartSensors that you can place around your home. So if the kids go downstairs to the playroom, you can be assured that they will be comfortable. But, when a room isn't in use and the temperature drops or rises outside of your comfort zone, you won't have to waste energy when no one is there. Amazon Alexa is built into the thermostat, so you can listen Spotify, check the weather and change the temperature from the comfort of your bed (no other Alexa product required). Ecobee's new eco+ software adjusts your thermostat based on your household schedule and indoor humidity levels, and it will suggest a new schedule if your activity is out of alignment with the schedule you set. Thermostat can take advantage of off-peak energy pricing to pre-heat or cool your home, too. Ecobee estimates a savings of 23% when using eco+.
Even small changes to your thermostat settings can impact your monthly energy bill. For instance, each degree above 68° F can add three percent to the amount of energy needed for heating, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, blinds can reduce heat gain by up to 45% when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window. So automate those savings by making your existing window treatment smart with Tilt's MySmartBlinds Automation Kit. The kit works with most brands of 2 and 2.5-inch horizontal blinds. Once installed, you can program your blinds to close, open and tilt when you want them to. And a sun-tracking feature ensures your preferences change as the days grow longer (or shorter). The blinds draw the power they need from an included solar panel.
Price: $149.00 on MySmartBlinds, $119.
If your existing blinds have a plastic or metal looped beaded chain, the Keego DIY External Intelligent Electric Drive is the right choice. You simply run the loop through the motorized drive and mount the drive with 3M tape next to your blinds. The drive comes with a solar panel to recharge the battery. You can also plug in the drive to recharge if the window treatment doesn't receive enough light. You can set a schedule and control your blinds with your smartphone or the controls on the drive.
If you're looking to install shade or blinds, check out Ikea's line of FYRTUR Blackout roller blinds. The come in sizes that accommodate windows from 27 by 76.75 inches to 48 by 76.75 inches. The blinds come with a remote control or you can use the TRADFRI app to automate the process. So you can wake as the blackout shades slowly rise in your room. Prices start at just $139.00 on Ikea. For blinds, Tilt offers custom MySmartBlinds in white and walnut faux wood finishes starting at $270. Windows can range from 21 to 73.875 inches wide and up to 120 inches high.
Reduce energy use
Curling irons, space heaters, coffee makers: they're all easy to accidentally leave on when you're rushing out the door. So to ensure they're turned off, you can plug them into a Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug. Remotely check in on an appliance or electronic device and turn it off (or on), set a schedule and monitor and control energy usage. If also works with Amazon Alexa, so you can turn things off remotely. And, it tracks and displays the annual cost (based on the pre-loaded U.S.-average rate or your own rate), CO2 emissions and power consumption. If your device is on a switch, like your lights, try the WeMo Light Switch. It works with your existing wall plates.
Belkin Energy Conserve Switch Surge Protector with Remote
When you're TV is off, you don't need your streaming media player or game system turned on. The Belkin Conserve Switch Surge Protector fights back against this problem in a unique way by offering a remote switch that can turn up to six connected devices 100% off from 60 feet away. Just as importantly, this strip also offers two always-on slots for anything that truly does need power 24/7. The Conserve Switch has 1,000 joules of surge protection and is backed with a limited one-year warranty and $100,000 connected equipment warranty.
Occupancy-sensing light switch
Have a light someone's always forgetting to turn off? Install a motion-sensing light switch that will automatically shut off when the room is empty, like the Lutron Maestro Dimmer with Occupancy Sensor. It has a 150-degree motion detector with an angle of up to 30 feet. You can set the sensitivity and the time or operate it manually. The light will go back on at whatever dimming level you set it at last. For use with up to 600 watts of incandescent or halogen bulbs, up to 150 watts of compact fluorescent or dimmable LED bulbs.
Price: $40, check price on Amazon
Occupancy-sensing light socket
For basement stairs, garages and other areas where you have overhead lights, you can simply screw in an occupancy-sensing light socket. The First Alert PIR725 has a 12-foot radius and "sees" in 360 degrees. You can use it with any existing indoor light socket and it will work with up to 50-watt compact fluorescent bulbs and up to 100-watt incandescent bulbs.
Smart light bulb
With smart light bulbs, you can program the lights to turn on when you're pulling into your driveway or only when it gets dark outside. You can also make sure all of the lights are off when you go to bed without having to go around and check. The Philips Hue bulbs work with standard light fixtures and can be adjusted for white tone and brightness, as well as programmed to turn on and off at particular times or synced with smart home devices, like motion sensors and thermostats. All of the smarts are managed through the Hue Bridge, which comes in the box. The Hue Bridge also enables voice control via Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant.
If you're curious about smart bulbs but don't want to invest in a bridge and full kit, Philips Hue 4th Gen bulbs work without a hub. They have Bluetooth built-in, so you can simply pair them with your phone. The Hue Bluetooth app will manage up to 10 bulbs. These bulbs are also compatible with the Hue Bridge, so upgrading to a Hue system won't require an investment in new bulbs.
Updated on 1/17/2020 with new picks
[green living concept via Shutterstock , Black & Decker, Ecobee, Keego, Belkin, MySmartBlinds, First Alert, Philips]