It seems like these days, everyone wants to do their part to help save the planet. Well, don’t worry, because there’s plenty of screwed-up environment to go around. But even if you don’t have the resources to patch up the ozone layer or find new homes for deposed polar bears, you can still do your part to give Mother Nature a helping hand. Well, not a helping hand, exactly, because you’ll be too busy holding these various smart gadgets. Companies from around the world have stepped in to make Earth a little cleaner, by helping us reduce our power consumption. Here are seven devices that will help you conserve energy in your home, and maybe even help make our world livable again.
Ok, maybe this isn’t exactly top-of-the-line. After all, thermostats have been in use for decades. However, smart thermostats are something else. A smart thermostat can better regulate your climate, beyond simply maintaining a specific temperature. Are you leaving town? The smart thermostat (and I continue to use the generic term because there are so many different brands available) will automatically reduce power consumption. You won’t have to worry about it shutting down completely and letting your pipes freeze, but you also will have the peace of mind of knowing that at least your power bill won’t end up costing more than it would to take your family to Disney World. It can likewise turn itself down when you go to bed, or at any other time when you might not need direct heat\cold. And if you’re the controlling type, the thermostat can be managed directly from your mobile smart device.
Appliances can be some of the most inefficient energy guzzlers in your house. Whether it’s your toaster cramming electricity through a few coils of nichrome wire to produce heat, or your refrigerator using electricity to suck up and contain that heat, the end result is the same: energy consumption. The “Kill A Watt” is a device that allows appliances to be plugged directly into it. It then uses its large LCD display to verify just how much energy the appliance uses. So now you can determine exactly how much you need to resent your kid for leaving the freezer door open all night.
Of course, if reading displays and calculating kilowatt hours seems like too much work (come on, it’s for the environment, after all), then maybe the “Power Conscience Energy Usage Meter” would be more your style. There are no numbers or anything like that, instead, you just plug the device into a wall outlet, and it will tell you (through brightening or dimming LED lights that form a floral pattern) just how much power your home is using. Of course, it won’t be a specific figure, but at least you’ll know if you fall into the category of “a whole dang lot.”
Although the word “smart” in this context doesn’t mean the same thing as it would in, say, the word smartphone, these smart power strips (or towers or whatever) help cut down on the amount of electricity your appliances use when they’re not actually even turned on. See, appliances have been known to cause “phantom power drain,” which means that electricity is being used and wasted anytime that an appliance remains plugged in. The “iGo Power Smart Tower” can supposedly reduce standby power by up to 85%. It also features eight outlets and even has two external USB power ports, you know, because technology.
Of course, if you live your life exclusively through mobile devices, you’re going to want more than just a break from phantom power drain. Mobile devices generally need to be recharged at least once a day, and the resulting energy costs can really add up. That’s why the mad geniuses at Yanko Design came up with the “Cyclus.” It looks like a giant plastic light bulb, and its website could stand to have better translated directions (“having a opportunity of an education is vital for incremental change”?), but the idea behind it is actually quite novel. You just plug the Cyclus into your mobile device, twist the bottom a few times, and then make use of the 6.6V 3W of clean, free power it generates. I have no idea how much Angry Birds that translates into, but it sure sounds great.
One of the great things about the theory of relativity is that it lets us know that pretty much everything is convertible into energy. That’s where this device comes in. No, it’s not an unlicensed portable fusion reactor; it’s something a little bit cooler. “Sonea” actually picks up the vibrations created by sound waves as they travel through the air. That energy can then be used to power anything you like. But remember, if you think you’re going to use it to run your stereo system and then turn it into a perpetual motion machine with the noise it produces, then think again; the laws of thermodynamics still apply. Nice try, though.
Used in conjunction with a properly decked-out smart home, the “Savant” really is about as top-of-the-line as it gets. It is, in essence, a virtual home automation energy manager. It keeps track of data regarding power consumption, measures energy use in real-time, and permits users to regulate the flow of electricity by designating which specific devices receive power and when. The whole system is run through your iPad, and is designed to allow the user more control over—and understanding of—personal energy consumption. And who knows? Maybe once you’ve mastered the art of electrical energy reduction, you can finally do something for all those polar bears.
David Glenn is a home improvement expert. He occasionally freelance writes about home automation and making your home more green.