An ever-increasing array of modern gadgets may be making our lives easier, but all these gizmos are also taking a toll on monthly utility bills. While most gadgets are energy hogs, an increasing number of products can actually help you slash your home energy costs.
First and foremost, it’s difficult to cut your energy use if you’re not clear about which devices waste the most energy. Plug an appliance or electronic device into the P3 Kill A Watt electricity monitor ($26), and you’ll get realtime feedback about how much juice you’re using. Armed with this information and your electricity bill, you’ll be able to figure out how much it costs to run your home theater for an hour, or whether it's time for an air conditioner upgrade.
Hunting for a weak spot in your insulation or a slight draft creeping through a windowpane can be a tough task, but Black & Decker’s Thermal Leak Detector ($64), an infrared thermometer that detects slight shifts in temperatures, makes this job a lot easier. Now if only they made an electronic device that could actually insulate a drafty attic or chilly basement for you.
Even while devices are in standby mode, they continue to use electricity, and this so-called “vampire power” can cost you hundreds of dollars a year. Simply unplugging a device when not in use is one way to cut this cost, but you probably don’t want to go rooting around behind the TV every time you want to watch a show. Energy-saving sockets like the Belkin Conserve Socket ($10) and the Bye Bye Standby system ($40) act as intermediaries between the device and the wall socket and eliminate a device’s vampire effect.
Smart Power Strips
Alongside your desktop computer, you likely have a whole host of peripheral devices plugged in — everything from a monitor to speakers and a printer. While you probably power down your PC on a regular basis, there’s a good chance you leave these other devices running night and day. Smart power strips like the Smart Strip LCG4 ($37) solve the problem of power-pilfering peripherals. With your computer plugged into the master socket, all the other sockets only turn on when you power up the computer, and they shut down when you power down.
The Future of Energy-Saving Tech
The Intel Home Dashboard hasn’t quite hit the market yet, but the demo the company has been touting offers a lot to get excited about. Sporting an iPad-like touch display, the dashboard monitors individual devices for power consumption, boasts a smart thermostat that responds to the day’s weather and produces weekly reports on overall utility usage that even offers customized tips on how to save money.
Cutting home energy bills is a great first step, but you can also save while you’re on the road away from home. Garmin ecoRoute HD, which runs on all Garmin nüvi devices ($150-$400), produces real-time diagnostics to make sure your car is running in top shape. But the machine is only as good as the driver behind the wheel, so it also monitors your driving habits in order to show you how to increase fuel efficiency. If you already own a Garmin nüvi device, ecoRoute is a free software upgrade, which you can download here.